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How mid-sized cities can avoid strangulation

How mid-sized cities can avoid strangulation

World Watch 11(5): 8-15

This article illustrates the success of two cities--Portland, Oregon, and Curitiba, Brazil--in managing urban growth and the problems that accompany growth (traffic congestion, pollution, psychological stress, and chaotic development). The world's 14 megacities are home to 7.6% of the global urban population, while the 195 mid-sized cities are inhabited by 31% of the global urban population. The above two cities (1-2.5 million inhabitants) resisted the destruction of old neighborhoods for new highways. Portland and Curitiba are global models of successful management and livability and demonstrate economic viability, social cohesiveness, and environmental health. These cities used unique approaches to social and economic inequities. In Curitiba, the poor have the same purchasing power as in Sao Paulo, but life is bearable because of its level of services. Portland has avoided a concentration of poor in the central city. Both cities have active streets with a mix of shops, factories, offices, and houses. Cities deteriorate when geographic layouts reduce social interaction between rich and poor, people and services, and internal building viability vs. external building decay. Both cities enhance public space and cut urban sprawl. Transportation and other systems accommodate fringe settlements and restrict growth in environmentally sensitive areas. Parks and trees make each city visually attractive. Portland has laws limiting housing growth. Planning minimizes private car use and maximizes pedestrian welfare. Portland's political system was key to planning. Curitiba suffers from lack of coordination with other cities and is at the mercy of state and federal funding. Curitiba has succeeded by making practical policy decisions.

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