100 episodes

A weekly conversation on the Strong Towns movement hosted by Charles Marohn. The podcast blends fiscal prudence with good urban design to highlight how America can financially strengthen its cities, towns and neighborhoods and, in the process, make them better places to live.

You can support the podcast and become a member of Strong Towns at www.StrongTowns.org.

The Strong Towns Podcast Strong Towns

    • Government
    • 4.8 • 19 Ratings

A weekly conversation on the Strong Towns movement hosted by Charles Marohn. The podcast blends fiscal prudence with good urban design to highlight how America can financially strengthen its cities, towns and neighborhoods and, in the process, make them better places to live.

You can support the podcast and become a member of Strong Towns at www.StrongTowns.org.

    Another Tragedy at Springfield

    Another Tragedy at Springfield

    Hey Strong Towns Podcast listeners, it's been a while. Chuck's been out on the road, but the subject of this episode was too important not to talk about now. We're revisiting a library in Springfield that many of you are familiar with, as the dangerous stroad in front of it, State Street, has been a subject many times in Strong Towns articles (and in Chuck's latest book, Confessions of a Recovering Engineer).

    Well, State Street is back in the news, and not because it's gotten any safer. We're sorry to report that it's become the site of another tragedy—one that could have been completely avoided.

    We need to stop allowing this to happen. You might feel powerless listening to stories like this, but there is something you can do right now to help spread information about the dangers of stroads, and support the activists who are working to make our places safer: You can become a Strong Towns member. Your support is what empowers this movement, so click here to join in and make a difference today.

    • 37 min
    The Hidden Values Behind Our Unsafe Streets

    The Hidden Values Behind Our Unsafe Streets

    On December 3, 2014, a 7-year-old girl named Destiny Gonzalez was killed while crossing State Street in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    What gets lost in the shocking statistics about the number of pedestrians who die each year in traffic crashes—4,884 in the U.S. in 2014, more than 6,700 in 2020—is that they aren’t “statistics” at all, or even “pedestrians” really, but people with names, who had hopes and dreams, and family and friends forever changed by the loss of their loved one. That was certainly the case with Destiny, who was killed while leaving the Central Library with her mother and cousin. She also left behind a father, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.

    Something else that gets lost in these discussions is how our streets got so unsafe to begin with. Our streets, roads, and stroads are designed according to values so embedded that traffic engineers themselves might not be constantly aware of them. That’s a problem because you can’t fix something you don’t even know exists. It’s also the topic this week on the Strong Towns Podcast.

    In this episode, Chuck Marohn reads an excerpt from the first chapter of Confessions of a Recovering Engineer. Chuck describes why the high costs of the North American transportation system—costs in life and injury, as well as time and prosperity—are the byproduct of the values at the heart of traffic engineering. He also explains why the values of engineers, including traffic speed and traffic volume, aren’t the values most people would prioritize.

    Confessions of a Recovering Engineer is available everywhere on Wednesday, though if you preorder now you can get immediate access to Chapter One (along with these other great bonuses).

    • 22 min
    Chuck Marohn Answers Your Questions

    Chuck Marohn Answers Your Questions

    Have you visited the Strong Towns Action Lab? That's where we keep our best, most actionable content. We've written a lot over the years, and we wanted to have a place we could direct people to when they want to quickly access our top content—including videos, podcasts, and e-books. Think of it as a database of resources that we've cultivated just for you!

    Beyond that, the Action Lab is also where we've begun collecting questions from our readers and listeners, and today we wanted to take a look at some of those here on the Strong Towns Podcast.

    So, Chuck Marohn will be responding to your questions on things like how to begin slowing cars down on residential streets, how to implement Strong Towns principles when you work for a large-scale development firm, how to implement incrementalism in your place, how to measure success in import replacement, and more!

    If you've got a burning query that you want us to answer next time, head on over to the Community Section of the Acton Lab, and post it there. Our goal is to address as many questions as we can, and especially the ones that we think are going to help a lot of people out. So, stay tuned for future Q&A sessions!

    Additional Show Notes

    Charles Marohn (Twitter)

    Cover image via Pexels.

    • 1 hr 5 min
    Rick Harnish: Stronger Transit for Stronger Cities

    Rick Harnish: Stronger Transit for Stronger Cities

    Which comes first: a great transit system or a great city that can support it? What role does high-speed rail play in an overall, effective transportation system? And is an incremental approach really possible with high-speed transit?

    These are important questions with potentially complex answers. For insight we turned to Rick Harnish. He’s executive director of the High Speed Rail Alliance, the nation’s largest high-speed rail advocacy organization. The organization’s goal is to make high-speed trains “fast, frequent, and affordable.” Harnish cofounded the Alliance in 1993 (he’s also a Strong Towns member), and we’re pleased to welcome him as our guest this week on the Strong Towns Podcast.

    In this episode, Harnish and Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn talk about how much of the transit that gets built is based on what places need versus what they can get funding for. They discuss the problem of thinking about transit as a “charitable overlay” to an auto-oriented system, and whether we can afford to fund high-speed transit while also funding new car infrastructure. They also talk about what the U.S and Canada should—and shouldn’t—learn about high-speed rail from countries like France, Japan, and China.

    Additional Show Notes

    High Speed Rail Alliance

    High Speed Rail Alliance (Twitter)

    Charles Marohn (Twitter)

    Confessions of an Engineer

    Check out more Strong Towns content on public transit in the Action Lab

    • 53 min
    Bad Benches (and Other Park Problems)

    Bad Benches (and Other Park Problems)

    This week on the Strong Towns podcast, Chuck makes a confession about something he did that he now regrets...and you might be surprised at how much of it revolves around poor placement of park benches in his town of Brainerd, Minnesota.

    Of course, that's not all this episode deals with. What Chuck's beef with his local park's benches really boils down to is the systematic devaluation of public space, by people who have both good intentions and not a clue what they're doing. Their misguided attempts to enhance the park has actually made it a worse place to be. By extension, its ability to generate wealth and provide a beautiful public area for the neighborhood has been impaired.

    How can you deal with similar issues in your own place? Maybe not with the exact approach that Chuck took (again, there are some regrets expressed in this episode), but there's still a lot we can learn from Brainerd's example. And if you really want to learn the ropes of urban design, then you need to enroll in our newest Academy course, Urban Design Principles for a Strong Town. It was designed specifically to teach non-professionals easy steps they can take right now to start improving their city or town.

    Additional Show Notes

    Learn more about Urban Design Principles for a Strong Town.

    Charles Marohn (Twitter)

    Cover image via Unsplash.

    • 56 min
    Fighting an Urban Highway Expansion in Shreveport

    Fighting an Urban Highway Expansion in Shreveport

    For more than four years, Strong Towns has been telling the story of the so-called I-49 Connector project in Shreveport, Louisiana. We say “so-called” because while this project may seek to connect two sections of I-49, it will do so by rending the Allendale neighborhood, a vibrant, predominantly black neighborhood that is the gateway to downtown Shreveport.

    It will also cost an extraordinary amount of money—an estimated $700 million—for less than four miles of road. Some state and city officials have been pushing for the project for years, but a growing grassroots movement of neighborhood leaders are fighting back. According to a local ABC affiliate, after decades of studies and meetings and discussion, a decision on the project is expected in late 2021 or early 2022.

    In this episode of The Strong Towns Podcast, we’re sharing the audio from a webcast we did last week. Strong Towns President Chuck Marohn and Program Director Rachel Quednau interview four exceptional leaders working to stop the urban highway expansion, strengthen the Allendale neighborhood, and prevent officials from pursuing a financially ruinous megaproject.

    Neighborhood podcast host Roosevelt Bryant, city councilwoman LeVette Fuller, local nonprofit director Kim Mitchell, and Shreveport-based engineer Tim Wright share their insights on the complex nature of highway projects and politics, and discuss a few of the things that make Allendale such a special place. They talk about why a city is only as strong as its weakest neighborhood, how the proposed I-49 project has been lowering the quality of life in Allendale since long before the first bulldozer arrived, and why we can’t simply rely on a philosophical change about urban highways in Washington to save their neighborhood.

    They also describe how Allendale residents are coming together not just to oppose the highway but to start food co-ops, protect parks, and nurture homegrown incremental development. As LeVetter Fuller put it, the elevated highway project will turn into “drive-over country”: a neighborhood that has the same capacity for charm as the places—Bentonville, Hot Springs, etc.—project boosters are trying to speed drivers to.

    Learn more about the I-49 project and the response in Shreveport on the Strong Towns website

    Preorder Confessions of a Recovering Engineer

    The Allendale Strong organization and Roosevelt Bryant's podcast

    Kim Mitchell's organization Community Renewal International

    LeVette Fuller and Tim Wright's organization ReForm Shreveport 

    Finally, join us for our next webcast in this series on August 9, about the fight against a highway project in Austin, TX

    • 1 hr

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
19 Ratings

19 Ratings

TheBirds1979 ,


No podcast comes close to the depth and breadth of content. Thank you.

Antiartist ,

A must-listen for Urbanists

Chucks insight into what makes a "strong town" is both level headed and inspiring. If you care about communities, you should stop reading this and listen to a few episodes!

SafetyDance2014 ,

Clear headed thinking and talking

Chuck explores the way we build and the way we move from every angle.

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