Monday, June 22, 2009

Vitamins - good and useless

Health experts tell us that some cheap vitamin tablets are useless because they don’t dissolve.  Even though they contain ingredients that would be beneficial our bodies, they pass through without ever being absorbed into our system.  We may tell ourselves “I took my Vitamins” but in reality, we’ve gained none of their benefits.

When it comes to urbanism, many jurisdictions - including Pasco County - fall victim to the same misperception.  While the community leaders may correctly view TND or New Urbanism as a good antidote to urban sprawl, they compartmentalize it in a “pill” - in the form of a few TND projects.   However, on their own these isolated neighborhoods fail to contribute most of the benefits of good urban principles to the larger area.  In fact, their success as TNDs is indeed hindered by the fact that they are surrounded by suburban sprawl.

Well-intentioned TND ordinances, like Pasco’s, create the problem of the cheap vitamin pill.  The ingredients - the principles of urbanism - are good, but they are too encapsulated.  Unless they become integrated into the whole “body” of the built environment, their benefits are equally isolated.  They become nothing more than the County's way of telling itself “I took my vitamins” while its patterns of habitation continue to be malnourished.

For THIS argument, I concentrate first on the principle of interconnected streets (and the implicit creation of blocks).  Second behind that is the principle of mixing uses.  Third is the principle of the fine grain.  Beyond that are numerous other important principles.  I'll deal with each of these topics individually in upcoming posts.

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