Happy City

Charles Montgomery wrote this cool non-fiction book on what makes a city a happy one.  Or more really how can we design cities to make people happy.  He explores all sorts of factors and set-ups in a city (or suburb), like transit options, infrastructure, density, types of housing, and etc. The book explains why urban sprawl is so awful yet so attractive to people. It also explains why extreme high density is so attractive to some people, yet can also be miserable. I love that it truly meanders and weighs different options, both the pros and cons, rather than set out to prove that one specific model is the end all be all for urban planning. It offers solutions that are more like guidelines and can be adjusted based on the current situation in different types of cities and existing sprawl, rather than just ideas for new developments.

I also found it insightful as a regular person of what housing or community situations might make me happy. Short commute? Yes I already think that makes me happy. Glad to see there’s science to back up that assumption. Most people won’t use transit if a train stop is more than 10 minutes away or bus stop more than 5 minutes away? That makes sense; I already refuse to rent someplace that is farther away than that from public transit. Chaotic, dense and diverse greenery and plant life make people more happy than pretty scenery of open grasslands even though people think they prefer the latter? Hmmm maybe I should head to Lincoln Park Conservatory more often. High rises can make people less happy because people don’t have enough casual interactions with neighbors (like chit chatting on the way to get the mail) due to seeing them only in situations where they feel trapped (waiting in or for elevators)? Okay, well, I’ll work on having those awkward convos in the elevator instead of listening to music while staring at the floor count. Definitely check out this book and maybe you’ll find some interesting tips on how you can choose an environment or your react to your current environment in a way to make you more happy!


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