Cities around the world are seeking to transform themselves. They are in a quest to become healthier, greener, and more vibrant. The collapse of cities in the Rust Belt is a cautionary tale to cities that fail to adapt. One city seeking to transform itself for the future is the City of Seattle. It is seeking to become a “15-minute city”.

One city in Europe planning to implement this rather radically is Barcelona in Spain - there one may have to leave one's car behind. But there are more plans afoot than just transforming old cities, meet Telosa - the proposed utopian futuristic city in the American desert.

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What is a "15-Minute City"?

According to AIA Seattle, a 15-minute city is

"...an approach to urban design and planning that aims to improve quality of life by creating cities where everything a resident needs can be reached within 15 minutes by foot, bike or public transit."

The aim of this design is to reduce people's reliance on cars. The focus on designing the neighborhoods should be focused on the needs of the people and not cars. The concept was first created by Carlos Moreno in Paris and is today influential in cities trying to reinvent themselves around the world.

For more information about Carlos' concept, watch his short TED talk. The main and core ideas of a 15-minute city are:

  • Easy Access to Goods and Services: The Residents Should Have Easy Access To These - Especially Groceries, Fresh Food, and Healthcare
  • Variety of Housing: Every Neighborhood Should Have Different Size and Levels of Affordability To Accommodation Many Types of Households
  • Clean Air: Every Neighborhood Should Have Clean Air and Green Spaces For Everyone
  • Work Remotely: More People Should Be Able to Work Close To Home or Remotely - Have  Smaller Scale Offices, Retail, Hospitality As Well As Co-Working Spaces

The four characteristics of the framework of a 15-minute city are proximity, diversity, density, and ubiquity.

Related: Salton City: Intended As A Resort City, Now Inhabited By Ghosts

The 15-Minutes City Is Catching On

The idea is catching on with cities like Melbourne in Australia, Ottawa in Canada, Paris in France, London in England, Milan in Italy, and Portland in Oregon already latching onto the idea.

  • Professor Carlos Moreno: The Man Behind The 15-Minute City Concept

Already by the end of 2020 Paris had installed over 300 kilometers of bike lanes around Paris and made a number of streets car-free. Bike ridership was up by at least 54% in the French capital. Paris is also planning to remove parking spaces in favor of new parks, playgrounds, urban forests, and public gardens across the city.

Making it Work For Seattle

City planners in Seattle are thinking that this could work for their city. The generally held belief is that 15 minutes is roughly the maximum amount of time that city dwellers should spend getting to basic needs — without having to resort to a car.

The plan in Seattle is to make it so that the common day-to-day things that one would need are only ever a short walk away - that includes libraries, health care, parks, cafes, and other amenities.

“Put the stuff closer together so it's easier to get to the stuff.”

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Minneapolis Planner Paul Mogush

This is part of the city's plan to revitalize the city after the pandemic as well as reduce pollution.

This remains in the early stages as the new plan isn't actually due until 2024. But even before then, the city is already building the infrastructure for the 15-minute city. This has partly been facilitated by the pandemic and the massive shift to remote work that is expected to be (in part) enduring.

Some of the tactics that they are planning to use to make this a reality include:

  • Adding More Greenery to the City
  • Investing In Public Transit
  • Rezoning to Enable Smaller Scale Offices Etc. As Well As Mixed-use Buildings
  • Reallocating Roadway to Pedestrians and Cyclists

The hope is for these adjustments to minimize unnecessary travel in to revitalize neighborhoods by injecting new life into the main streets.

Related: One Day Travel By Hyperloop: Pipe Dream or Reality?

Seattle Is Well-Positioned

Seattle is considered well-positioned to become a 15-minute city:

“It’s a city of neighborhoods, so there are already these clusters of services throughout the city. It’s not like LA, where the density is so low, things are so far apart from each other that you have to drive. There is sort of an urban fabric [in Seattle].”

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University of Washington professor Jeff Hou

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In the future, not only will Seattle have fewer cars, but it may also have much greener cars. The sale of new traditional international combustion engine cars (i.e. cars running on gasoline and diesel) is to be banned in Washington State by 2030 in favor of zero-emission vehicles - like electric cars.

Next: Neon: Meet The Futuristic Saudi City Under Construction