The Strong Towns Podcast
The Strong Towns Podcast
About The Strong Towns Podcast
At Strong Towns, we try to avoid using the word “sprawl” as a shorthand term in our content—and we’d even go so far as to say that sprawl isn’t the problem we’re trying to solve in our communities. All that said, are there any instances where sprawl is actually good? Hear Strong Towns President Chuck Marohn discuss this with Joe Minicozzi, principal of Urban3. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES “Sprawl Is Not the Problem,” by Chuck Marohn, Strong Towns (April 2016). Urban3 (website). Joe Minicozzi (Twitter/X). Chuck Marohn (Twitter/X).
Alright, it’s not exactly “live,” but while visiting Austin, Chuck Marohn couldn’t resist stopping by a Buc-ee’s to marvel at this Texas-sized gas station. It’s emblematic of the overbuilt, spread-out, auto-oriented infrastructure plaguing states like Texas and so many others—but even in Buc-ee’s massive parking lot, there is hope to be found, in the form of comments from Strong Towns members. These are the people who have taken the first step toward fighting a hundred years of bad city development. Will you join them by becoming a member today?
On this special Member Week episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn reflects how, despite being sick, his spirits were bolstered this week by the efforts of advocates he’s observed doing amazing work in their cities and towns. We get to support these local heroes through programs like Local Conversations and the Community Action Lab—and your donations are what support us so that we can continue making these programs happen. So, will you help us in making all of this possible by becoming a Strong Towns member today?
Different people are sensitive to different things around them, and this Member Week, we’re asking you to challenge yourself to become a little more sensitive to the things that are happening in your community. What do you see when you look around you? Crumbling infrastructure? Poor urban design? Dangerously designed streets? Insurmountable municipal debt? You can see what’s happening. Now it’s time to do something about it. Start by joining this movement of bottom-up action to change the trajectory of our cities and towns: become a Strong Towns member today.
On this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn talks with friend, author, and expert on fragile states, Seth Kaplan. His new book, Fragile Neighborhoods, offers a bold new vision for addressing social decline in America, one zip code at a time. It discusses the importance of revitalizing our local institutions and introduces the reader to some of the people and organizations who are doing just that—along with practical lessons for those who want to do similar work. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Get your copy of Fragile Neighborhoods: Repairing American Society, One Zip Code at a Time. Chuck Marohn (Twitter). Seth Kaplan (website). Learn more about the 2023 Local-Motive Tour.
On this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn chats with Conor Semler, an associate planner with Kittelson and Associates. Semler was involved in the development of both the National Association of City Transportation Officials’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide and the Federal Highway Administration’s Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide. He's also played a role in putting together a decision-making framework that changes the way engineers, planners, and other transportation professionals approach street design. Tune in to hear him talk about this innovative approach to transportation planning, and more! ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES “Parking or Pedaling? New Tool Helps Communities Weigh Tradeoffs on Their Streets,” by Kittelson & Associates. Chuck Marohn (Twitter). Learn more about the 2023 Local-Motive Tour.
Strong Towns founder and president, Charles Marohn, was invited to the Lit with Charles podcast to discuss Jane Jacobs’ seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and the impact it has had on urban planning and the building of cities. If you love Jane Jacobs or want to learn more about her views and how Strong Towns advocates are working to make them a reality, you will want to explore this conversation. We have provided a full transcript to go along with the audio version, which we share here with the permission of the Lit with Charles podcast.
On this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn talks about his concerns with speed cameras. Plenty of people dislike speed cameras as surveillance devices and, conversely, many urbanists support the use of speed cameras as a tool to make streets safer. Chuck’s line of thinking falls into neither of these camps, and so today, he shares some of the top arguments in favor of speed cameras, and discusses why they don't hold up—and why speed cameras should not be seen as part of the solution for improving our streets. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Chuck Marohn (Twitter). Learn more about the 2023 Local-Motive Tour. Cover image source: Wikimedia Commons/Dmitry G.
In light of the recent wildfires in Maui (and other parts of Hawaii), this week’s Strong Towns Podcast episode features a conversation with Steve Mouzon, author of The Original Green and member of the Strong Towns Advisory Board. Mouzon’s work with recovery efforts after disasters in Haiti and Jamaica—as well as his observations of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans—has offered him valuable insight on what it takes for a community to recover from large-scale destruction. He talks with podcast host Chuck Marohn about his experiences and the lessons we can take away about what types of responses do and don’t work—lessons that could be helpful in rebuilding Maui. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Steve Mouzon (Twitter). Original Green (website). Chuck Marohn (Twitter). Learn more about the 2023 Local-Motive Tour.
After World War II, the U.S. embarked on an experiment in how we build cities. Instead of creating places scaled to people who walked, we built suburbs that focused on moving cars quickly and efficiently. Many cities in North America are looking to become walkable again, but it’s not easy. Time and time again, change makers are hit by bureaucracy and complicated logistics. Why is it so difficult to change? In “Urban Intercurrence: The Struggle to Build Walkable Downtowns in Car-Dependent Suburbia,” author Tristan Cleveland goes in depth about why cities struggle to retrofit their car dependence, and what could actually be done to create change. In this Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn chats with Tristan Cleveland, PhD, who is a Strong Towns member and an urban planner at Happy Cities. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Tristan Cleveland (Twitter). Read Tristan’s PhD thesis on how to redesign suburban communities to become healthy, walkable places. Chuck Marohn (Twitter). Learn more about the 2023 Local-Motive Tour.
Recently, an article came out of Medicine Hat, Alberta, reflecting on some development conversations happening within the city, inspired by Strong Towns presentations. When Chuck Marohn read the article, he felt core insights were missing or misunderstood within the piece. On this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck discusses the challenges faced by local journalists and the impact it has on the quality of reporting. He shares his personal experience with his wife, who is a reporter, and highlights the difficulties they encounter in producing articles with limited resources and tight deadlines. Additionally, Chuck delves into the topic of citizen-led development and its potential to reshape cities in a more financially resilient manner. Throughout the podcast, he emphasizes the need for public engagement and the importance of creating neighborhoods that evolve and improve over time. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Learn more about the Community Action Lab in Medicine Hat. Chuck Marohn (Twitter).
Change is not always easy, and without examples, it can be difficult to reimagine how we do things. That’s just one of the reasons Strong Towns decided to launch the Community Action Lab: a carefully customized, two-year relationship between Strong Towns and selected cities seeking to make a change. Four cities are currently leading the way through this program in applying Strong Towns concepts and ideas from the bottom up. This week on the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck talks about the Community Action Lab, and some of the experiences, conversations, and insights he’s gained while working with these four communities. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Learn more about The Community Action Lab. Chuck Marohn (Twitter).
Just a couple weeks ago, we got the opportunity to meet nearly 500 Strong Towns members for the first time at the Strong Towns National Gathering. It is evident that Strong Towns members are people who care deeply about their place: We heard so many compelling stories about people working to make their town stronger. In this podcast, as part of our Member Week, we wanted to share Strong Towns President Chuck Marohn’s introductory speech from the Gathering. Tune in to hear him talk about some of the amazing things that Strong Towns members are doing in their communities. Our members are crucial to everything that happens at Strong Towns. Without you, we wouldn’t be here. If you haven’t already, take a moment to become a Strong Towns member today. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Chuck Marohn (Twitter). Cover image source: ZED images.
A recent report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance reveals some shocking facts: In 2021, half of the new stores opened in the U.S. were chain dollar stores. Moreover, Dollar Store and Dollar Tree (which are part of the Family Dollar system) together operate more than 34,000 stores. That’s more than McDonald’s, Starbucks, Target, and Walmart combined. How did we get to this point, how does this transformation in retail affect local economies, and what can communities do to protect themselves from this "dollar store invasion”? Stacey Mitchell, co-executive director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and one of the authors of the aforementioned report, joins Chuck Marohn today on the Strong Towns Podcast for this conversation. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Read The Dollar Store Invasion report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Institute for Local Self-Reliance (website). Stacey Mitchell (Twitter). Chuck Marohn (Twitter).
How should engineers be thinking about building wealth in communities? That’s just one of the questions Chuck Marohn asks of Ian Lockwood, a recognized national leader in sustainable transportation policy and urban design. Lockwood is currently a livable transportation engineer for Toole Design, an engineering firm which works to build safer and more walkable streets. On this Strong Towns Podcast, join Marohn and Lockwood as they talk about the work of Toole Design, complete streets, and more. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Ian Lockwood (Twitter). Chuck Marohn (Twitter).
In March 2023, major banks collapsed, interest rates have been rising, and many people are greatly—and rightly—concerned about inflation. In this week’s episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn talks about the financial system, and provides insights on what’s currently happening in the banking industry. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Chuck Marohn (Twitter).
In 1906, a powerful earthquake in San Francisco, California, damaged a good portion of the city, causing havoc and distress as 28,188 buildings were destroyed, and over 3,000 people were killed. Curiously, after this tragic disaster, things began to grow again, but this time the built environment came back stronger. Seth Zeren, a founding member of Strong Towns, wrote about this phenomenon last month, and this week on the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn and Zeren chat about complexity, and if complex systems can grow stronger through destruction. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES “Do Things Need to Burn for New Things to Grow?” by Seth Zeren, Strong Towns (Feb, 2023). Subscribe to Seth Zeren’s Substack, Build the Next Right Thing. Chuck Marohn (Twitter).
We believe everyone can build a Strong Town, but all too often, political differences divide communities, and instead of working together to build stronger neighborhoods from a bottom-up approach, we get caught up in contentious, top-down ideas and conversations. One such political divide has developed around the concept of the 15-minute city: a term used to describe traditional neighborhoods. While to urbanists it describes a walkable place, to critics, it’s a potential infringement on personal freedoms. In this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn dives into the controversies surrounding the 15-minute city. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Charles Marohn (Twitter).
The property tax system is broken all across the nation. In Detroit, residents face an issue of inconsistent assessments, where two homes that are similar in condition and sitting on similar-sized lots have widely different assessment scores. Recently, the team at Regrid, an industry-leading property data and location intelligence company, put together an Assessment Gauge map that may prove to be a useful tool for homeowners, assessors, or nonprofits in bringing a much-needed balance to overassessments. Today on the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn welcomes back Alex Alsup, vice president of research and development at Regrid, to talk about assessments and property tax in Detroit, how the Strong Towns approach worked for Alsup and his team, and an overview of the assessment process. Read more about the Assessment Gauge in the article “Check Your Temperature- You Might Have an Assessment Fever.” To learn more about Regrid or get access to their parcel data, click here. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Regrid (website). Charles Marohn (Twitter).
Today on the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn welcomes back Jeff Speck, city planner and author, to talk about a brand-new version of his book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. It’s the 10th anniversary for the book, and a lot has changed in the U.S. since the original was published. While the content from the first edition is still relevant today, this updated version holds over 100 pages of new information useful to those actively working to make their cities stronger. Listen to Chuck and Speck talk in depth about some of those book additions, including (but not limited to) COVID’s impact on cities, the reckless driver narrative, and a simple truth about street trees. ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Get the new edition of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. Jeff Speck (Twitter). Charles Marohn (Twitter).