FROM the Urban Institute Policy and Research Report...


June 18, 1993

FROM the Urban Institute Policy and Research Report, Winter/Spring 1993:

"Most European cities are centers of civilization and civilized values; their buildings and public spaces foster interaction and aesthetic enjoyment. U.S. cities, by contrast, reflect the disinclination of Americans to spend money for urban 'public goods.'

"One of these differences is that, for Europeans, the central city is the essential city. Even suburban dwellers are willing to pay for the upkeep and beautification of the central city, because its attributes are viewed as precious assets. In America, the problems of urban poverty and decline are remote to many Americans, a majority of whom live outside the central city.

"Comparing Europeans and American experiences offers important lessons in the continuing effort to solve the problems besetting American urban centers. That comparison is the subject of a new Urban Institute Press book, 'Urban Change in the United States and Western Europe: Comparative Analysis and Policy,' with contributing authors from both the U.S. and Europe.

"According to the authors, different attitudes toward cities have fostered different approaches to urban research on the two sides of the Atlantic. American analysts are more likely to focus on the direction in which the metropolitan area will develop, while Europeans tend to seek understanding of the process of urban development in order to influence it for the better.

"European researchers also focus more on housing, especially the role of public housing in urban development, and exhibit a sharply contrasting approach to urban transport. In the U.S., researchers consider the freeway to be the answer to the nation's transportation problems; in Europe, improving public transport is considered the appropriate strategy.

"The result of these different approaches to urban policy is that Western European analysts emphasize an integrated, coordinated policy for the entire metropolitan region. But such an approach is largely missing in the U.S. and would be difficult to emulate, given the fragmentation of the nation's metropolitan areas into segregated and independent communities."

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