Phoenix and the Valley are growing. We aren’t going to be able to stop it. We created a great place to live, have kept it that way when many other cities are rotting at the core, and people want to move here. As they say, it is what it is. If we don’t want to head down the same path as these failing coastal cities, we have to get smart about building the Phoenix of the future. What does that look like? Phoenix had the right idea a long time ago – to create urban villages within our city where people can live, work, and play all within a relatively small geographic area. We just haven’t done a very good job delivering on that vision. It’s time to recommit to, and expand on, these ideas.
We need to protect contiguous single-family residential neighborhoods, but increase by-right height and density along arteries, specifically all those with a BRT or light rail line and expand the footprint designated high-density cores. Then make them attractive and livable by connecting them to networks of green and open spaces. Ensuring these areas are walkable and bikeable is critical. And while our current approach focuses on extraordinarily long walking and biking corridors connecting neighborhoods, this is the wrong approach, one driven by the competitive cycling community, much more than daily commuters. We need options and places for everyone to get their exercise and recreation in, but the primary focus of this effort must be creating contained environments for modern urban living, not training routes for the Tour de France. Done right, we can create healthier, more sustainable and livable urban environments, then use BRT to connect them so people can leave their cars at home more often.
Imagine, if you will, an anatomical design, where the organs are areas of high population density, arteries and major streets pump vital goods between them, single family neighborhoods are the tissue and sinews holding everything together, and all of it is connected to a skeleton of high-speed BRT lines.