An excerpt from Jeff Speck’s Walkable City Rules, a step-by-step guide to fixing America’s cities and towns

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Photo: Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

By Jeff Speck

I published the book Walkable City in 2012. Since then, many of our leaders have realized that establishing walkability as a central goal can make cities better in a whole host of ways. That book did a decent job of inspiring change, but it didn’t tell people exactly how to create it. My new book, Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places (released on October 15 by Island Press) is an effort to weaponize Walkable City for deployment in the field. An excerpt follows below.

Eliminate legal barriers to mixed use.

Andres Duany used to…


Streetcar, bus, and metro systems have been ignoring one lesson for 100 years: Service drives demand.

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Photo: WMATA/Shutterstock/Madison McVeigh/CityLab

By Jonathan English

One hundred years ago, the United States had a public transportation system that was the envy of the world. Today, outside a few major urban centers, it is barely on life support. Even in New York City, subway ridership is well below its 1946 peak. Annual per capita transit trips in the U.S. plummeted from 115.8 in 1950 to 36.1 in 1970, where they have roughly remained since, even as population has grown.

This has not happened in much of the rest of the world. While a decline in transit use in the face of fierce competition…


Sidewalks are a last shred of safe public space. No wonder we’re fighting over them.

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In the absence of housing, health services, and protected lanes, the sidewalk is where squeezed-out people land. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

By Laura Bliss

Whatever the Poop Patrol will be wearing as they power-wash feces off San Francisco’s sidewalks, let’s hope they get a great embroidered patch.

Armed with steam cleaners, a crew from the city’s Department of Public Works will target downtown alleys and sidewalks for human and animal droppings starting next month, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. They’ll start their vigil in the afternoon, aiming to clear deposits that appear after overnight crews have done their cleaning, but before any residents complain.

In the eyes of conservative media outlets, San Francisco’s ongoing shit saga is the latest expression of…


It’s time to end the tyranny of open-concept interior design

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Illustration: Madison McVeigh/CityLab

By Kate Wagner

If someone asked me five years ago whether or not I thought the open floor plan would still be popular, I would have said no. Domestic architecture seemed to be taking a turn toward the rustic. Today, “Farmhouse” and “Craftsman” modern designs, harkening back to the American vernacular tradition (complete with shiplap walls), are a tour-de-force.

But I would have been wrong. Although these houses bring all the exterior trappings of beloved vernacular houses of the past, they do not extend that to the interior plans. …


If it isn’t already there, augmented reality is coming to a device near you. Cities need to work to ensure that AR makes the leap from “cool experience,” to a technology that improves residents’ lives

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An augmented reality view of a city being used as an urban planning tool from MIT Media Lab. Photo: MIT Media Lab/Ariel Noyman

By Stephen Goldsmith and Chris Bousquet

As today’s cities look for better ways to use the troves of new data at their disposal, augmented reality (AR) offers a new way of bringing this data to life. This technology — which assimilates digital objects and information into the real world via headsets, mobile devices, and other tech tools — has a unique capacity to enliven information and processes via immersive experiences.

AR has captured the public imagination in the form of Pokémon games, Snapchat filters, Minecraft demos, and much more. …


The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks

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Passengers bord a bullet train at Tokyo station. Photo: Hitoshi Yamada/NurPhoto via Getty Images

By Allan Richarz

It is a scene that plays out each weekday morning across Tokyo. Suit-clad office workers, gaggles of schoolchildren, and other travelers gamely wend their way through the city’s sprawling rail stations.

To the casual observer, it is chaos; commuters packed shoulder-to-shoulder amid the constant clatter of arriving and departing trains. But a closer look reveals something more beneath the surface: A station may be packed, yet commuters move smoothly along concourses and platforms. Platforms are a whirl of noisy activity, yet trains maintain remarkable on-time performance. …


“We’re starting to realize they’re just as powerful as a park or plaza”

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Photo: Green Garage Detroit/Midtown Detroit Inc./Madison McVeigh/CityLab

By Lynn Freehill-Maye

In the early aughts, a former skateboard kid named Daniel Toole was chafing at his slick corporate job in Seattle. To feel more like his rulebreaking teenage self, he cut through back alleys on his way to work. He liked their grittiness and started taking pictures. Sometimes people threatened to kick Toole’s ass, which he handled just fine until three of those people were FBI agents. Turned out he’d photographed the security cameras on their building. They wiped the camera’s memory and warned him never to come back.

It’s a scene that’s just shady enough for its…


The HGTV show highlights more than just open kitchens and bickering couples

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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

By Natalie Y. Moore

Confession: Until I started watching “House Hunters” on HGTV, I had no idea what a “Craftsman-style” house was. I also didn’t know that white kitchens were all the rage, or that “en suite” was a phrase that normal people might use. Indeed, until I picked up my “House Hunters” habit — a mindless routine at night as I get ready for bed — I didn’t truly understand that one must always have an open concept floor plan; any spouse desiring separate spaces is just as stuffy as an old Victorian.

The show, a longtime cable favorite…


Flush with venture capital, the startup Katerra wants to revolutionize the construction industry. But as history shows, it’s harder than it looks.

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Workers in Katerra’s factory in Phoenix, the first of several that the company plans to open around the country. Photo courtesy of Katerra

By Amanda Kolson Hurley

From the end of the Second World War until a few years ago, when it cooled off, productivity surged across the U.S. economy, giving rise to what’s often called the “productivity miracle.” From manufacturing to agriculture to retail, industry after industry became cheaper, faster, more mechanized, and more efficient.

But the same can’t be said of construction. Productivity in construction has not only not risen, it’s actually lower now than it was in 1968.

The way that most large buildings get built hasn’t changed much from 50 years ago. It goes by a deceptively straightforward name…


America’s laws against lingering have roots in Medieval and Elizabethan England. Since 1342, the goal has always been to keep anyone “out of place” away.

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By Ariel Aberg-Riger

Editor’s note: A series of racially charged incidents of “loitering” have triggered national outrage recently. This month, CityLab’s visual storyteller Ariel Aberg-Riger dives into the long history of laws against being somewhere you’re not wanted.

All things urban, from @theatlantic.

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