How Seattle plans to become the next 15-minute city

Seattle is looking to follow other cities around the world in becoming healthier and greener and reducing the number of cars in the city.

Cities around the world are looking to transform. They are on a quest to become healthier, greener and more vibrant. The collapse of the Rust Belt cities is a cautionary tale for cities that fail to adapt. One city looking to transform for the future is the city of Seattle. It aims to become a “15-minute city”.

One city in Europe planning to implement this quite drastically is Barcelona in Spain – there one may have to leave their car behind. But there are more plans in the works than just transforming old towns, meet Telosa – the proposed futuristic utopian city in the American desert.


What is a “15 minute town”?

According to AIA Seattle, a city 15 minutes away is

“…an approach to urban design and planning that aims to improve the quality of life by creating cities where everything a resident needs can be reached within 15 minutes on foot, by bike or by public transit.”

The aim of this design is to reduce people’s dependence on cars. The focus of neighborhood design should be on the needs of people, not cars. The concept was first created by Carlos Moreno in Paris and is now influential in cities trying to reinvent themselves around the world.

For more on Carlos’ concept, watch his short TED talk. The main and fundamental ideas of a 15 minute city are:

  • Easy access to goods and services: Residents should have easy access to these – especially groceries, fresh food and health care
  • Variety of accommodations: Each neighborhood should have different size and levels of affordability to house many types of households
  • Clean Air: Every neighborhood should have clean air and green spaces for everyone
  • Work remotely: More people should be able to work close to home or remotely – having smaller scale offices, retail, hotels as well as co-working spaces

The four characteristics of a 15-minute city setting are proximity, diversity, density, and ubiquity.

Related: Salton City: Built As A Resort Town, Now Inhabited By Ghosts

15 Minute Town is getting bigger

The idea is catching on with cities like Melbourne in Australia, Ottawa in Canada, Paris in France, London in England, Milan in Italy and Portland in Oregon already latching onto the idea.

  • Professor Carlos Moreno: The man behind the city concept in 15 minutes

Already at the end of 2020, Paris had installed more than 300 kilometers of cycle paths around Paris and made a number of streets car-free. Cycling has increased by at least 54% in the French capital. Paris also plans to remove parking spaces in favor of new parks, playgrounds, urban forests and public gardens across the city.


Make it work for Seattle

Seattle city planners think it could work for their city. The commonly held belief is that 15 minutes is about the maximum time city dwellers should spend on their basic needs – without having to resort to a car.

The plan in Seattle is to ensure that the common things one would need on a day-to-day basis are never more than a short walk away – this includes libraries, healthcare, parks, cafes and others. amenities.

“Bring things closer so it’s easier to get to.”

– Minneapolis Planner Paul Mogush

It’s part of the city’s plan to revitalize the city after the pandemic as well as reduce pollution.


This is still in its infancy as the new plan is not expected until 2024. But even before that, the city is already building the infrastructure for the 15-minute city. This has been partly facilitated by the pandemic and the massive shift to remote working which is (partly) expected to last.

Some of the tactics they plan to use to make this a reality include:

  • Add more greenery to the city
  • Invest in public transport
  • Rezoning to allow for smaller scale offices etc. as well as mixed-use buildings
  • Reassignment of the roadway to pedestrians and cyclists

The hope is that these adjustments will minimize unnecessary travel to revitalize neighborhoods by injecting new life into main streets.


Related: One Day Travel By Hyperloop: Pipe Dream or Reality?

Seattle is well positioned

Seattle is considered well positioned to become a city 15 minutes away:

“It’s a city of neighborhoods, so there are already these service clusters all over the city. It’s not like LA, where the density is so low, things are so far apart that you have to drive. There is a kind of urban fabric [in Seattle].”

Jeff Hou, professor at the University of Washington

In the future, not only will Seattle have fewer cars, but it could also have much greener cars. The sale of new international traditional combustion-engined cars (i.e. cars that run on gasoline and diesel) is to be banned in Washington State by 2030 in favor of zero-emission vehicles – like electric cars.

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