In episode 065 of The Civil Engineering Podcast, I talk with Charles(Chuck) Marohn, a Professional Engineer (PE) licensed in the State of Minnesota and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) about how our cities and towns are going broke and how civil engineers will play a role in developing strong towns in the future.
Here are some of the questions I ask Chuck:
- Why are so many towns and cities across North America going broke?
- What are some things that you’ve seen in your travels that don’t necessarily take thousands of dollars to implement, that have made stronger towns?
- How can we as civil engineers help to build stronger towns?
- What are some things that civil engineers can do to address this problem in civil engineering?
Here are some key points discussed on how our cities and towns are going broke and how civil engineers can help long-term. Chuck says:
- Strong Towns came about as I was working in my home town doing engineering projects and planning work. I came to the realization that the things I were doing were actually making the city poor and only buying people time. During a project I worked on, I was able to take a city that had more pipe than they had money to maintain, and solved that problem by doubling the amount of pipe they had.
- Our cities are obsessed with growth but have no mechanism to take care of everything, because the land use pattern, the big buck store, the cul-de-sacs, none of this stuff generates enough wealth to actually go back and fix it. Our cities are going underwater in their obligations and we just continue to add to that problem over time.
- Strong Towns will never produce a street design guide for engineers. Easy, one-size-fits-all solutions from the top down are what got American towns into the mess they’re in. Strong Towns want to bring you something better.
- The challenges we face today are fine grained and very hyper local and as engineers that mean that we are going to have to develop a different set of understanding of how our streets and blocks and neighborhoods work if we want to start to bring more value to them.
- The first thing engineers have to do is to recognize the problem, and to try a bunch of small things to figure out what’s going to work in the new world.
- It’s upon us as engineers to branch out beyond building, and start to talk to the financial people, the planning people and start to piece this all together, because engineers are the ones with the skills to do that.
- Our cities and towns are going broke and need to become tighter and more fine grained. We have to adapt our models to work at this fine grain.
- We have to learn the language of community finance as the finance people are never going to understand engineering, but engineers can understand finance.
More details in this episode…
About Charles Marohn:
Charles Marohn, PE – known as “Chuck” to friends and colleagues is the Founder and President of Strong Towns. Marohn has a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology and a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute. Marohn is the author of Thoughts on Building Strong Towns — Volume 1 and Volume 2 — as well as A World Class Transportation System. He hosts the Strong Towns Podcast and is a primary writer for Strong Towns’ web content.
He has presented Strong Towns concepts in hundreds of cities and towns across North America.Chuck grew up on a small farm in Central Minnesota. The oldest of three sons of two elementary school teachers, he joined the Minnesota National Guard on his 17th birthday during his junior year of high school and served for nine years. In addition to being passionate about building a stronger America, he loves playing music, is an obsessive reader and religiously follows his favorite team, the Minnesota Twins. Chuck and his wife live with their two daughters and two Samoyeds in their hometown of Brainerd, Minnesota.
This episode is brought to you by PPI, the leader of civil engineering FE or PE exam preparations. Use promo code PREP and enter the raffle here: www.ppi2pass.com/civilprep
Books mentioned in this episode:
|That Used to Be Us||Suburban Nation||Antifragile||Fooled by Randomness||The Black Swan|
Please leave your comments or questions in the section below on how our cities and towns are going broke and how civil engineers can help long-term.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success