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What is city planning & why is it important to you?


Upon first hearing or reading the words ‘City planning’, many confuse it with similar terms such as Civil Engineering or Architecture by virtue of its name. However, there is a world of difference between them.

‘City planning’ or ‘Urbanism’ is the process of designing, administering, and creating urban spaces. Balancing the demand for building developments while maintaining the natural environment around and planning new neighborhoods, together with setting regulations for the future are all part of urbanism. But city planning does not include the engineering of the infrastructure or buildings themselves. Urbanists don’t draw up and design the plans for buildings or stretches of roads themselves, those are the jobs of the Architects and Civil Engineers respectively. Essentially, it’s the theory and planning behind the making of the built environment.

Why it is important to you

As city planning is the very foundation on which human settlement is built, it affects everything from within; from surface-level subjects such as the way people travel within, or visual aspects of the city, to much deeper implications like the mental health of its residents or the economics of the whole area. Consequently, urbanism is a very layered and nuanced subject, requiring knowledge and understanding of the opinions, culture, and health of the population. However, as a result of being the very thing that surrounds us at most to all times, the opinions, culture, and health of a population can be defined by its surroundings.

Let me explain. Let’s say we have two identical streets that are both congested. They also have different plans for easing the aforementioned congestion. The first street is widened and the second street gets a tram line added in the middle.

The first street sees an immediate improvement in traffic flow, as, put simply, there is more space for cars to travel. The people who travel on the other street see what happened to the first street and see how much faster and easier it is to travel there. Alongside that, they also face another obstacle on the second street, the tram car. Over time, people who took the second street will take the first street instead (Known as Diverted Travel).

This: a) Adds more traffic to the first street, increasing congestion and reaching the former street’s level of congestion, and b) Reduces congestion on the second street.

As a result of adding more car traffic to the first street, not only would the residents on the first street have to suffer more noise from the cars, leading to stress, but also an increase in air pollution, worsening the well-being of the already stressed citizens. The health of the people on the first street got affected.

On the other hand, the second street sees a decrease in traffic without an increase in capacity, making it quieter and safer to live next to. Moreover, the addition of a tram linkage allows the former car-owning residents to take that as an alternative. This means that a) there are fewer pollutants in the city themselves, and b) they won’t have to worry about the upkeep and maintenance of their car, in turn, improving their financial position. The health of the people on the second street got affected as well.

Overall, city planning should be important to you, as it will affect you. It will affect your friends and family, in good or bad ways depending on the situation. Whether you’re interested or not, you should still know a little bit about it. This is why I wanted to talk about it here.

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