Tuesday, 6 April 2010

New ideas

Aaron Renn is an urban analyst. His blog is called the Urbanophile. He wrote an article recently that applies potentially to Adelaide.

Renn discusses the importance of outsiders to a city's development. The problem (for want of a better word) with a lack of inward migration is that the bulk of the population, because they have lived in the city all their lives, find it very difficult to imagine things being different. Even if the way some things are done could be much better, it becomes very difficult to convince them. If you have not known anything different, why would you question it? There is no need.

Renn puts it this way:

Outsiders are aware of what is different. Hopefully they see some things they like and appreciate the way things work. But also they see, are aware of, and can question things that just don’t make any sense. Someone who is on the inside will rarely do that.

It is commonly said about Adelaide that change is almost impossible to implement. It also has very low levels of immigration compared say to Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Many people move to those two places each year but only very few come in the opposite direction.

I would like to see more effort in trying to get people from other States to move to Adelaide and bring with them fresh ideas.

A good source of new ideas that could benefit Adelaide is the Thinkers in Residence program. Some of them have turned into great policies I think. Recently, Fred Hansen, the General Manager of Tri-Met in Portland, came to give advice on public transport and talk about his experience in increasing public transit's modal share in Portland. He had some really clever ideas.

Professor Jan Gehl came some time ago to Adelaide and produced a great report called Public Spaces Public Life about pedestrian movement in Adelaide and provided some recommendations about making the sorts of places that make people want to stop. The Adelaide CBD does not have very many places like that. Next time you go for a walk, see how long it takes to find somewhere. There is a small shaded area with seating next to the Black Stump building on the walkway between Grenfell and Pirie Streets and the students from Eynesbury College seem to enjoy congregating on the north-eastern corner of Victoria Square but there are very few pleasant places suitable for sitting and talking. Professor Gehl's report deals with that sort of thing. I read recently that he is due to come back to Adelaide this year. Fingers crossed.

The point is, it is fairly clear to me that we need more people like Professor Gehl and Fred Hansen to bring in new ideas and make us question the way we do things here and have been for decades. It is the way to make our city develop and improve and to recognise that more people use it that just the 50% of the population who have ready access to a motor vehicle.

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