How Seattle Plans to Become the Next 15 Minute City

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

Cities around the world are striving to change. They strive to become healthier, greener and more vibrant. The collapse of Rust Belt cities is a cautionary tale for cities that don’t adapt. One city that wants to change for the future is the city of Seattle. It wants to become a “15-minute city”.

One city in Europe that wants to do this quite radically is Barcelona in Spain – you might have to leave your car there. But there are more plans than just remodeling ancient cities, meet Telosa – the proposed utopian futuristic city in the American desert.


What is a “15 Minute City”?

Accordingly AIA Seattleis a 15 minute town

“…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 transport can be.”

The aim of this design is to reduce people’s dependency on cars. When designing the quarters, the focus should be on the needs of the people and not on cars. First developed by Carlos Moreno in Paris, the concept is now influencing cities trying to reinvent themselves around the world.

For more information on the concept of Carlos, see Check out his short TED talk. The main and core ideas of a 15-minute city are:

  • Easy access to goods and services: Residents should have easy access to these – especially groceries, fresh groceries and healthcare
  • Variety of cases: Each neighborhood should be of a different size and affordability to accommodate many types of households
  • Clean Air: Every neighborhood should have clean air and green space for everyone
  • remote work: More people should be able to work close to home or remotely – have smaller offices, retail, hospitality and co-working spaces

The four characteristics of a 15-minute city framework are Proximity, Diversity, Density, and Omnipresence.

See also: Salton City: Intended as a holiday resort, now inhabited by ghosts

The 15-minute city is catching on

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

  • Professor Carlos Moreno: The man behind the 15-Minute City concept

By the end of 2020, Paris had relocated over 300 kilometers of cycle lanes around Paris and made a number of streets car-free. The number of cyclists rose by at least 54% in the French capital. Paris also plans to remove parking lots in favor of new parks, playgrounds, urban forests and public gardens across the city.


To make it work for Seattle

City planners in Seattle think this could work for their city. In general, 15 minutes is about the maximum time city dwellers should spend to meet their basic needs – without having to resort to a car.

The plan in Seattle is to make it so that everyday things you need are always just a short walk away – including libraries, health care, parks, coffee shops and other amenities.

“Put things closer together so you can get to things more easily.”

Minneapolis planner Paul Mogush

This is part of the city’s plan to revitalize the city after the pandemic and reduce pollution.


This is still in the early stages, because the new plan is not supposed to be due until 2024. But even before that, the city is building the infrastructure for the 15-minute city. This has been partially facilitated by the pandemic and the expected (partly) ongoing massive shift to remote work.

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

  • Bring more green into the city
  • Investments in public transport
  • Rezoning to allow for smaller offices etc. and mixed use buildings
  • Redesignation of the roadway for pedestrians and cyclists

The hope is that these adjustments will minimize unnecessary travel to revitalize neighborhoods by bringing new life to high streets.


See also: One-Day Hyperloop Journey: Dream or Reality?

Seattle is well positioned

Seattle is considered well positioned to become a 15-minute city:

“It’s a city of neighborhoods, so these clusters of services already exist throughout 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].”

Professor Jeff Hou from the University of Washington

In the future, Seattle will not only have fewer cars, but potentially much greener cars. The sale of new traditional international cars with internal combustion engines (ie cars that run on gasoline and diesel) is to be banned in Washington state by 2030 in favor of zero-emission vehicles – such as electric cars.

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