Tool-Tagging is an alternative planning process designed for places too disinvested to be able to afford a traditional planning process, and calibrated as a mashup of skills in the native tongue of the young. We have long said that planning is for the young because only they will live long enough to see the plan mature. Tool-Tagging goes one step further, and is designed to be run mostly by young people, down to high schoolers or maybe even middle schoolers. A tiny team of New Urbanists (maybe just one person) would act as an advisor or coach to the youthful design team.
Tool-Tagging is composed of two elements: the tools and the geotags locating them. Tools are very brief descriptions of a single urban component, such as a parklet or food cart pod. The description is essentially an algorithm: “do this, next do this, then do this,” each expressed in tweet-length of 280 characters or less. Tools are linked to related tools with hashtags, as on Instagram. Each tool contains a concise illustration of the tool’s finished product, and a summary of what’s required to produce it. Tools could either be printed and used analog or accessible on an app, where the links would be live.
Tools would be geotagged as needed on a plan of the subject area, which also could be either paper or digital. The one act of conventional New Urbanist planning would be for the coach to create a Transect-based regulating plan before the process begins.
Tool-Tagging versus traditional New Urbanist planning is analogous to stock house plans versus custom design. The great economy of Tool-Tagging is that unlike the custom design where each component is painstakingly drawn, the tool is only drawn once in the beginning but used countless times over the years. And once there is a core library of tools and the process gains traction, the library should grow both in diversity and sophistication over time.
Most of the tools in the beginning will be those developed within the Tactical Urbanism movement. Others will emerge from the Lean Urbanism framework begun seven years ago. Other candidate tool incubators are the Incremental Development Alliance, Missing Middle Housing, Light Imprint, and the Original Green.
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