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u/nolandus · 3 pointsr/urbanplanning

The following comment operates on the assumption that you are interested in American urban planning from an administrative or public policy focus. For real estate development, urban design/architecture, or international issues, look elsewhere.

A solid, all purpose undergraduate major: philosophy. You can teach yourself subjects and even methods, but to learn how to think critically and write about complex subjects in a clear way you need quality, focused instruction and that's the purpose of philosophy. Outside of your general major requirements, take exclusively analytic philosophy courses. Typically there is an analytic philosophy survey course but for other courses identify which professors in your department operate in this tradition (and take teaching seriously) and take whatever courses they offer, regardless of your personal interest in the subject going in. Common subjects include logic, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, epistemology, etc. These courses will discipline your thinking and writing in ways that other majors won't. These skills are absolutely fundamental and lay the groundwork for a successful, highly adaptable career.

Outside of that major, which will fulfill your humanities requirements, you should fill your general requirements with courses like U.S. government (typically fulfilling a social science requirement), microeconomics and macroeconomics (social science, business, and occasionally quantitative), and environmental science (natural science). Take as many economics courses as you can. You can also take a basic geography course focused on cities but in my experience these courses teach you what you can easily learn from disciplined study on your own time. Focus your electives on methods courses, specifically statistics and digital mapping (GIS). You can also easily learn these online but if you have to fill up requirements, stick with these.

"But wait, don't I need to know something about urban planning?" Definitely! But you don't need to use up valuable course time on this subjects unless you have top urban planning scholars teaching undergraduate courses at your school, which probably isn't the case. Feel free to share your program and I'm sure the great community here can point out any top scholars active there. Otherwise, focus on teaching yourself the subject over summer and winter breaks. Read books by esteemed experts/scholars/writers in the field. A few broad essentials, all of which should be available at your public library:

  • "Death and Life of Great American Cities" by Jane Jacobs (the essential urban planning text)

  • "Triumph of the City" by Edward Glaeser (urban economics)

  • "Zoned in the USA" by Sonia Hirt (land use planning)

  • "Walkable City" by Jeff Speck (transportation/urban design)

  • "Cities of Tomorrow" by Peter Hall (urban theory/history - don't hesitate to save a ton of money by buying an older edition!)

    Other users are welcome to contribute what they see as essentials. The key here is to read about urban planning relentlessly in your free time (important: this includes blogs!) and focus your coursework on skills development. This combination of philosophy/methods coursework and disciplined, independent reading will make you not only an issue expert, which are a dime a dozen, but a productive expert, someone who can approach a completely new problem and produce useful results.

    This is the path I have followed and I have been happy with the results. Hope this helps.

    Edit: grammar errors, typos, etc. fixes.
u/hexagonalshit · 1 pointr/urbanplanning

Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century by Peter Hall

>In order to give you some good context and historical background on how the field came to be the way it is now, I would suggest picking up Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century by Peter Hall. It will give you a really good foundation on urban planning theory and the different approaches planners have taken. Then, see what concepts in that book tickle your fancy and pursue some classic books in that particular sub-field.

>Here's the link to it on Amazon, but I'll bet your local library has a copy.

"Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream." By Andres Duany

>Despite its title, this book is written by one of the premier planners in the US. He outlines planning theory, practice, and history utilizing stories, maps, and plenty of examples. It was the best planning introduction book that I read (including Cities of Tomorrow, Death and Life of the Great American Cities, and many others).
It's not a tough or jargon-y read, but it has enough meat to it to get an idea about what planners do, how planning is implemented, and the influence that planners have on society. You can probably get it pretty cheap online used. Seriously.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

>I strongly recommend The Practice of Local Government Planning, sometimes called the Green Book. It offers an easy to read history and overview of the field, and chapters on subfields within planning, such as environmental, transportation, land use, and urban design.

>As others have said, Jacobs and Hall are good too. The Death and Life of Great American Cities is a great starting point. Jacobs writes in a style that is most appropriate for a general audience, and Peter Hall's Cities of Tomorrow could be the perfect next step to dive deeper.

>In my opinion, first hand interaction can be the best source of information. If you're near a university with a planning program, find an admissions person, student, or professor to chat with, or a local government planner where you live. We're pretty aproachable people for the most part. :)

u/cinemabaroque · 5 pointsr/urbanplanning

Well, governments sort of do already, but not anywhere near the scale of the subsidies that are given to drivers.

Every car lane on a road that isn't a private toll road is an indirect subsidy for drivers and the frequent mandates that new development contain X amount of free parking spaces. There is a good book on this called The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup and you can read his original paper here for free. Free parking also subsidizes the car experience by taking valuable real-estate and making it free to use by motor vehicles.

If we take into account the subsidies for Oil and Gas Companies that keep the price of gasoline down it emerges that tens to hundreds of billions are being used in the US alone (the article references Australia but I'm more familiar with US statistics) to subsidize driving.

Some cities install bike lanes and bike parking but use a fraction of the resources to do so. Given the long term health benefits of cycling and the ecological impacts of mass driving it makes sense to me to shift some of the massive subsidies already going to drivers to cyclists.

Most cities spend less than 1% of their transit budget on bicycle infrastructure even though a much higher proportion of their population rides a bike regularly or as a commuter.

Given that the US government is willing to subsidize new electric vehicles with multi-thousand dollar tax breaks I see no reason why it should not be possible to write off on one's taxes 25% of the cost of a new bike or some similar scheme.

Alternatively it could set up a system where people who can verify that they bike to work 50% or more of the time receive a $1,000 health tax credit at the end of the year. This would also encourage people to work close to where they live (if your commute is only 2 miles it is a lot easier to achieve this tax credit) which would encourage density.

u/HodorTheCondor · 2 pointsr/urbanplanning

Jeff Speck’s “Walkable City: How Downtown can Save America, One Step at a Time”” is a personal favorite. He quotes his work in Lowell, MA throughout the book.

I’ve also been recommended to read Cheryl Heller’s “The Intergalactic Design Guide: Harnessing the Creative Potential of Social Design” and while I haven’t yet had the chance to pick it up, I think it might be up the alley of what you’re looking for.

I’m halfway through James and Deborah Fallows’ “Our Towns: A 100,000 Mile Journey into the Heart of America” which is also excellent, and provides a great set of case studies in urban revitalization.

My own masters practica (in Emergency management) is on creating greater access to healthcare via some urban planning interventions in a similar New England city, if not the same one.

I’m local to Boston, and would be happy to loan you the first and last books, should you be interested.


u/helgie · 3 pointsr/urbanplanning

The books mentioned so far are great ones to start with. The Geography of Nowhere is also a good primer for the amateur; Kunstler's style is provocative and interesting to read.

I've always found good planning histories to be pretty accessible as well (for those interested in the subjects). Here are some recommendations that aren't the "main offenders" people normally reference:

Bourgeois Utopias is an interesting history of "suburbia", and the various forms "suburban development" has taken throughout history.

Sprawl by Robert Bruegeman is a good "contrast" to a lot of books about planning. His essential premises are that sprawl isn't bad, that underlies our economic growth, and that people want it.

u/elbac14 · 1 pointr/urbanplanning

Just graduated with a master's in planning (in Canada). The first thing you should know is that you cannot go into this field for the money or for great job prospects. Getting a job right out of school is extremely difficult in both the US and Canada right now unless you have the right prior experience and skills (which school will not give you). Many people take unpaid internships (which is disgusting on the part of employers in my opinion) or have a long wait ahead of them for an entry-level job.
So if you do pursue planning for grad school make sure you are in no financial difficulties and that you have a backup plan or money to spare in case.

There is also a difference between what skills jobs want and what you'll learn in planning school. Planning school will focus heavily on "issues" in urban planning (social science, econ, history, etc). So you'll be writing term papers just like you are now in poli sci. You'll also learn a bit about planning law and the planning system but not nearly enough of what jobs want. And lastly, planners need to know some software, but this greatly depends on what type of job you have. Some typical programs include ArcGIS, AutoCAD and Adobe Illustrator/Indesign.

Learning about the urban issues part of planning is not too difficult in comparison and there are a lot of great books.
The best one's I've read so far are also the books that are best to introduce anyone to the major issues in planning:

u/wizardnamehere · 6 pointsr/urbanplanning

Firstly on the resources for Urban planning. Well. Honestly, I haven't personally great online resources for learning about Urban planning. Various government institutions have released master plans and design guide documents (almost all are pretty boring). Your best bet (unfortunately) is in buying expensive books online and getting it shipped to you. There are plenty of great planning books for the European context. Particularly urban design books. Is worth a look at. (most are american focuses of course)

I think these might be useful to you.


On the green space/parking. Well firstly it really depends on:

A) what is the land parcel you already own here. Who owns the petrol station? What is the minimum set back from the Ma-6014 road?

B) What kind of funding do you have? Are you using a loan?

C) what are your zoning and planning powers here?

D) how many cars do you need to accommodate and how much of the parking share would be given for free and how will you pay for that (will the foreign parking pay for it? Will you need general revenue or will you lease out some land for commercial purposes to cover costs -and do you have the power to do that) -I'm personally against free parking but i get it's appeal and use as a planning tool-.

E) What kind of services does your town lack? Child care? Library (if within your level of government)? Flexible community space (i.e cheaply rent-able rooms for hire by community groups)?

F) What's the parking for anyway? Do people drive to your town to go to the beach (will it compete with the beach front parking)? Or do people use the town as a dormitory suburb for Parma and is that is why people park there? Will people be using the car park all the time? On the weekends? Mornings and at night in the week days?


Other random observations:

-How much demand is there fore more green space? The town seems to be pretty well provisioned with public space (even if there isn't much 'green' public space). There's also near by natural reserve.

-There's a lack of street trees east of the supermarket and police station.

- Whats up with the fence around the main park? For the children?

-From an urban design perspective, everything around that park is such a missed opportunity.

u/PolemicFox · 5 pointsr/urbanplanning

> The biggest difference is that I would be prouder of an architectural degree since it's harder to acquire and is viewed as more ambitious.

Put that thought aside for a while and try to figure out what type of career you're are interested in. I'm mainly thinking job functions and project types here. Then trace back from that to figure out which of the two are better suited for bringing you on that path (knowing that they probably both can if you change your mind later). Is it the specific site layout or the strategic planning vision that has your main interest?

Also, try to figure out what your primary interest in planning is. Real estate? Public spaces? Transportation? Fostering livable cities through mobility planning, promoting bicycling, converting surface parking into greenspaces or squares, etc. is a rising agenda in many cities for example. If that has your interest you can mold either of the two in a way that takes you in that direction (and reading Cities for People will be a good place to start).

In my experience people don't care too much about your educational background once you've landed your first job. From there on its all about what you've worked with.

edit: words and stuff

u/digitalsciguy · 2 pointsr/urbanplanning

I think I get what you're saying - you wish /r/urbanplanning would acknowledge the fact that we have suburbs and post more things like the Build a Better Burb design challenge for Long Island, which does still endorse many of the things that do get discussed and posted here on the subreddit, like better transit access, increasing density (the slippery slope argument against density is that we want skyscrapers...), and improving a sense of place.

I'll definitely say that there's a lot to be had from the influence of land-use policies that could be changed to encourage transformations of suburbs to European-like strong towns linked by rail with greenspace in between, as is discussed in this article. However, a lot of these ideas aren't as easily applied elsewhere in US suburbs where suburbs came in after the decline of the railroads; Long Island is unique in its mostly electrified commuter rail services and lends itself better toward the idealistic transmogrification we'd love to see across the US. Perhaps this is the space of the discussion you're looking for?

On top of that, you still do have the issue that people do live in the suburbs for one or more of the features one finds/expects to find there. Actual implementation of land use policy can be very difficult when dealing with many individual property owners, even if those policies encourage the improvement of transport access, community amenities, public spaces, etc.

I've always been intrigued by the book Retrofitting Suburbia but haven't pulled the trigger on buying the book yet - I'm still going through the Shoup bible and my signed copy of Triumph of the City.

u/ArcadeNineFire · 12 pointsr/urbanplanning

This sub can seem overwhelmingly anti-car because, for many, it's a place to vent.

Look at it this way: the dominant public policy in the United States for several generations, stretching back 70+ years, has been to orient nearly every transportation, land use, and development decision around the automobile.

That has resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars (probably trillions, actually) of direct and indirect subsidies promoting car ownership, free and/or cheap car storage (parking), car-oriented residential development (suburban sprawl), and on and on. This in comparison to paltry support for public transportation, dense urban development, etc. Put succinctly, cars and cities are a bad match.

Don't get me wrong: the personal automobile is amazing technology. It makes sense that people have gravitated to it. But the planners of 1940s and 50s – whose system we largely emulate today – simply couldn't (or wouldn't) predict the massive negative side effects that accompany car-oriented development.

These planners thought that cars and suburbs would mean an end to urban gridlock. Instead, they accelerate it. They thought that building highways through urban cores would revitalize them – instead, those highways decimated communities, many of which have never recovered.

In fact, the original Interstate Highways System was supposed to connect cities (great idea!), not go through them (not so great).

For those of us on this sub who follow these trends, and have found that modern research is firmly against much of the so-called benefits of cars, parking lots, and highways, it's immensely frustrating that so much of the public conversation adamantly refuses to recognize the shortcomings of car-oriented development. So yes, you get a lot of "anti-car" sentiment around here, but I think it's more fair to say that we're pro-balance, not anti-car per se.

Cars will continue to make sense for the vast majority of people for the vast majority of trips. What we want to see are more options so that you don't have to drive everywhere, all the time, which is bad for our environmental and physical health, and is economically unsustainable to boot.

As for parking lots specifically, you won't find a better resource than Donald Shoup's The High Cost of Free Parking, which is basically the Bible around here (for good reason). I imagine you don't feel like reading a whole book about parking policy (and I wouldn't blame you!), but google the phrase and you'll find plenty of articles about it that get across the main points.

I'd also encourage you to check out the Strong Towns organization, which was started by a (conservative) former traffic engineer in suburban Minnesota (i.e. not your typical member of this sub). They come at these points from a very practical, non-ideological perspective. Here's a good post to start with.

u/soapdealer · 3 pointsr/urbanplanning

Probably the most influential urban planning book ever was written as a response to trends in 1960s development: The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. Along the same lines, the Pulitizer Prize winning The Power Broker by Robert Caro is the definitive biography of Jacobs-nemesis Robert Moses who was super important in the planning decisions made in New York City in the 50s and 60s.

Witold Rybczynski's Makeshift Metropolis includes a pretty good summary of urban planning throughout the 20th century in America, which is helpful for putting trends from the 1960s into context.

I don't have a specific book to recommend here, but also look into the design of Brasilia, since it was by far the biggest and most complete project designed on the sort of modernist principles that dominated the 50s and 60s urban planning scene. It's obviously not an American city, but many of the planners and architects who worked on it worked on American projects as well, and the ideas that influenced it were very important in American thinking on urban design also.

These are all sort of general interest recommendations, though. Sorry if you were looking for something more technical.

u/cirrus42 · 18 pointsr/urbanplanning

In this exact order:

  1. Start with Suburban Nation by Duany, Zyberk, and Speck. It's super easy to read, totally skimmable, and has a lot of great graphics and diagrams that help explain things. It's not the deepest book out there, but it's the best place to start.

  2. After that, try Geography of Nowhere by Kunstler. The author can be cranky and there are no diagrams, but he does a nice job of explaining how suburbia happened, why it made sense at the time, and why it's not so great anymore. Basically it's a primer on the key issue facing city planning today.

  3. After them, you'll be ready for The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jacobs. This is the bible of urbanism, the most important and influential book written about the form of cities since the invention of the car. But it's not as accessible as the first two, so I wouldn't start here.

  4. Walkable City by Speck. This is the newest of the bunch, and provides the data to back up the claims from the previous 3.

  5. Image of the City by Lynch. This one is a series of case studies that will teach you how to "read" how a city functions based on its form. The examples are all woefully obsolete, which is too bad, but still teaches you an important skill.
u/cito-cy · 1 pointr/urbanplanning
u/glmory · 3 pointsr/urbanplanning

I am rather a fan of Green Metropolis, and Triumph of the City. These are more written for a general audience rather than people planning to work in the field, but are still worth your time.

I should second the statement of The Atlantic Cities. That is a really great site.

u/FromOuterSuburbia · 3 pointsr/urbanplanning

It's a picture book, but I really like "The Works" by Kate Ascher. It's not something you would study from, but it's beautifully made.

u/howardson1 · 1 pointr/urbanplanning

I'm a libertarian urbanist, and the rank and file libertarians hate the morgage interest deduction, zoning laws, urban renewal, government subsidized highways, and other sprawl creating policies.

Good book on free market urbanism:
Their are a lot more.

u/azendel · 1 pointr/urbanplanning

This is actually a really good book. It has a lot of really great articles with explanations about what they mean. Its a textbook but its a really good one for urban political economy.

u/theackademie · 2 pointsr/urbanplanning

Since you're into transportation, I recommend "Still Stuck in Traffic". It's rather economics-oriented at times, but has an excellent explanation of how traffic congestion happens, and it also dispels some myths about transit. For instance, in the US, transit doesn't help to solve congestion; rather, congestion, helps transit and depending on how it's implemented, transit can actually cause congestion.

u/moto123456789 · 9 pointsr/urbanplanning

Like it or not, planning is based on values, and planning is always political. As Sonia Hirt has written:

> “Zoning defines the rules governing what and where people and institutions can and cannot build and operate in our cities, suburbs, and towns. By regulating what gets built and where, it sets the basic spatial parameters of where and thus how we live, work, play socialize, and exercise our rights to citizenship...zoning not only expresses our societal consensus on the ‘correct’ relationships and categories, it also shapes it. Not only does it tell us what we can and cannot do in certain places, it also cements, both metaphorically and literally, our ideas of the proper categories and relationships that occur in space...In governing our building practices, zoning solidifies in our minds what is normal and expected, decent, and desirable. It thus imposes a moral geography on our cities.”

Sonia Hirt, Zoned in the USA

Personally I think APA has gotten a bit swept up in issues of identity rather than issues of class (look at their policy guides on homeownership and continuing federal subsidies to the middle class), and their most recent policy guides reflect that. However, APA doesn't really do much or have much lobbying power, so the impact won't be very large in any case.

u/roboczar · 15 pointsr/urbanplanning

You can't mandate affordable housing. We tried that in the US in the 60s and 70s. What actually works is loosening of zoning restrictions and barriers to density in order to profitably and rapidly expand the housing stock. Unless you want to fully nationalize real estate and construction, you have to have policies that enable profitable construction and careful shepherding of restrictions so that they protect clean and functional living space, but do not place arbitrary limits that drive up housing costs, as is the case in most "liberal" cities.


u/Mateycakes · 1 pointr/urbanplanning

If you e-mail/Tweet at the authors, they are actually really helpful. Search Google & Twitter and you should be able to contact them.

Also, while on the topic of books: check out Triumph of the City, by Edward Glaeser:

u/faizimam · 2 pointsr/urbanplanning

If you enjoyed how she fought Moses, I highly recommend "wrestling with moses"

It's a detailed account of her time in Manhattan and focuses much more on the context of the man as well as the city at the time, in a more retrospective fashion.

u/doebedoe · 5 pointsr/urbanplanning

Fixing existing developments and creating better ones in the future are very different beasts. One very influential group working on latter is the Congress for New Urbanism. A useful volume by a few of CNU's leading practioners is Suburban Nation. One pertinent critique of New Urbanism though is that is has been relatively ineffective about the retrofitting you describe. For that you might check out books like Retrofitting Suburbia.

If you want a good rant on how we got into the mess J.H. Kunstler's Geography of Nowhere is an angry read. On patterns that underlay places we like being in, there is the always present work of Christopher Alexander. For my money one of the most under-read great urbanists of our time is Richard Sennett, particularly his book The Uses of Disorder.

Finally, Jacob's has a lot of prescriptive stuff in Death and Life. I'll give you that it is not as rule-based as most contemporary approaches, but therein lies its greatness.

u/OstapBenderBey · 1 pointr/urbanplanning

Three big ones for me:

the city reader : A good 'all around' book summarising various schools of thought.

Jane Jacobs - death and life of great american cities : Classic and influential

Bernard Rudofsky - behind the picture window. : Rudofsky is incisive in his commentary on cultural norms and the simple joys of everyday living.

[edit] and another as an Australian: Robin Boyd - The Australian Ugliness : Simple primer mainly on the growth of suburbia and the ugly houses within.

u/ondrae · 2 pointsr/urbanplanning

The City Reader is like a Cliff Notes of every important book about planning and urban theory.

I also learned a lot from City of Quartz: Fortress LA by Mike Davis.

All hail Jane Jacobs.

u/nuotnik · 10 pointsr/urbanplanning

Here's the podcast, Parking Is Hell

They interview Donald Shoup, who is basically the expert on parking policy, and the author of The High Cost of Free Parking.

u/rapid_business · 1 pointr/urbanplanning

Jan Gehl has tons of research on this topic. This book of his is worth checking out for sure.

u/deeddaemon · 1 pointr/urbanplanning

For a good, clear, readable introduction to the academic research on this topic, check out Anthony Downs's "Still Stuck in Traffic" and his triple convergence paradox.

u/lemachin · 2 pointsr/urbanplanning

The APA has some good material on this: [What Makes a Place Great?] (

Related note, see if you can get a look at Allan Jacobs' classic Great Streets before you go. It'll equip you to evaluate public spaces that you visit.

u/ArchEast · 2 pointsr/urbanplanning

Wrestling with Moses by Anthony Flint is a good companion piece to The Power Broker.

u/cometparty · 0 pointsr/urbanplanning

I don't have any idea what you mean by "within the greenbelt". Am I supposed to??

We have to stop buying or even renting houses in the suburbs. We have to rent apartments. Don't buy. Don't buy the crap they're building. Don't enable them. Have you seen the movie "Inside Job"? Do you realize the only reason developers are building these subdivisions is because that's the only kind of development banks will give them loans to build because banks see it as a sure thing and a safe investment? Make it an unsafe investment. That's the only way they'll stop building these disastrous developments. We have to start building denser, mixed-use developments. If someone builds one close to where you want to live and you can afford to buy there, buy there. But don't settle. Don't buy in the suburbs. Rent. Live with your extended family like other cultures do. Force them to start building different kinds of places.

Please read this book.

u/mthmchris · 4 pointsr/urbanplanning

You are hardly the first person to come up with this idea. Start reading here.

u/gboeing · 1 pointr/urbanplanning

O'Sullivan's Urban Economics is a standard undergrad-level textbook that covers the basics of the topic:

Schwartz's Housing Policy in the US is a standard text for that topic:

u/lingual_panda · 2 pointsr/urbanplanning

Have you read Donald Shoup's essays on parking? He also has a book out but I won't read it until there's a kindle version.

u/TheTalentedMrDG · 2 pointsr/urbanplanning

Check out The Works by Kate Asher. It's a ridiculously well illustrated guide to all the different systems (water, power, streets, transit, phone, etc. etc.) that keep New York City running

u/tuna_HP · 1 pointr/urbanplanning

I think that there is a cultural explanation beyond the automobile explanation. There is this great book called American Nations which argues that remnants of the historical cultures of the various peoples that populated different regions of the country of the US, are still relevant to this day. The people that originally immigrated to the deep south were of scots-irish hill people background and supposedly they were always very prickly and territorial. It makes sense that culturally they are more amenable to large lot sizes and being separated more from their neighbors, than having dense walkable cities where they would have to share multiunit buildings with other families.

u/joetrinsey · 20 pointsr/urbanplanning

I think this article: has a solid treatment of the topic.

A quote from the article:

> As Flint (2011) notes, Jacobs’ now famous battles with Robert Moses created a framework for later NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”) efforts, including but certainly not limited to her 1952 fight to prevent a highway intersecting Washington Square Park. Beyond this battle, Jacobs helped to organize the community in resisting a number of large-scale projects from occurring in Greenwich Village using the tactics of endless public review and pressure on elected officials to kill projects.

Jacobs was of course, much more than just a NIMBY. And, as this article notes, it's more accurate to say that what we now call "NIMBY" groups copied Jacobs' tactics, because she's probably the most successful neighborhood preservationist of all time. But in her famous fight with Robert Moses, he was absolutely the voice of modern, rational (white) progress, while she was the obstructionist fighting change.