Talking Headways Podcast: Crown Prince of Fresh Air

podcast icon logoWhat would you think of a city planner, out ruffling feathers with his bold ideas about density and urbanism — who commutes to work an hour each way from his ranch way outside the city? Ironic — or hypocritical? That’s the question we wrestle with in our discussion of Brad Buchanan, the head honcho at Denver’s Department of Community Planning and Development.

And then we head from Denver to Dallas, where MPO chief Michael Morris has unilaterally declared that the plan to convert I-345 into a boulevard is going nowhere. Trouble is, he doesn’t actually have the authority to say that, and his facts are wrong. But by asserting it, will he make it true?

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  • New York metro (including New Jersey) gets similar rapt attention from a like-minded planner who lives way-the-heck out in the exurbs. His ideas and suggestions nonetheless often have merit. What rankles, sometimes, is his oft-seeming parallel belief that those of us who actually live in an urban environment can’t possible generate good ideas of our own — even when they come to fruition (Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, as a prime example).

  • Joe Linton

    The Denver hypocrisy story reminds me of David Owen’s book Green Metropolis. The book is about how ecological cities are, in terms of per-capita resource usage, and preventing sprawl. Though Owen lived in NYC, he later settled down in a small town in Connecticut, which he mentions late in the book. When he wrote a long New Yorker article that later became Green Metropolis, he says that the most responses he received from the article were readers asking what CT small town he was describing, because readers wanted to go and live there.
    I personally think it’s important for me to lead by example… but I try not to be too critical of folks like Brad Buchanan or David Owen.

  • monica

    I think you are mixing up suburbs and rural land uses. Someone who ranches is different from someone living in a sprawling suburb. I do not see the conflict here. Ranching can’t be done in the city. Many farmers and ranchers have other jobs. It is ironic, but it is not hypocrisy.

  • JerichoWhiskey

    If anything we desperately need people who can understand the needs of the differing situations that can occur in life that may not parallel their own. There is not necessarily a one size fits all system and someone who can recognize that and work out what needs to be done is frankly more valuable than someone who may have a one track mind believing their way is best for everything. Such as those who think driving a car is the only mode worth looking into and build roads accordingly instead of say perhaps a public transit system that is needed more.

  • Ryan Wozniak

    I was frustrated listening to this podcast due to the confusion with a rancher somehow being hypocritical advocating for density and sustainable urbanism. Living on a ranch, supplying grass-fed beef to a society that demands beef is a sustainable venture. Sure, the commutes not the greatest, but the land the rancher lives on is being put to good use. The land that the sprawling suburbanite lives on is serving personalized embellishments or simply as buffer space from their neighbors (because there is a perceived suburban sense of claustrophobia).

    This calls into question the wisdom of transects as well. Is it really sustainable continuous spectrum of urban to agrarian with a wide band of suburban/subrural between? We’ve obviously built-in the rights for people to live a suburban life and thus the unsustainable country (USA) has come to be what it is today. I live in the phoenix metro where the density of around 6-9 units per acre (my personal preference) is so rare to come by that I settle for a neighborhood of 3.5 units per acre. I’ve had Zillow alerts set up for over a year waiting for dense neighborhood (with a small yard) sales near where I work to let me know when these unit become available… but those opportunities are few and far between.