CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — In the new book “Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form,” landscape architect, urban designer, and photographer Julie Campoli identifies the essential characteristics of successful urban neighborhoods that provide a better quality of life and a reduced carbon footprint. Based on the latest research on urban form and travel behavior, “Made for Walking,” published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, provides new ideas about the role of density and the importance of diverse land uses.
The urban design principles that build on Jane Jacobs’ work are illustrated through detailed case studies of 12 urban neighborhoods of approximately 125 acres each — a comfortable pedestrian walk zone:
•LoDo and the Central Platte Valley, Denver
•Short North, Columbus, Ohio
•Kitsilano, Vancouver, British Columbia
•Flamingo Park, Miami Beach, Fla.
•Little Portugal, Toronto, Ontario
•Eisenhower East, Alexandria, Va.
•The Pearl District, Portland, Ore.
•Downtown and Raynolds Addition, Albuquerque, N.M.
•Greenpoint, Brooklyn, N.Y.
•Little Italy, San Diego
•Cambridgeport, Cambridge, Mass.
•Old Pasadena, Pasadena, Calif.
These neighborhoods were selected because each offers choices: various modes of transportation, diverse housing types, and a variety of things to do and places to shop. Their streets are comfortable, attractive, and safe for biking and walking, and they all show how compact development can take shape in different regions and climates. Six specific qualities make them walkable: connections, urban tissue (the web of property lines and rights-of-way), population and housing density, services, streetscape, and green networks.
In exploring how these components work together to create such neighborhoods, “Made for Walking,” builds on the award-winning volume “Visualizing Density” (Lincoln Institute, 2007), coauthored with aerial photographer Alex S. MacLean.
Understanding urban design principles is important not only to new development, but to places that are being rediscovered and reinvented. Many of the neighborhoods Campoli analyzes were once centers of bustling industry and growth, followed by decline and depopulation as rail-based transportation was replaced by the highway, which dispersed economic energy in more diffuse patterns at the edges of cities.
By the end of the twentieth century, however, frustration with the negative side effects of low-density sprawl led to a realization that these older, urban neighborhoods had much to offer. First a trickle and soon a steadier stream of investment flowed back toward cities and into downtown neighborhoods. Their "good bones" — human-scale buildings and ready-made networks of small blocks and connected streets that make walking easy — are attracting a new generation of residents and businesses.
The further context for “Made for Walking” is the current era of high energy prices, economic uncertainty, and demographic change. An increasing number of Americans are showing an interest in urban living as an alternative to the traditional automobile-dependent suburb; many seek to reduce their annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as a way to save money and lower greenhouse gas emissions affecting climate change.
Density is often defined in terms of population per square mile, but such a crude measure makes it difficult to understand the relationship between density and city life. In “Made for Walking,” a deeper understanding of urban density includes the density of jobs, schools, and services such as retail, transit, and recreational facilities. Fitting more amenities into a neighborhood within a spatial pattern that invites walking will enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors.
Researchers delving into the question of how urban form affects travel behavior have identified specific characteristics of place that boost walking and transit use while reducing VMT. In the 1990s, the "three Ds" — diversity of land uses, density, and design — were identified as key elements of the built environment that encourage alternative transportation. After a decade of successive studies, these "three Ds" were joined by two others deemed equally important — distance to transit and destination accessibility — and together they are now known as the "five Ds." Added to the list is another key player: parking.
The "Five Ds and a P" concept has evolved into a device for defining and measuring compact form and predicting how that form will affect travel and reduce VMT. Lowering VMT by a significant measure will require integrating the "D" attributes at a grand scale — the framework for what is commonly referred to as New Urbanism or smart growth. Campoli extends this work with a focus on walking and neighborhood amenities.