Diversity is made possible by having a variety of different activities (residential, commercial, institutional…) taking place in the same area. On the contrary, separating activities in distinct areas creates so-called monofunctional environments (bedroom communites, highway-accessible big boxes and shopping centers…). This separation of activities multiplies travel needs to the point where we sometimes have to burn a gallon of fuel to buy milk!
A diversified city: city of short distances
Mixing activities within an area reduces travel distances for daily activities. This gives residents easy access to local businesses and services by foot or bike. Indeed, mix of uses and GHG emissions are directly connected: the more products and services a neighborhood is able to provide, the fewer the need for its inhabitants to use their car. Vehicule kilometers traveled (VKT) by residents of mixed-use neighborhoods is on average 45% lower than in monofunctional areas. People are also more active in the former. When their home is located at a short walking distance of stores and other services, people are 2.4 times more likely to achieve the 30 minutes of recommended daily exercise than when distances make the use of car almost inevitable.
Mix of uses and economic well-being
A mixed-use street contributes to the economic vitality of the neighborhood, and indeed the entire city. Therefore, revitalizing the commercial fabric of a street is an efficient way to induce the same effect for the whole community. Moreover, since main streets often are also the oldest, they are built on a human scale and offer pedestrians an appealing architecture, provided they are well maintained and safe to walk instead of appearing neglected and blighted.
Complete and friendly living environments
The mix of uses contributes to creating living environments that are complete, appealing and appreciated. It also creates lively and socially active neighborhoods all day long, which tend to be safer and certainly friendlier.
Also essential to an area’s diversity are the parks, squares and other public spaces that, if well designed, foster social interactions and active transportation. Inhabitants of mixed-use neighborhoods show higher levels of trust and community participation. And it works the other way around too: shops, stores and all manner of community events located near friendly public spaces directly benefit from having more people.
- Peter Caltorpe, 2001. The Regional City.
- National Association of Home Builders, 2010. Research on Factors Relating to Density and Climate Change.