Curitiba is an example of urban area in Latin America; in fact, most cities in developing countries have similar problems as Curitiba does. In these countries, a city is not only as a centerof politics/government but also as a center of trade, market, industry, education, and an symbol of the country. These functions make a city like Curitiba as a destination place for many people comes to seek jobs and pursue a better life.
The difference between Curitiba and other cities is that the government and its citizens have passion to make the city better in the future by implementing some new ideas that seemed impossible initially. In transportation, the government designed roads for pedestrians when most people thought that roads were only for cars. They also designed public transportation as the answer for traffic jams and the need to travel from home to school, market, and work. Another thing that the citizens of Curitiba do to support separate trash. This may be hard to believe possible be implemented in community with little funding. This city has became a success story since the government convinced the community intensively to separate trash all the time. The same success story also happened to the parks for avoiding flood, and housing-for-low-income project along with infrastructures improvements.
If we compare urban planning in Brazil and U.S., we will find some differences, particularly in history, urban morphology, social problems, and decision making. Current cities in Latin America and North America have been influenced by European tradition, but one was influenced by Spanish and Portuguese, and the other by British. In Curitiba, for instance, the urban areas seem growing up, whereas in the U.S. we find more cities growth out of the central area and formed urban sprawl and suburban areas. U.S. also has specific social problems, such as immigrant and homeless. Unemployment becomes a serious problem too for Americans since many factories were moved to foreign countries, including Latin America.
The last difference between Latin America and U.S. in urban planning is in decision making. Most communities in Latin America have less public participation in planning. U.S citizens have more opportunities to plan along with the government. City of College Station, Texas, can be an example to show how government together with citizens controls the development of the city. Everyone can attend the City Council meeting and see how a problem discussed and decision made to solve it. Although most problems are presented to the City Council prior the meeting, the visitors always have opportunity to speak before the City Council.
Collective decision making not only tends to help achieve justice, but also makes the community ‘ours’. Yesterday, in case of a Professional Services Contact with Jacobs Engineering Groups Inc., in the amount of $380,869.00, for the Discovery Drive Extension project, the community could see what project was proposed to the City Council of College Station, why we need the project, how much money we spent for it, who will be the contractor, and what the Council Member say about it. Hence, when the City Council approved the proposal, I think everybody felt comfortable. Indeed, since planning is always part of politics, we have to make sure that we, the community, are always involved in the process.
About photo: transportation in Curitiba, source: Wikipedia