Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

CNU – Day 2 (Can We Do More?)

Dateline: 7:15 am April 5, 2008 Filed under:

Friday night followed day two of the new urbanism conference here in Austin. After a good day of conference sessions and mobile workshops followed by a speech by Robert Caro, author of The Power Broker, members were still energized and fired up. I attended two events that showed some insights as to future directions the new urbanism may take.

The Charter of the New Urbanism is an elegant piece of literature. It decries disinvetment in central cities, opposes sprawl, and encourages better cities from the region on down to the home itself. It is a compelling movement, and the charter is certainly a motivating factor for countless people to be involved. Yet there are some who feel there needs to be additional focus on better urbanism.

The first event was held by a group of slightly younger members; the non-founders of CNU but those in their 30s who are big believers and leaders in their own right. Called XNU, apparently a reference to Gen X, they are asking if we walk the walk, not just talk the talk, and have created a test to challenge new urbanists to consider their commitment. Over ribs and beer (the Texas version of bread and wine), there were a couple speeches and an open discussion about the direction in which the young blood of CNU wants to head. Not quite a revolution, but one could smell evolution in the air.

I got back on my bike and headed for a late night “salon,” one of many informal gatherings to test new ideas and debate. More local microbrews added to the spirit of the debate. Lest you think it was a drunken shouting match, it was a very focused discussion on how to better connect new urbanism and transit to truly reduce vehicle miles traveled and carbon emissions. There was great discussion over ideal routings of transit and how to better integrate a mix of uses near them so people can meet most needs on foot or transit. Although I left at 11PM, the discussion was showing no signs of ending.

And so it appears that the frontiers of the new urbanism are being pushed and stretched to meet the realities of today’s world. I believe this is healthy, especially if it refocuses on the continued serious problems with the way we develop cities. I for one welcome the discussion.

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