What’s Next: Urban Planning

The 21st-century city faces a host of daunting challenges: projected scarcities of water and energy, rising sea levels, and, ultimately, more people. But the seeds of fairly radical change have already been planted. “I’m convinced we’re in the midst of a transformation that is probably as profound as what happened immediately after the Second World War, when we got all excited about the automobile and turned our back on cities,” says Ken Greenberg, an urban planner.

ONE year:

“We have a huge retrofit-and-rescue job to do in our suburbs. A lot of my work now deals with suburban communities that are trying to restructure their development patterns around transit. They’ve realized that there is no way to grow and prosper with more cars. They have got to make the shift.” —K.G.

FIVE years:

“In thinking about the future, I look at places that are five or ten years ahead of us. In Scandinavia, there is an Envac system for waste management, where instead of having garbage trucks and people using bins and garbage rooms in buildings, and all that paraphernalia that we have, they have tubes under the streets that collect as many different streams of garbage as the city wants. In Stockholm, it’s four different streams. They pop garbage in little shoots—sometimes they’re in parks or in buildings or on streets or in courtyards—and it travels under the streets at forty-five miles per hour, with no noise, no odor. They have these depots where it’s collected, picked up, and then used for cogeneration of energy.”—K.G.

TEN years:

“We’ve reached the end of the lifespan of much of the highway infrastructure that was built after World War Two. We’ll see a major retooling of the infrastructure of the city. We are going to see an incredible investment in public transit. We’ll see con-gestion pricing—which is now in a handful of cities—applied pretty much across the board. This will enable, both from a capital and an operating standpoint, a huge rein-vestment in public transit. We’ll see build-ings that put energy back into the grid. The huge question is: What will happen in places like India and China? They seem schizophrenic now. On the one hand, they’re doing some interesting things. On the other, they seem determined to make all the mistakes that we made.” —K.G.

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