I have spent most of the last twenty years working on an agenda grounded in, for lack of a better phrase, “smart growth.” That agenda basically holds that our regions must replace suburban sprawl with more compact forms of growth and development; that neighborhoods must be walkable and convenient; that automobile dependence must be replaced with a system of mobility choices in which the automobile is only a part. It is an environmental agenda first and foremost, but those of us who advocate it also believe it to be good for people.
The smart growth agenda was actually somewhat radical when it coalesced in the 1990s, and there are still places where it is not accepted, many more where it has not been fully implemented. But advocates can take some comfort in the fact that smart growth has become mainstream, taught by one name or another in every planning school in the country and guiding city thinking far and wide. We still have a long way to go, but central cities have stopped hollowing out; sprawl is slowing; and big cities all across the nation are thinking about light rail, streetcars, bus rapid transit, and/or better bicycling infrastructure. I feel good to have been part of these changes.