What It’s Really Like to Be an Urban Planner

Written for FLARE‘s 9-5 series.

How does planning for urban areas differ from planning for rural areas? If I’m working in a rural context, I have to be careful of how the work I’m doing might change the space from being rural in some way—especially when we’re planning transportation solutions. It’s thinking about things like; If I build a rapid transit system out to that area, how will that area transform and should it? Maybe it doesn’t need to become the next downtown. The infrastructure that I’m working with is largely very permanent. It’ll be around longer than I’m a live, so that’s a huge responsibility.

Has working in urban planning made you see cities differently? It completely shifted everything. Every time I go on a trip anywhere and I’m just walking down the street, I can no longer just enjoy a space. I’m constantly dissecting it, whether it’s admiring a great lamppost or noticing that the road is too wide. I went with a friend to Seattle and every few feet I was talking pictures of curbs and gutters, things that other people would not normally think was interesting.

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