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How should Colombian cities grow?

A New Atlas Provides Data to Inform the Answer

Martin Echenique, a reporter for Citylab Latino, sat down with Nicolas Galarza, a Research Scholar in the Urban Expansion Program at NYU Marron Institute, to discuss the launch of the Colombia Atlas of Urban Expansion and the implications of the data it presents. The research comes at an opportune time, as Colombian cities must update their territorial plans, which have a twelve-year duration and will define the Colombian municipalities' next set of urban policies.

One of Colombian cities' unique traits, originally identified in the Atlas of Urban Expansion, is that while most cities around the world became less dense and larger over the past thirty years, the same was not true for Colombian cities. Cities in Colombia are expanding slowly, while their population is growing rapidly. Simply put: today, Colombian cities have more people, but less space.

"The Colombian conflict may have contributed to the fact that Colombian cities did not grow up in the same pattern as other cities in the world. In a post-conflict scenario, it is possible that Colombia will correct this tendency and that the urban footprints will begin to grow," says Nicolás Galarza, a Colombian urban planner and researcher at the Marron Institute of New York University.

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“Puede que el conflicto colombiano haya tenido que ver con el hecho de que las ciudades colombianas no crecieran con el mismo patrón que el resto de las ciudades del mundo. En un escenario de posconflicto, es posible que Colombia tienda a corregir esa tendencia y que las huellas urbanas comiencen a crecer”, dice Nicolás Galarza, planificador urbano colombiano e investigador del Instituto Marron de la Universidad de Nueva York.

Before they grow, Colombian officials will have to confront some serious urban challenges that the saturation has caused. 

If you want to have better cities, the National Planning Department will have to face the problem of saturation, as previously named. As in the rest of the world, Colombian cities are becoming less and less walkable: the roads - streets, highways and arteries - become narrower, the blocks become bigger, and the public or open spaces become more scarce. In this vein, Galarza mentions that the previously named Barranquilla, as well as Cartagena and Cúcuta, are among the most saturated cities.

"It is a negative trait, because less space is allocated to roads, and without quality public transportation, we are likely to have more saturated, congested cities, longer journeys and a worse quality of life, " says Galarza. According to data from the National Planning Directorate, Colombia will need 5.6 million new homes to meet the arrival of new inhabitants to the country's urban areas by 2050.

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Si quiere tener mejores ciudades, el Departamento Nacional de Planeación deberá hacer frente al problema de la saturación, anteriormente nombrado. Al igual que en el resto del mundo, las urbes colombianas se están haciendo cada vez menos caminables: las vías –calles, autopistas y arterias– se hacen más angostas, las manzanas o cuadras más grandes y los espacios públicos o abiertos más escasos. En este ámbito, Galarza menciona que la anteriormente nombrada Barranquilla, así como Cartagena y Cúcuta, están entre las urbes más saturadas.

“Es un hallazgo negativo, porque a menos espacio asignado a vías, y sin un transporte público de calidad, es probable que tengamos ciudades más saturadas, congestionadas, viajes más largos y peores calidades de vida”, explica Galarza. Según datos de la Dirección Nacional de Planeación, Colombia necesitará 5,6 millones de nuevas viviendas para satisfacer la llegada de nuevos habitantes a las áreas urbanas del país en 2050.

To read the full article, click here. 

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