In today's rapidly changing world, city planning and development should focus on creating smart, compact cities that adapt to the needs of the 21st century. We have seen the rise of sprawling metropolitans like New York and Toronto, but their growth has often been haphazard, resulting in inefficient suburbs and a lack of community hubs. It is time to rethink the way we structure cities and embrace new technologies such as self-driving cars, drones, and the internet to better serve the needs of urban dwellers.

One city trying to achieve this is Tokyo, by breaking up its metropolis into five core districts: Shinjuku, Shibuya, Chiyoda, Akihabara, and Roppongi. This has proven to be a successful model, and similar strategies could be adopted in other growing cities. These hubs would not only cater to the needs of residents but also encourage collaboration and innovation within their communities that are necessary for the 21st century creative and intellectual industries.

Subway Myth

In the past, cities were primarily built around a central downtown, with smaller suburbs and bedtowns surrounding it. But with the growth of urban populations over the past few years, cities have organically developed multiple hubs, changing the landscape of how people live and work. One such example is Tokyo, where multiple hubs are successfully integrated and each one is big enough to accommodate many sub-hubs, making them globally competitive. Other cities, such as Toronto, are falling behind because of decentralized planning (no urban planning outside downtown).

In today's increasingly digital and connected world, the concept of having multiple downtown hubs is becoming even more appealing. Imagine a city where people don't have to commute from far because they can live and work in a local hub that is part of a larger, interconnected network. The time and energy saved from avoiding long commutes would benefit everyone and probably make those hubs even more innovative.

The discussion that's failed with the internet is we can only stay indoor, work from home, talk to friends from home over the screen. That's proven to be fundamentaly unhumanity, as we've witnessed as we're fully recovered from Covid restriction and downtown event activities came back at prepandemic level. Housing price has remained the same so it's safe to say the cities are here to say. What we don't need to do is the frequency of light level contact. If you're sales, you might need to just show up for other people to remember about you. Internet fully replace that need. What Internet didn't replace is our demand for deep conversation in trust building and brainstorming.

What's ideal is to work at the local community, while connected to the rest of the hubs over the internet and actually commuting over occassionally (about once every few months). This is not to say the internet connected the world. It's still much easier to take a train for 1h than flying for 10h (econimcally speaking as well). Large metropolis would still be important, but the nature of activities should be at local downtown hubs.

This idea of green compact cities surrounded by trees might seem challenging to implement in existing urban spaces, but it could significantly improve residents' quality of life. The main challenge is to shift people's mindsets from wanting to live in sprawling suburbs towards embracing a more concentrated way of living.

Failing Industry

Having multiple hubs will also impact shopping habits. Malls like Walmart or IKEA might not be as popular in more connected cities, as people will have better access to a wider range of services within walking or biking distance from their homes.

Online shopping will continue to improve and become more popular for items that don't require frequent visits to brick-and-mortar stores. As more and more people shop online and even have drones deliver their purchases, cities need to adapt to these new developments.

Dispersing universities and institutions to hubs outside the very core of the city could also help to create space for more people to live, work, and enjoy city life. It could lead to a vibrant network of communities where everyone has access to education without lengthy commutes.

Metropolis Size Fallacy

Have you ever thought that perhaps the size of a metropolitan city isn't what makes it successful, but rather the distribution and structure of its downtown areas? After all, there're tons of mega cities like Delhi or Mexico City that's not to be the most attractive. The more I think about it, the more I realize that concentrating more on multiple downtown hubs might be the key to success in urban planning.

Take again Tokyo as an example. It has a GDP much smaller than its competitors like New York, London, and Paris. Yet, it has managed to create an efficient metropolis by having multiple downtown areas while keeping the housing price in check. This not only helps spread economic activities but also helps manage the living costs as residential buildings are more available around these hubs.

Another contrast I think of is in caucsus. Yerevan's downtown consist of one large circle, while everything else spawls outwards. That creates housing presure in the limited space. I can't help but think about the potential improvements in their urban planning if only there were more districts or downtown areas. Tbilisi, on the other hand, has multiple downtown areas that functions with old city, modern condo apartment area, shopping centre, Turkish district, and bar. That makes it a well-designed city with affordable housing (many options).

Bedtown Fallacy

The idea here is that cities should abandon the concept of "bedtowns," where people live far away from work and spend hours commuting. Instead, cities should strive to have multiple downtown hubs that are competitive and globally connected.

A rule of thumb would be until 10m population, the metropolis should focus on drawing a large number of population from other places through efficient metros. From there on, the cities should create 5 downtow hubs. Take Toronto, for example. By 2045, the city population is expected to reach 10 million. Instead of focusing on one major downtown area, it should consider strengthening its existing hubs like North York, Scarborough, and Islington. By doing so, the city would not only increase its competitiveness but also make it more attractive for people to live and work there.

The next time I visit cities Asian cities like Tokyo, Taipei, or Seoul, I plan to explore the business aspects of their downtown areas. I want to find out which areas hold events and activities that draw crowds and foster economic activity.

I believe that cities should focus on creating several strong downtown hubs that are globally competitive, well-connected and eliminate the need for people to commute long hours. By doing so, cities would not only ensure a higher standard of living for their residents, but they would also contribute to their competitiveness and success in the global economy.

So, as we continue to contemplate our collective future, we must ask ourselves what kind of cities we want to live in: one with a single downtown hub and long commutes, or one that is properly planned and executed with multiple interconnected hubs? The latter seems more promising not only for the environment but from an economic and social perspective as well.

With forward-thinking city planning and a collaborative approach between private and public sectors, we can create a new kind of urban landscape that will benefit generations to come.