4 min read

15-Minute City Guide: How Your Community Can Make an Urban Transformation

By GovPilot

When you think of major cities, which comes to mind: pedestrians or cars? Chances are, you’re probably thinking of a lot of people walking and maybe a few opting to use a bicycle!

Yet, despite the fact that most people in major cities opt out of driving a motor vehicle, many are not designed for pedestrian mobility. That’s why the 15-minute city project aims to set cities down a road of urban transformation.

But what is a 15-minute city? And why should your municipality adopt this meaningful concept? Follow along to find out!

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What is a 15-Minute City?

As the name implies, the idea is for communities to live, learn and thrive within a 15-minute neighborhood radius by foot or bike. This means that planning and zoning priorities should shift from making space for cars to replace them by creating places for people.

Initially, a number of c40 cities including Paris, France took charge of the 15 minute city concept. The mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo said, “We need to reinvent the idea of urban proximity,” when she introduced the policy as a means to reduce the vehicular-footprint in the city back in 2013.

Now, cities around the world are taking on this urban transformation, with the goal of making human necessities more accessible to all community members. 

How to Best Design a 15-Minute City?

A notable blog and organization formed around the 15-minute city concept, known as the 15-Minute City Project, describes their objective to, “help access-focused urban transformations be what we need them to be: ambitious, inclusive, measurable, and effectively implemented.”

Municipal planners should consider the following questions when implementing a 15-minute city plan:

  • Do you have goals for your community in mind? Any municipal project without proper urban planning is bound to be stressful and inefficient. Consider what infrastructure issues your city could improve on, which areas could benefit from more pedestrian zones, and how to plan to adapt with less cars on the road.

  • Does the project consider everyone in your community? Typically, residents in lower-income areas are the least likely to have cars. Urban planners should consider how community members of all wealth-levels will be impacted, and ensure that community members have access to necessities such as public transport. 

  • Do you have the proper government workflows in place? If your municipal government doesn’t have good processes in place, your 15-minute city project will wind up being much more expensive and slow-moving. Consider making a government digital transformation a priority in order to automate processes, save time, and collect measurable data. 

What Are the Benefits of an Urban Transformation?

An urban transformation, as the name implies, should vastly improve upon your existing infrastructure to make people’s lives better.

Here’s how improving the access to necessities for constituents can positively impact your community:

1. Decreased Carbon Emissions

Reducing the amount of carbon emissions in your community is a win for everyone. Your city will actively take a stand against climate change, air quality will improve, constituents will be healthier, local businesses will thrive, and traffic congestion will decrease.

2. More Businesses and Revenue

A 15-minute city plan not only focuses on improving walkways and bike lanes, but also on increasing access to basic human necessities like food, clothing, employment-opportunities, and home necessities. That means the opportunity is ripe for your municipal government to approve zoning permits for businesses old and new to establish an outdoor footprint and reach customers in areas with heavy foot traffic. More revenue for local businesses, higher employment rates, and additional tax revenue for your government to invest back into the city makes for a more desirable place to live and work.

4. Healthier and Happier Constituents

More exercise via walking or cycling means that community members will improve their physical health and get more fresh air, both of which are attributed to a higher-quality of life and better mental health.  When municipal officials and staff like yourself positively transform the city, improve quality of life, and reduce inequalities, constituents will be more satisfied and inclined to vote in your re-election campaign. Further it will improve residents' trust in local government as well as property values and desirability. 

5. Collect Measurable Data

With government management software, you’ll be able to collect data on the overall 15-minute city urban transformation process. You can use it to streamline planning and zoning processes, track government workflows to ensure things like mobile inspections and online business registration are moving along smoothly, and analyze how it impacts constituents and local businesses to make future governmental decisions. 

How Can Your City Implement a 15-Minute City Plan?

Federal funds from both the US Infrastructure Bill and the American Rescue Plan are specifically dedicated to improving neighborhood infrastructure in American cities. With ARP funds, federal stimulus dollars will be put directly into your municipal government’s hands and gives you permission to prioritize physical and digital infrastructure initiatives. Within the US Infrastructure Bill, the Safe Streets for All and Vision Zero programs allow municipal governments to apply with urban zoning plans and, upon approval, receive infrastructure funds to improve pedestrian and bike zones.

Keep in mind, improving the capabilities for constituents to buy and businesses to sell necessities will mean the increase in revenue should eventually surpass the amount the project cost to implement. 

To learn more about the American Rescue Plan Act and digital transformation, download GovPilot's comprehensive eBook on the subject. 

Can Digital Infrastructure Help With Municipal Planning Projects Like 15-Minute Cities?

With GovPilot, your local government can save time with cloud-based software and automated workflows that will save your government workers time, collect valuable data, and improve the lives of constituents. 

To learn more, schedule a free 15-minute consultation. 

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15-Minute City FAQs

What are 15-Minute Cities? 

15-Minute cities, coined by French professor Carlos Moreno, are a global phenomenon. Local governments around the world are focused on making a commute for any community member by foot no longer than a 15-minute walk. How this goal is implemented city by city varies drastically, depending on existing public transit infrastructure, the locations of residential facilities throughout the city, and the density of the city.

What Are Existing Examples of 15-Minute Cities?

Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris brought the concept of a 15-minute city to the forefront, but it has quickly taken off around the world. Global cities like Milan, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Ottawa have taken drastic measures to improve city life, and American cities like Chicago, New York City, Detroit, Seattle, and Philadelphia are actively taking action to improve designated zones for pedestrians and cyclists. 

Check out these other GovPilot guides to improve your local government: 

What is Civic Engagement: Four Examples 

What is Disaster Resilient Infrastructure? Why is it Needed?

Building Inspections 101: How Local Governments Can Ensure Public Safety

Public Sector Recruiting: How to Hire Talented Government Workers

Should the Public Sector Use Cloud or In-House Servers?

Disaster Preparedness: How Local Governments Build Resilient Communities

Government Cybersecurity: How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks




Tags: Government Efficiency, Constituent Experience, Digital Transformation, Blog, Civic Engagement