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The New Urbanism 
Design Principles for Vibrant Communities 
Wisconsin Transportation Conference 
September 29, 2014 
Ben Zellers, AICP, CNU-A
The New Urbanism 
• Look towards successful past design to 
inform new development patterns. 
Cars 
Live 
Here 
People 
Live 
Here
The New Urbanism 
• Look towards successful past design to 
inform new development patterns.
The New Urbanism 
• Look towards successful past design to 
inform new development patterns.
The Transect 
From http://www.transect.org
The Transect 
From http://www.transect.org
The Charter of The New Urbanism 
• http://www.cnu.org/charter 
• 27 planning, design, and development 
principles broken down in to 3 
categories: 
– The region: Metropolis, city, and town 
– The neighborhood, the district, and the 
corridor 
– The block, the street, and the building
The Region 
• Development patterns should not blur 
or eradicate the edges of the 
metropolis.
The Region 
• Direct investment to smart growth 
priority areas.
The Region 
• Most codes outlaw construction of 
compact, diverse, walkable cities and 
villages. 
• Make good design legal. 
– Too many downtowns are illegal. 
– Requiring over provision of parking. 
– Zoning doesn’t match pre-existing lot/site 
conditions. 
– Minimum lot size too big. 
– Jumping through hoops for mixed-use 
development.
The Region 
• Reject road planning and projections 
that ignore induced traffic. 
• Induced traffic = new road capacity 
absorbed by drivers who previously 
avoided congested roads. 
• “Trying to cure traffic congestion by 
adding more capacity is like trying to 
cure obesity by loosening a belt.”
The Region 
• Beltline in Madison/Monona 
“Old” Beltline: 4 lanes; 45 mph speed limit; many curb cuts; stoplights 
“New” Beltline – opened in 1988: 6 lanes; 55 mph speed limit; 
freeway; free-flow interchange with I-39/90
The Region 
125,000 
115,000 
105,000 
95,000 
85,000 
75,000 
65,000 
55,000 
45,000 
35,000 
1988: 6-lane 
bypass opens 
1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 
Data from WisDOT; CARPC 
54,685 
69,850 
111,000 
78,890 
1984: 
EIS 
44,700 54,500 
27% 
41%
Neighborhood, District, Corridor 
• Plan in increments of complete 
neighborhoods. 
• Neighborhoods should be compact, 
pedestrian-friendly, and mixed-use. 
• Many activities of daily living should 
occur within walking distance to allow 
independence for those who do not 
drive, especially the elderly and young. 
• Retain & protect major natural features; 
have a variety of public places.
The five-minute 
walk 
Park
School 
The five-minute 
walk 
Park 
Wetlands 
& Park 
Preserve 
School 
Senior 
Housing 
Grocery, 
Bank, 
Etc. 
View 
Preserved 
for Public
Neighborhood, District, Corridor 
• An interconnected network of streets 
with small block sizes should be 
designed to encourage walking, 
reduce the number and length of 
automobile trips, and conserve 
energy.
4,140’ 
(~3/4 mi) 
450’ 
(~2/25 mi)
7 miles!
Neighborhood, District, Corridor 
From http://www.charlotteobserver.com 
Annualized per-capita 
life cycle costs
From http://www.charlotteobserver.com
Neighborhood, District, Corridor 
• Fire safety vs. life safety. 
– Fire departments love wide streets – they 
feel it allows them to handle fires better. 
– Wide streets cause speeding, no matter 
the posted speed limit. 
– Speeding causes more severe driver and 
pedestrian injuries and increases fatalities 
from crashes. 
• Best to have narrower streets that 
connect.
Neighborhood, District, Corridor 
• Have a broad range of housing types 
and price levels in a neighborhood.
Neighborhood, District, Corridor 
• Concentrations of civic, institutional, 
and commercial activity should be 
embedded in neighborhoods and 
districts, not isolated in remote, single-use 
complexes. Schools should be 
sized and located to enable children 
to walk or bicycle to them.
Neighborhood, District, Corridor 
• The downtown 
Hotel Office Retail 
Post 
Office 
City 
Hall 
Library 
Senior 
Center 
Fire 
Dept. 
EMS 
Church 
Church 
Brewery 
Housing 
Housing 
Bank 
Farmer’s 
Market 
(summer)
Village 
Village 
High 
School 
1.4 miles 
1.7 miles 
No 
sidewalks 
or trails . . . 
Pupil Transportation 
Budget: $633,000 
1969: 41 percent 
of children either 
walked or biked to 
school 
2001: 13 percent
Neighborhood, District, Corridor 
• Economic health and harmonious 
evolution of neighborhoods, districts, 
and corridors can be improved 
through graphic urban design codes 
that serve as predictable guides for 
change. 
• Consider form-based zoning, 
especially for mixed-use areas like 
downtowns.
• Better to show people 
what you do want 
than tell them what 
you don’t want.
Neighborhood, District, Corridor 
• Sidewalks are not the only ingredient 
for making a place walkable. 
Pedestrian routes must be: 
– Useful – aspects of daily life located close at 
hand. 
– Interesting – sidewalk lined with unique buildings 
– Comfortable – buildings create “outdoor living 
rooms” 
– Safe – peds have a fighting chance against 
autos. 
From: The Walkable City, by Jeff Speck
Block, Street, Building 
• Development must adequately 
accommodate automobiles; it should do so 
in ways that respect the pedestrian and the 
form of public space. 
• Streets should be safe for all modes of 
transport. 
– Autos travel at the speed the street is 
designed for, not at the posted speed limit. 
– Pedestrian fatalities at speeds of 36-45 mph 
are 22 TIMES HIGHER than when cars are at 
≤20mph.
3280 Feet 315 Feet
Block, Street, and Building 
• Georgia pedestrian charged with 
vehicular homicide in the death of her 
4-year old son because they were j-walking 
when hit by a drunk driver who 
left the scene. 
• Crossed street at bus stop instead of 
walking 2/3 mi to cross at a crosswalk. 
• Could have done more prison time 
than the driver.
Kudos on the 
sidewalks and 
crosswalks, but . . . 
High 
School
NO! 
On street parking: essential for businesses. 
Well-managed street parking can generate tens 
of thousands of retail sales per stall; ideal to 
manage parking to maintain 15% stall vacancy.
Block, Street, Building 
• Do everything you can to preserve 
your historic buildings – that’s what 
makes your community unique.
Downtown block area: 1.7 acres 
Assessed value: $3.87 million 
Value per acre: $2.3 million 
Big box parcel area: 5.8 acres 
Assessed value: $2.1 million 
Value per acre: $362,000 
More than 6 times as 
valuable per acre! 
Newer! 
Even when compared 
to a brand new big box 
store with freeway 
access in a bigger city, 
the downtown block at 
right is more than 2x 
as valuable per acre.
Block, Street, Building 
• A primary task of all urban architecture 
and landscape design is the physical 
definition of streets and public spaces 
as places of shared use. 
• The revitalization of urban places 
depends on safety and security. The 
design of streets and buildings should 
reinforce safe environments, but not at 
the expense of accessibility and 
openness.
(before)
Raingarden 
terrace 
LED Streetlights 
Pervious 
pavers 
Terrace 
trees 
Benches & 
trash 
receptacles 
Bike 
racks 
Building sun 
shades; many 
windows 
facing street 
(after)
• Surface 
parking 
• Very little 
greenspace 
• Green roof 
• Solar panels 
• Increased 
greenspace
Block, Street, Building 
• Don’t be afraid to require good 
design.
Block, Street, Building 
• Allow alleys. Alleys: 
– Prevent garages from dominating the 
streetscape. 
– Reduce pedestrian/bike conflicts with 
cars by reducing driveways & curb cuts. 
– Provide a place for transformers, meters, 
communications boxes, trash pickup, etc. 
– Allow for narrower lots (more lots can be served 
by less infrastructure = higher property values per acre 
= more value & less expense).
Transit vs. Poor Urban Design
Bus 
Stop
You need to 
drive if you 
want to work 
here.
Bus 
Stop
Why it matters . . . 
• VMT 
• Drivers’ licenses 
• Public health
Source: FHWA and US Census Bureau
Wisconsin: -12.1% VMT 
Source: http://uspirg.org/reports/usp/moving-road
67% 
~80% 
Source: FHWA, US Census Bureau, Streetsblog.
Percent Change in Population by Age Group, 2010-2040 
160.0% 
140.0% 
120.0% 
100.0% 
80.0% 
60.0% 
40.0% 
20.0% 
0.0% 
Outagame, Calumet, Winnebago Counties 
<20 20-39 40-59 60-79 80+ 
Percent Change 
Age Group 
Source: WI DOA
Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 1985 
No Data <10% 10%–14% 
(*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 1990 
No Data <10% 10%–14% 
(*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 1995 
No Data <10% 10%–14% 15%–19% 
(*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 2000 
No Data <10% 10%–14% 15%–19% ≥20% 
(*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 2005 
No Data <10% 10%–14% 15%–19% 20%–24% 25%–29% ≥30% 
(*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 2010 
No Data <10% 10%–14% 15%–19% 20%–24% 25%–29% ≥30% 
(*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
Conclusion 
• Good design should be, at a minimum, 
allowed; hopefully encouraged; ideally 
required. 
• Many zoning practices from the 1950s 
and 60s, which remain in place today, 
mandate bad design. 
• Bad zoning and other bad government 
regulations have led to many of the 
problems communities are facing today.
Conclusion 
• Good urban design, a solid transit system, 
and sound planning are matters of public 
health. 
• Market has responded to government 
regulations and provided vast tracts of 
isolated large-lot single-family homes and 
strip malls; we need to make “traditional” 
neighborhoods legal again and give 
people a choice in where they can live 
and how they move around our cities.
Resources 
• Book: Suburban Nation, Duany, 
Plater-Zyberk, and Speck 
• Websites & blogs: 
– www.cnu.org (interdisciplinary 
organization – become a member!) 
– www.strongtowns.org 
– switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield 
– www.theatlantic.com/the-atlantic-cities 
– www.planetizen.com
Questions? 
Ben Zellers, AICP, CNU-A 
Vierbicher 
999 Fourier Drive, #201 
Madison, WI 53717 
bzel@vierbicher.com 
(608) 821-3967

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The New Urbanism: Design Principles for Vibrant Communities

  • 1. The New Urbanism Design Principles for Vibrant Communities Wisconsin Transportation Conference September 29, 2014 Ben Zellers, AICP, CNU-A
  • 2. The New Urbanism • Look towards successful past design to inform new development patterns. Cars Live Here People Live Here
  • 3. The New Urbanism • Look towards successful past design to inform new development patterns.
  • 4. The New Urbanism • Look towards successful past design to inform new development patterns.
  • 5. The Transect From http://www.transect.org
  • 6. The Transect From http://www.transect.org
  • 7. The Charter of The New Urbanism • http://www.cnu.org/charter • 27 planning, design, and development principles broken down in to 3 categories: – The region: Metropolis, city, and town – The neighborhood, the district, and the corridor – The block, the street, and the building
  • 8. The Region • Development patterns should not blur or eradicate the edges of the metropolis.
  • 9. The Region • Direct investment to smart growth priority areas.
  • 10. The Region • Most codes outlaw construction of compact, diverse, walkable cities and villages. • Make good design legal. – Too many downtowns are illegal. – Requiring over provision of parking. – Zoning doesn’t match pre-existing lot/site conditions. – Minimum lot size too big. – Jumping through hoops for mixed-use development.
  • 11. The Region • Reject road planning and projections that ignore induced traffic. • Induced traffic = new road capacity absorbed by drivers who previously avoided congested roads. • “Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening a belt.”
  • 12. The Region • Beltline in Madison/Monona “Old” Beltline: 4 lanes; 45 mph speed limit; many curb cuts; stoplights “New” Beltline – opened in 1988: 6 lanes; 55 mph speed limit; freeway; free-flow interchange with I-39/90
  • 13. The Region 125,000 115,000 105,000 95,000 85,000 75,000 65,000 55,000 45,000 35,000 1988: 6-lane bypass opens 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 Data from WisDOT; CARPC 54,685 69,850 111,000 78,890 1984: EIS 44,700 54,500 27% 41%
  • 14. Neighborhood, District, Corridor • Plan in increments of complete neighborhoods. • Neighborhoods should be compact, pedestrian-friendly, and mixed-use. • Many activities of daily living should occur within walking distance to allow independence for those who do not drive, especially the elderly and young. • Retain & protect major natural features; have a variety of public places.
  • 16. School The five-minute walk Park Wetlands & Park Preserve School Senior Housing Grocery, Bank, Etc. View Preserved for Public
  • 17. Neighborhood, District, Corridor • An interconnected network of streets with small block sizes should be designed to encourage walking, reduce the number and length of automobile trips, and conserve energy.
  • 18. 4,140’ (~3/4 mi) 450’ (~2/25 mi)
  • 20. Neighborhood, District, Corridor From http://www.charlotteobserver.com Annualized per-capita life cycle costs
  • 22. Neighborhood, District, Corridor • Fire safety vs. life safety. – Fire departments love wide streets – they feel it allows them to handle fires better. – Wide streets cause speeding, no matter the posted speed limit. – Speeding causes more severe driver and pedestrian injuries and increases fatalities from crashes. • Best to have narrower streets that connect.
  • 23. Neighborhood, District, Corridor • Have a broad range of housing types and price levels in a neighborhood.
  • 24. Neighborhood, District, Corridor • Concentrations of civic, institutional, and commercial activity should be embedded in neighborhoods and districts, not isolated in remote, single-use complexes. Schools should be sized and located to enable children to walk or bicycle to them.
  • 25. Neighborhood, District, Corridor • The downtown Hotel Office Retail Post Office City Hall Library Senior Center Fire Dept. EMS Church Church Brewery Housing Housing Bank Farmer’s Market (summer)
  • 26. Village Village High School 1.4 miles 1.7 miles No sidewalks or trails . . . Pupil Transportation Budget: $633,000 1969: 41 percent of children either walked or biked to school 2001: 13 percent
  • 27. Neighborhood, District, Corridor • Economic health and harmonious evolution of neighborhoods, districts, and corridors can be improved through graphic urban design codes that serve as predictable guides for change. • Consider form-based zoning, especially for mixed-use areas like downtowns.
  • 28. • Better to show people what you do want than tell them what you don’t want.
  • 29. Neighborhood, District, Corridor • Sidewalks are not the only ingredient for making a place walkable. Pedestrian routes must be: – Useful – aspects of daily life located close at hand. – Interesting – sidewalk lined with unique buildings – Comfortable – buildings create “outdoor living rooms” – Safe – peds have a fighting chance against autos. From: The Walkable City, by Jeff Speck
  • 30. Block, Street, Building • Development must adequately accommodate automobiles; it should do so in ways that respect the pedestrian and the form of public space. • Streets should be safe for all modes of transport. – Autos travel at the speed the street is designed for, not at the posted speed limit. – Pedestrian fatalities at speeds of 36-45 mph are 22 TIMES HIGHER than when cars are at ≤20mph.
  • 31.
  • 33.
  • 34.
  • 35. Block, Street, and Building • Georgia pedestrian charged with vehicular homicide in the death of her 4-year old son because they were j-walking when hit by a drunk driver who left the scene. • Crossed street at bus stop instead of walking 2/3 mi to cross at a crosswalk. • Could have done more prison time than the driver.
  • 36. Kudos on the sidewalks and crosswalks, but . . . High School
  • 37. NO! On street parking: essential for businesses. Well-managed street parking can generate tens of thousands of retail sales per stall; ideal to manage parking to maintain 15% stall vacancy.
  • 38.
  • 39. Block, Street, Building • Do everything you can to preserve your historic buildings – that’s what makes your community unique.
  • 40.
  • 41. Downtown block area: 1.7 acres Assessed value: $3.87 million Value per acre: $2.3 million Big box parcel area: 5.8 acres Assessed value: $2.1 million Value per acre: $362,000 More than 6 times as valuable per acre! Newer! Even when compared to a brand new big box store with freeway access in a bigger city, the downtown block at right is more than 2x as valuable per acre.
  • 42. Block, Street, Building • A primary task of all urban architecture and landscape design is the physical definition of streets and public spaces as places of shared use. • The revitalization of urban places depends on safety and security. The design of streets and buildings should reinforce safe environments, but not at the expense of accessibility and openness.
  • 44. Raingarden terrace LED Streetlights Pervious pavers Terrace trees Benches & trash receptacles Bike racks Building sun shades; many windows facing street (after)
  • 45. • Surface parking • Very little greenspace • Green roof • Solar panels • Increased greenspace
  • 46. Block, Street, Building • Don’t be afraid to require good design.
  • 47.
  • 48.
  • 49. Block, Street, Building • Allow alleys. Alleys: – Prevent garages from dominating the streetscape. – Reduce pedestrian/bike conflicts with cars by reducing driveways & curb cuts. – Provide a place for transformers, meters, communications boxes, trash pickup, etc. – Allow for narrower lots (more lots can be served by less infrastructure = higher property values per acre = more value & less expense).
  • 50.
  • 51. Transit vs. Poor Urban Design
  • 53. You need to drive if you want to work here.
  • 54.
  • 56. Why it matters . . . • VMT • Drivers’ licenses • Public health
  • 57. Source: FHWA and US Census Bureau
  • 58. Wisconsin: -12.1% VMT Source: http://uspirg.org/reports/usp/moving-road
  • 59. 67% ~80% Source: FHWA, US Census Bureau, Streetsblog.
  • 60. Percent Change in Population by Age Group, 2010-2040 160.0% 140.0% 120.0% 100.0% 80.0% 60.0% 40.0% 20.0% 0.0% Outagame, Calumet, Winnebago Counties <20 20-39 40-59 60-79 80+ Percent Change Age Group Source: WI DOA
  • 61. Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 1985 No Data <10% 10%–14% (*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
  • 62. Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 1990 No Data <10% 10%–14% (*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
  • 63. Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 1995 No Data <10% 10%–14% 15%–19% (*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
  • 64. Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 2000 No Data <10% 10%–14% 15%–19% ≥20% (*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
  • 65. Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 2005 No Data <10% 10%–14% 15%–19% 20%–24% 25%–29% ≥30% (*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
  • 66. Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults: 2010 No Data <10% 10%–14% 15%–19% 20%–24% 25%–29% ≥30% (*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)
  • 67. Conclusion • Good design should be, at a minimum, allowed; hopefully encouraged; ideally required. • Many zoning practices from the 1950s and 60s, which remain in place today, mandate bad design. • Bad zoning and other bad government regulations have led to many of the problems communities are facing today.
  • 68. Conclusion • Good urban design, a solid transit system, and sound planning are matters of public health. • Market has responded to government regulations and provided vast tracts of isolated large-lot single-family homes and strip malls; we need to make “traditional” neighborhoods legal again and give people a choice in where they can live and how they move around our cities.
  • 69. Resources • Book: Suburban Nation, Duany, Plater-Zyberk, and Speck • Websites & blogs: – www.cnu.org (interdisciplinary organization – become a member!) – www.strongtowns.org – switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield – www.theatlantic.com/the-atlantic-cities – www.planetizen.com
  • 70. Questions? Ben Zellers, AICP, CNU-A Vierbicher 999 Fourier Drive, #201 Madison, WI 53717 bzel@vierbicher.com (608) 821-3967