Figure 1. The 15-minute city, Paris (Diagram) _© Micael
Available: Rethinking the Future – RTF.

15-Minute Neighborhoods:  Lessons from outside New Jersey

By Jon Carnegie, James Kenah, and Maarten Roose

Fifteen-minute neighborhoods provide residents with access to frequent and reliable public transit, parks, schools, gathering places, social services, places to buy healthy fresh food, and other amenities within a comfortable walk or bike ride. Three cities that have embraced 15-minute neighborhoods as a central planning framework are Paris, France, Melbourne, Australia, and Portland, Oregon. While neighborhood definitions vary and each city has unique circumstances and priorities, their approaches and the strategies being employed in the three cities share many similarities.

Paris, France – The 15-minute city concept in Paris was first mentioned in 2014 by Mayor Hidalgo, who prioritized improving pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure citywide. The city’s 15-minute city initiative evolved to include three key strategies: a ban on polluting vehicles, designation of restricted (car-free) zones for soft mobility users and creation of new green spaces in the city. The initiative focuses on four important concepts–proximity, diversity, density, and ubiquity, which aim to generate a city of proximities.[1]

In Paris, schools are used as the focal point of each 15-minute neighborhood with car-free and thus pedestrian-safe zones around schools. Investments were made to make reclaimed streets more pedestrian-friendly and to ensure infrastructure is of a high quality. In addition, networks of bicycle lanes were implemented near the schools and playgrounds were transformed into green spaces with trees that now serve as new rest spaces for the community. The city also implemented the concept of shared roads which are designed to allow multiple transportation modes to operate safely in the same space. One way this is accomplished is by setting the maximum allowable speed limit of travel for all modes using the road at the speed of the lowest transportation mode, mostly the bicycle.[2]

Public sentiment regarding the 15-minute neighborhood transformations implemented in Paris has been mostly positive. Many residents report that they enjoy living in their city more since the various changes have been made. One criticism of Paris’ approach is that it has not adequately addressed equity concerns. Public investments in 15-minute neighborhoods have been made mostly in the city center where enhanced livability has led to gentrification, while neighborhoods in peripheral areas, called the banlieues, have not received the same level of investment and are suffering from a lack of public (transportation) services and local stores.[3] This cautionary note highlights the importance of integrating equity and social justice considerations in neighborhood planning processes.

Melbourne, Australia – In 2017, the City of Melbourne adopted an urban mobility plan called the Melbourne 2050 plan. The plan is organized around 20-minute neighborhoods that allow residents to “live locally.” A central focus of the plan is to increase resident access to 17 amenities–such as community schools, green spaces, public transit, diverse and affordable housing options, and local shopping, within a 20-minute walk or approximately 0.5 miles. The plan prioritizes cycling infrastructure, with an emphasis on making cycling safer, and expanding the availability of public transport. One motivation for advancing 20-minute neighborhoods is to reduce reliance on cars which are a major source of congestion, pollution, and environmental and social problems in Melbourne.[4]

To create 20-minute neighborhoods, the city was divided into zones to allow a more customized approach to designing feasible solutions. Improving accessibility for all ages and abilities is a central theme of Melbourne’s approach. The city focusses on providing high quality pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure for its citizens. Resident input and community partnerships are emphasized to inform technical assessments and facilitate discussion of future opportunities. The city strives to achieve solutions that are accepted by the population through mutual collaboration and discussions.[5]

Assessments of the Melbourne 2050 plan have noted that community partnerships are key and place-based planning is integral to achieving a successful result. This type of planning focusses on a high level of interaction between government planners and neighborhood representatives throughout the planning process. The Melbourne 2050 plan recognizes that achieving 20-minute neighborhoods requires a long-term commitment and a lot of collaboration and flexibility on both sides to achieve a proportional solution for all involved parties. The city also recognizes the importance of continual improvement and is committed to monitoring progress and planning outcomes over time. Understanding how interventions impact outcomes is key to improvement. It will allow planners to look for better and more adequate designs and innovative solutions that can be implemented in other places over time.[6]

Portland, Oregon – In 2012, the City of Portland, Oregon adopted The Portland Plan, a strategic plan for the city with a primary focus on improving equity for all city residents. A central component of the plan is its healthy connected city” strategy. The strategy seeks to improve human and environmental health by creating “safe and complete neighborhood centers” linking residents to essential destinations via safe walking and biking facilities, including greenways within a 20-minute walk or bike ride. According to the Portland Plan, essential destinations include places to buy healthy food, parks, community centers, schools, and transit.[7]

Here are just some of the strategies Portland is advancing to create more complete neighborhoods: prioritizing the placement of community services in neighborhood centers, designing and programing schools as community gathering places, expanding access to healthy, affordable food by supporting the viability of grocery stores, local markets and community gardens in neighborhood centers, encouraging development of high-quality, well designed housing in and around neighborhood centers and near transit—at a variety of sizes and cost ranges, promoting and providing affordable housing options accessible to older adults and mobility-limited individuals in places where close proximity to services and transit makes it easier to live independently, linking neighborhood centers to each other, employment areas, the Central City and the broader region through a multi-modal transit system, prioritizing safe and attractive frequent transit service, bikeways and accessible pedestrian connections, including sidewalks, and integrating parks, plazas or other gathering places into neighborhood centers to provide places for community activity and social connections, just to name a few.[8]

When the plan was adopted, city planners estimated that approximately 45 percent of residents lived in complete neighborhoods. The plan set goals of achieving 55 percent of residents living in complete neighborhoods by 2017 and 80 percent by 2035.[9] To monitor progress toward these goals, city planners developed a 20-minute neighborhood index to score 24 analysis areas identified throughout the city. This index scores neighborhood walkability on a scale of zero to 100. Scores are based on the percent of neighborhood residents that live within 0.5-miles of a grocery store, elementary schools and parks, within three-miles of a full-service community center, and 0.25-miles of a frequent transit. This assumes the average person can walk 0.25 to 0.5-miles in 20 minutes.  The score also considers additional factors that may limit pedestrian access including topography, freeways, and difficult street connections.  A score of 70 or higher for each analysis area is considered a complete neighborhood. After the first four years the plan was in place, the number of residents living in complete neighborhoods rose to nearly 63 percent, an 8 percent increase from the 2011 baseline.[10]

Plans for all three cities emphasize proximity and access to important destinations, active transportation, convenient public transit, and green spaces in ways that empower residents to drive less and lead healthy active lifestyles, while also reducing carbon emissions and promoting social interaction, which as urbanist Carlos Moreno, suggests is “essential to creating an integrated social fabric of the different citizens and cultures.”[11]

This spring, researchers at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy will be leading a graduate planning studio that will explore how the 15-minute planning model can be applied in New Jersey. The studio will develop 15-minute neighborhood plans for the City of Bridgeton in Cumberland County, Cherry Hill Township in Camden County, and the City of Newark in Essex County. Look for future Policy Lab blog posts for updates on the planning processes in each of the case study municipalities.


[1] Allam, Z., Moreno, C., Chabaud, D., Pratlong, F. (2022). Proximity-Based Planning and the “15-Minute City”: A Sustainable Model for the City of the Future. In: The Palgrave Handbook of Global Sustainability. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

[2] Moreno, C., Et al. (2022). Introducing the “15-Minute City”: Sustainability, Resilience and Place Identity in Future Post-Pandemic Cities. Smart Cities 2021, 4(1), 93-111;

[3] Pozoukidou, G. and Zoi Chatziyiannaki. (2021). 15‐Minute City: Decomposing the New Urban Planning Eutopia. Sustainability, 2021, 13, 928.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Victoria State Government. (2017). 20-Minute Neighborhoods: Creating a more liveable Melbourne.

[7] City of Portland, Oregon. The Portland Plan, 2012.

[8] City of Portland, Oregon. The Portland Plan Progress Report, 2017.

[9] City of Portland, Oregon. Comprehensive Plan Update: Growth Scenario Report, 2015.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Moreno, C., Et al. (2022). Introducing the “15-Minute City”: Sustainability, Resilience and Place Identity in Future Post-Pandemic Cities. Smart Cities 2021, 4(1), 93-111;