Decades after its founding, New Urbanism design movement retains a serious reputation problems among American urbanists. Despite a broad-based interdisciplinary membership, for many the movement is defined by a handful of large, high-profile green field projects like Celebration and Seaside, Florida, and The Kentlands in Maryland. This view ignores its other successes, ranging from overhauling obsolete zoning codes, developing sensitive infill projects, and improving the quality of public housing through the HOPE VI program. However, much more than an unfair stereotype of the movement, the reputation problem runs to the core of intellectual life among American urbanists, speaking to the way our cities our developed and studied.
Randal O’Toole’s recent policy study from the Cato Institute, “Roadmap to Gridlock” is s worthy read for all professional planners, no matter what their ideological or professional stripe. Undoubtedly, most planners probably consider someone who maintains a blog called the “Antiplanner” more of a bomb thrower than a serious policy analyst. But this dismissive attitude throws an awful lot of good work by the road side, and a good example of that is O’Toole’s “Roadmap to Gridlock.”
That’s what the people of Ontario and the Toronto region set out to do more than 5 years ago when they began a visionary planning process for the area known as the Greater Golden Horseshoe in southern Ontario, Canada. (The Greater Golden Horseshoe is the area around Lake Ontario that stretches from roughly Peterborough to the east, west through metropolitan Toronto, and around the west tip of the lake to the southern side and Niagara Falls — hence the horseshoe shape.)