great cities are additive (+).

The reason why urbanism wonks keep on saying things like “car-centric urbanism is bad” is because it literally takes from its residents, making them poor and sick.

Subtractive cities steal:

  • Time: Are you driving a lot to get to places? This means that not only is your time taken, your health is likely also suffering from it.
  • Money: Being a car owner is a great responsibility, and it costs a lot. There are monthly costs (fuel, insurance) as well as big repairs and replacement parts that are much more expensive. It digs into people’s income.
  • Options: To live in a single-family home among an ocean of homes similar to yours, nothing you do on a daily basis is within reasonable walking distance.

On the other hand, additive cities give back to their residents, making them richer in life.

For example, by living in a place where you don’t need to own a car, you:

  • get time back by having everything in your daily life and routine close by such as work, grocery shopping, library, sports facilities
  • keep your money and gain in health by living in a walkable place (augment with a cheap bike share program for urban super powers!)
  • more options to transition in place to new stages in life without having to uproot from your local network of people and amenities due to relocation.

To evaluate how additive or subtractive a city is, take stock of how much time/money/effort is spent doing auxiliary things that support the main thing, and any additional mind/body/soul costs that are incurred.

Works with things other than cars too, like measuring discrimination and privilege.

Original tweet

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