The 15-minute City
15-minute Cities and Compact Cities: Are they the same?

Hari Srinivas
Explainer Series C-022

While both "15-minute cities" and "compact cities" share similarities in their urban planning concepts, they are not exactly the same.

A 15-minute city refers to a city or neighborhood design that aims to provide residents with access to essential amenities and services within a 15-minute walking or cycling radius from their homes. The idea is to create self-sufficient neighborhoods where people can meet their daily needs without relying heavily on long commutes or car-dependent transportation. A 15-minute city typically includes a mix of housing, workplaces, schools, healthcare facilities, retail, parks, and cultural amenities within close proximity.

On the other hand, a compact city refers to an urban development model that emphasizes higher density, mixed land uses, and efficient use of space. Compact cities aim to minimize urban sprawl by concentrating development in a limited geographical area. They often promote the use of public transportation, walking, and cycling as alternatives to private vehicles.

The concept of a compact city focuses on reducing the distances between residential areas, commercial centers, and public facilities, thereby encouraging sustainable urban living and reducing environmental impacts.

While a 15-minute city can contribute to the concept of a compact city by creating more accessible and walkable neighborhoods, the two terms differ in their specific emphasis. A 15-minute city primarily focuses on ensuring convenient access to essential services within a short travel time, while a compact city is more concerned with the overall density, land use patterns, and transportation infrastructure of a city or urban area.

It's worth noting that the terms are not universally defined, and their interpretation and implementation can vary depending on local contexts, urban planning strategies, and specific goals of a city or community.

  • 15-minute cities are a specific type of compact city. They are designed so that people can access everything they need within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their home. This includes things like shops, schools, parks, healthcare, and workplaces.

  • Compact cities are simply cities that are densely populated. This means that there are more people living in a smaller area. Compact cities are often more walkable and bikeable than sprawling cities.

    The main difference between 15-minute cities and compact cities is the focus on localism. 15-minute cities are designed to promote local businesses and services, while compact cities do not necessarily have this focus.

    Both 15-minute cities and compact cities have a number of benefits, including:

  • Reduced traffic congestion: Because people can walk or bike to most places, there is less need for cars. This can reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.

  • Increased social interaction: When people live in closer proximity, they are more likely to interact with each other. This can lead to stronger communities.

  • Improved quality of life: 15-minute cities and compact cities are often more walkable and bikeable, which can make them more pleasant places to live. They are also often more affordable than sprawling cities.

    However, there are also some challenges associated with 15-minute cities and compact cities, including:

  • Increased housing costs: Because land is more scarce in compact cities, housing costs can be higher.

  • Lack of diversity: If a 15-minute city is not well-planned, it can become a monoculture, with all of the same businesses and services located in the same area.

  • Dependency on public transportation: If public transportation is not well-developed, people in 15-minute cities may be more reliant on cars than they would be in a sprawling city.
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