Interest in the concept of "megaregions" - clusters of neighboring large metropolitan centers that share economic activity and transportation, like the Boston-Washington corridor - is on the rise. Earlier this month, former governors Parris Glendenning (Maryland) and Michael Dukakis (Massachusetts) led a roundtable in Philadelphia on breaking down political boundaries, making regional transportation investments in high-speed rail and other transport services, and protecting the environment on a regional basis. The roundtable summary is posted here: http://www.america2050.org/2007/03/post_1.html, and a column by Neal Peirce on the proceedings and the idea of a unified Northeast corridor is here: http://www.postwritersgroup.com/archives/peir0311.html. Mega-regions figure prominently in the new book Smart Growth in a Changing World (APA Planners Press), edited by Jonathan Barnett http://www.planning.org/APAStore/Search/Default.aspx?p=3654.
This new approach to planning has been actively supported by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in exchanges that have had an important and evolving connection to Europe. Armando Carbonell, chair of the Institute's Department of Planning and Urban Form and a contributor to the Barnett book, recalls initial gatherings in the late 1990s that evolved into a regular meeting of American and European planners to explore ways to learn from one another on broad-based regional planning.
"The participants all recognized the differences between the U.S. and Europe, and the strengths and weaknesses of the European model. But the goal was to really rethink planning, and to improve and inform planning strategies and policies in the U.S.," Carbonell said.
Andreas Faludi, a faculty associate at the Lincoln Institute and professor at OTB Research Institute for Housing, Urban and Mobility Studies, Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, delivered a Lincoln Lecture on European spatial planning in 2000 and attended a discussion with American planners on the revival of the Regional Planning Association of America later that year. In 2001 the Lincoln Institute organized a special session on European planning strategies at the American Planning Association in New Orleans, and sponsored a conference on the topic. The papers presented at that conference formed the Institute's first book on the subject, European Spatial Planning, edited by Faludi and published in 2002. http://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/PubDetail.aspx?pubid=181
Now comes the second Lincoln book based on a second conference, in Vienna in 2005, on the regional strategies in the European Union, now referred to generally as spatial development. The book, Territorial Cohesion and the European Model of Society, is also edited by Faludi. http://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/PubDetail.aspx?pubid=1179.
The books and conferences led to the emergence of "an American spatial development perspective," Carbonell said, and an initiative and Web site promoting megaregional planning, America 2050, established by the Regional Plan Association, the Lincoln Institute and others.
There will be another trans-Atlantic meeting of the minds in Luxembourg in May, Carbonell said, and that Europe-U.S. exchange is likely to result in the third book in the series. Proposals are also pending with the European Union to build on a planning research exchange in order to coordinate research efforts among various centers in the US and Europe. The Luxembourg gathering will move that idea ahead.
In the meantime, Carbonell is leading an urban design studio class at the University of Pennsylvania, along with Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, on the "European diagonal," focusing on the super-region stretching from Lisbon to Milan, through Madrid, Barcelona, and Marseille.