Listening Topic: Environmental Studies – Lecture about city planning

A. A. Listen to the lecture. As you listen, number the topics in the order that they are discussed.

___ The characteristics of smart growth

___ The decline of the inner cities

___ The growth of the suburbs

___ The role of city planners

B. Listen again. For each item, choose the correct sentence ending according to the lecture. Listen again if necessary.

 America’s inner cities have been in a bad state for ____.

      a   30-50 years

      b   about 100 years

 Inner cities declined because ____.

      a   people moved to the suburbs

      b   the downtown stores weren’t of high quality

 Many towns are losing their cultural life because ____.

      a   people aren’t interested in culture

      b   people don’t want to go downtown at night

 It’s important to revitalize the inner cities because ____.

      a   people want to live closer to their jobs

      b   people don’t like the suburbs

 Diversity of use helps to revitalize a neighborhood because ____.

      a   people can live near their jobs

      b   it brings people to a neighborhood throughout the day

6   Housing diversity is a good thing because ____.

      a   it attracts different age and income levels

      b   communities should provide affordable housing

7   City planners now prefer to locate schools and stores ____.

      a   away from residential areas

      b   close to residential areas

8   Attractive outdoor spaces are good for a community because ____.

      a   they encourage people to come out to the streets

      b   they make people feel better



a 4   b 1   c 2   d 3


1 a   2 a   3 b   4 a   5 b   6 a   7 b   8 a


Now, as you probably know, U.S. inner cities have been in a bad state for several decades. They tend to be high crime areas with a lot of vacant buildings and so on. Today we’ll talk about how this happened and what is being done about it.

Well, first, you can’t talk about the decline of the inner cities without looking at the growth of the suburbs, because the two are connected. There was – and still is – a huge demand for suburban housing in the last 30, 40 years or so. So what we’ve seen all over the country is a lot of development of areas just outside of cities – areas that were once farmlands – acres and acres of land just given over to suburban housing. We call it “suburban sprawl” because of the way the houses are kind of spread out all over the countryside.

As the suburbs grew, the inner cities declined. Well, you can imagine how this happens. When people move to the suburbs it’s more convenient for them to shop at the shopping malls closer to home. So the department stores in the downtown area, they don’t get as much business, and maybe eventually they have to close. You see this particularly in small and mid-size towns. You might have an area that has quite a large population, but the downtown is dead – especially at night.

As a result of that, we’ve had growing crime rates and poverty in downtown areas. So people are afraid to go there at night, and there ends up being less cultural life in these towns.

So city planners have been trying to attract people back to the cities. It’s become a necessity, really, because you can’t keep building suburbs forever, and people don’t want to commute two or more hours to get to their jobs. They want to come back to live in the cities, but you have to make the conditions right.

So how do you do that? Well, city planners are using an approach called “smart growth” as a way to plan neighborhoods and revitalize inner cities. I’ll explain some of the main characteristics of smart growth.

First, smart growth encourages diversity of use. For example, many planners believe now that it’s healthy to have some light manufacturing – say, bakeries or printing presses – mixed in with retail and residential buildings, all together in the same area, and one reason to do this is that a street has people in it all day long. You’ve got the people who work there during the day and the people who live there coming back in the evenings. The area is used more. Sidewalks are busy. This makes it possible for stores and restaurants to open up to serve all these people, which in turn encourages more people, and then that makes a neighborhood more attractive.

OK, secondly, you want to have diversity of housing. Instead of having streets and streets of identical houses, like you have in the suburbs, you would have a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, and apartment buildings that would encourage a wider range of people – in terms of ages and income levels – to live in an area so people can stay in a community. They can move up to a larger house, or move to a smaller house when they get older, without leaving the community.

The other big aspect of smart growth is to make it possible for people to walk to schools, public libraries, stores, and so on. So you put these things within walking distance of residential neighborhoods. It’s also important to have attractive places outside – places to gather or sit and relax. This brings people out onto the streets. And streets that have people in them are safer streets. When you have safer streets, you have more people wanting to live downtown. And that causes a demand for more housing, and that in turn revitalizes inner cities even more.

Now one city where this kind of thing is being done is Pittsburgh. Let’s have a look at some photographs that were taken…

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