With gas prices still sky-high, maybe it's time for the U.S. to fully embrace '15 minute' cities?



Skyrocketing gas prices show no sign of slowing, so Americans need to come to terms with the fact that they’ll be paying a pretty penny to reach their destinations for the foreseeable future.


These concerns are only amplified as the country faces a sudden migration back to the workplace. Major companies such as Google are requiring their staff to work in their offices at least three days a week. Many workers feel whiplashed after leaving two years of remote employment during the ongoing pandemic, only to have to budget for a morning commute once again.


While society remains overly reliant on our gas-guzzling vehicles, certain urban planners are beginning to reshape what life could look like without a car. The 15-Minute City is another latest and greatest innovation designed to help remedy our reliance on gas-powered vehicles.


The 15-Minute City is a development strategy that aims to provide residents essential urban services all within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. Residents would no longer need access to a car to enjoy amenities such as restaurants or need to commute to the grocery store for basic necessities. These neighborhoods strive to fulfill six social functions; living, working, supplying, caring, learning, and enjoying.


If this almost sounds too good to be true, look no further than Paris, which has begun implementation on numerous 15-minute city projects. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has announced plans to convert their capital under this model. Now planners even have their sights set on America for future projects.


This would be a significant change of pace as the American suburbs were often designed with the car in mind, and their sprawled framework makes public transit options challenging to implement. Instead of operating on an interconnected grid-like their city counterparts, suburbs were laid out across twisted roads and cul-de-sacs. Thus commuting by car became the favored option.


Suburban America saw a housing boom post-WWII, where the Federal Government was dumping money to invest in suburbia. As a result, planners started to divert funds towards more roads and highways. The biggest driving force of this transition was a $425 billion investment that paved the way for a massive interstate highway system throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This system demanded that highways cut through the core of every American City to ensure that suburban communities could travel with ease.


Though these quaint neighborhood projects gave us an escape from big-city-living, they also presented many problems such as traffic congestion and pollution. Now the 15-Minute City aims to get us unstuck from this predicament.


In fact, in some regions of the United States, these communities have existed for some time. Cities like Portland have been utilizing their 20-minute neighborhood model since 2010, and Detroit’s Mayor, Mike Duggan, has plans to follow suit.


If moving to a new community isn’t your speed, many startups are beginning to implement on-demand public transportation options in some of America’s densest urban settings. You can read FootPrint’s coverage on these services here.

So whether you’re riding with the roof down in your slick new EV or taking a stroll across the block for a cup of coffee, these combined strategies are another tool in our arsenal to combat the growing threat of climate change.



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