After the Second World War, North American built its cities around the automobile in what is often termed as auto- centric / sprawled / suburban development. Evidently this developmental model was driven by the availability cheap gas and massive investments on highway infrastructure. These new suburbs lacked density, pedestrian scale, public transit and mixed-use developments. The result – everyone had to have his/ her own car; and today in many of suburban American households, the average transportation cost is more than healthcare or food costs. America is already starting to pay a price for this developmental model. Sprawl and the dependency of oil is often said to be one of the causes of America’s current economic crisis. They built their cities when oil was cheap; but these sprawled cities are coming to become redundant in the era when energy costs are going to be sky high. It has also been detrimental to their economy by rising living costs as well as costs of running businesses.
So it is alarming when I see that we are currently following a similar sprawled development model here in India. There is a tendency to build satellite towns and encourage suburban model of growth. We are developing several townships and communities all over the country and one of the things that I see is that the city authorities have no understanding of principles of good urbanism. If anything our zoning regulations and developmental laws make it difficult to build what is today recognized as good urbanism (high density & mixed-use). We need to address these issues and adopt the right regulation so as to drive the right kind of development; or we will be killing our economy in the long run.