What Does Success Look Like To You? – Taiwo Jaiyeoba

What Does Success Look Like To You? – Taiwo Jaiyeoba

Taiwo Jaiyeoba is a distinguished urban planner and public transit consultant with over thirty years of experience shaping urban landscapes in the United States and internationally. With a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Ife, Nigeria, Jaiyeoba has played pivotal roles in various transformative projects, including serving as the Director of Planning and Assistant City Manager in Charlotte; City Manager in Greensboro, both cities in North Carolina. Taiwo also has extensive experience in the private sector. Renowned for his commitment to sustainable and equitable urban development, Jaiyeoba is a passionate advocate for community engagement and has a deep understanding of the complexities involved in modern urban planning. His work continues to influence the field, inspiring new generations of urban planners.

Q&A with Taiwo Jaiyeoba: Insights on Urban Planning and Community Development

Can you describe how you first became interested in urban planning?

Taiwo Jaiyeoba: My interest in urban planning started during my university days in Nigeria, where I studied Geography and Urban and Regional Planning. I was fascinated by the complexity of city systems and the potential impact thoughtful planning could have on improving people’s lives. In my first Planning class, the professor started with a Willam Shakespeare’s quote: “What is the city but the people!” That completely grabbed my attention. Over time, my passion grew as I began my planning career,  witnessing the challenges and opportunities in different urban settings, from Botswana to various cities across the United States, and understanding that at the core of cities are people first!

What do you consider the most challenging aspect of urban planning?

Taiwo Jaiyeoba: One of the greatest challenges is balancing the diverse needs and interests of a community while promoting sustainable growth. Urban planning isn’t just about shaping physical spaces but also about fostering social equity and economic viability. Ensuring that all voices are heard, especially those from underserved communities, and integrating those perspectives into tangible plans can be quite challenging but immensely rewarding.

How do you incorporate community input into your projects?

Taiwo Jaiyeoba: Community engagement is a cornerstone of my planning process. I believe in proactive outreach and dialogue. This involves holding community workshops, public forums, and even informal gatherings to gather insights and feedback. Technology also plays a role; we use online platforms and interactive tools that allow more people to participate in the planning process, especially those who might not attend public meetings.

What project are you most proud of, and why?

Taiwo Jaiyeoba: One of the projects that stand out is my work on the 2040 Comprehensive Plan for Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a highly collaborative effort that aimed to guide the city’s growth over two decades. What makes me proud of this project is how it embraced bold ideas for sustainable and equitable urban development, which were shaped by extensive input from a diverse cross-section of the city’s population.

How has urban planning changed since you began your career?

Taiyo Jaiyeoba: Urban planning has evolved significantly, especially in its approach to sustainability and technology. When I started, the focus was more on managing development and less on sustainable outcomes. Today, there’s a strong emphasis on creating resilient, green, and smart cities that use technology to enhance livability and manage resources more efficiently. The community’s role in planning has also become more prominent, shifting towards more inclusive and participatory processes.

What emerging trends do you see shaping the future of urban planning?

Taiwo Jaiyeoba: I see a growing trend towards more integrated and adaptive urban systems that can better respond to changing environmental conditions and urban needs. This includes the rise of smart cities that leverage data and technology to improve urban services and quality of life. Another trend is the increased focus on health and well-being, with urban designs that promote active lifestyles and greater accessibility.

You have talked about the importance of proximity in urban planning. Please explain that further.

Taiwo Jaiyeoba: In the urban environment, land uses such as residential and commercial should be supported by amenities that make them affordable, accessible, and equitable. For example, housing becomes more affordable if the burden of transportation is lessened by locating residential units close enough to transit services. If residents pay less for transportation, they may be able to afford the places they live in. The concept of 15-minute cities or 20-minute neighborhoods is crucial to cities. To make cities livable, proximity is key.  

What advice would you give to young professionals entering the field of urban planning?

Taiyo Jaiyeoba: To young professionals, I would say: be passionate about making a difference and always be willing to learn. Urban planning is a dynamic field that requires a broad understanding of many aspects – from public policy and social science to architecture and environmental studies. Stay curious, be courageous, embrace interdisciplinary approaches, and remember that at the heart of urban planning is the desire to improve people’s lives.

Are there any books or resources you would recommend to those interested in urban planning?

Taiyo Jaiyeoba: Absolutely. I recommend starting with “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” by Jane Jacobs. It’s a seminal book that offers profound insights into city planning and the importance of vibrant, diverse neighborhoods. For a more contemporary read, “The Smart Enough City” by Ben Green provides a critical look at how technology should be used wisely in urban planning to truly benefit citizens.

What motivates you to continue in this field?

Taiwo Jaiyeoba: What motivates me is the impact that thoughtful planning can have on communities. Seeing a project come to life and positively affect the daily lives of people is incredibly rewarding. It’s about leaving a legacy that future generations will benefit from, ensuring our urban environments are more livable, equitable, and sustainable. That’s what keeps me driven.

Finally, what does success look like to you?

Taiwo Jaiyeoba: To me, success in urban planning means creating walkable and accessible spaces that enhance people’s quality of life and stand the test of time. It’s about developing environments that are sustainable, inclusive, and adaptable to future needs.