#designing cities: curating transport/ation to move beyond first base

Guerrilla curation – there are no threads in the forum referencing the transportation lecture, but what is it possible to glean from a search? Tags are only used for threads, so it’s no wonder people don’t really use them – when you’ve written a post are you really going to scroll back to the top to add a tag? And why a tag cloud isn’t shown at the top of the forums is beyond me. All rather a wasted opportunity.

Below is what I’ve selected from searches for “transport” (44 results) , “transportation (84)” and “transit” (38) – thanks to all the nameless contributors. Most of the results are from earlier weeks – have people given up on the forums for substantive debate?


  • Transportation for livable cities by Vukan Vuchic –> as noted the book is expensive, but a Google Scholar search might well bring up some open articles or papers
  • Large events and public transport: a winning team (PDF) –> come in #escdk; see also Judith Grant Long
  • The First Station – website for Jersualem’s abandoned train station –> brill, I was just thinking about this the other day; see Taline Ayanyan‘s reuse project for a disused train station in Oakland (picture); changes in transportation infrastructure have gradually impacted the neighborhood for the worse; the plan for the reuse of the site needs to be sensitive to the inherent dialogue between the monument/landmark and its neighborhood – can this monument, in its current shape, tell us about the values of the neighborhood and its ‘sense of place’? Can we look to the monument’s issues and their possible remedies in order to get insight into the neighborhood’s issues and their possible remedies, and vice versa? cf Risbjerggard
  • Transport Sydney – participant’s blog
  • video games that simulate transport systems –  Cities in Motion, Mobility , SimCity, Transport Tycoon

On individual cities:

  • Beijing – a burgeoning cosmopolitan city but inconvenient for small things like taking your bike on public transportation, and the millions of cars jamming the highway every day because of inflexible working hours
  • Groningen – bikes! sustainable, saves time, saves petrol/gas/diesel, maintains a pollution free environment, saves space wastage in creating parking spaces for 4 wheeler vehicle keeps one fit and healthy – what else a city wants to raise it’s happiness index! –> see above re life and buzz, although it’s a charming city : P
  • Kolkata – public transportation from cycle rickshaw, autos, trams and frequent buses and metro connecting the suburbs is well managed; the metro is being extended causing pollution, traffic congestion and blocked roads for the next few years; almost every neighborhood has its own market and central open space and a pond; the core area is the biggest market place, with old dilapidated colonial structures and narrow roads, but it has created a twin city known as New Town to place its IT hub and divert the population, reducing the load on core areas and preventing outmigration to other cities
  • Melbourne – the more desirable suburbs are well served with public transport but are increasingly unaffordable; affordability can be found on the city fringe but many of these areas do not have public transport – the infrastructure is not keeping up with urban sprawl and developing suburbs are suffering from reduced livability
  • New York City – a great livable city, easy to commute to work, 24/7 nonstop subway, complemented by city bike sharing in most of Manhattan;  crowded, but with a distinctive identity; the streets are quite narrow but New Yorkers know exactly which path to take given specific hour in a day – the people learn the breath of the city; see  Janette Sadik-Khan’s TED talk: New York’s streets? Not so mean any more
  • Pune – no convenient public transport network; being a radially expanding city, the railway is hardly of any use for intra-city transport (a ring rail could have helped); getting from one point to another is quite difficult as buses are insufficient in number and very few journeys can be completed by catching just a single bus; re-trying a Bus Rapid Transit System (in the current system the dedicated lanes meant for buses are often used by other motorists) ; the metro has been on paper for a couple of decades now, and it seems as if it is only creating controversies; after a debate on whether it should pass underground or above, now in has come the debate on the FSI allocation along the route; the result of this is rather obvious from the number of two-wheelers that ply the streets; from my experience an abundance of two-wheelers is a good indication of weak public transport; once a city traversed by bicycles, Pune even had a transport plan specially made to cater to cyclists – you can still see the cycle tracks marked out, however these are now used by pedestrians and motorists
  • Moscow – a lot of parks and even forests inside the city; reforms starting in public transit, introducing paid parking in the centre, but at the same time they’re widening city streets to take more cars and building vast shopping malls and other ugly buildings among 18-19 century houses; so whenever you go to have a look at old Moscow architecture, you always finish thinking about blowing up this or that disgusting newly-built construction 🙂
  • Seoul – has been through population booms, and economic boom, causing the metropolitan area to be quite unplanned; it was only in the 90s when the population boom started to slow down and become controllable that the government started to pay attention to really plan the cities; after Seoul Metropolitan Transit (the largest in the world) was constructed, the authorities started to ‘reconstruct’ the areas that are in chaos with the New Town program; there are many things I appreciate about the greater Seoul area, including its ease of public transit, multitude of parks and relatively clean air for such a massive city, but I wish there was a more diverse architectural landscape
  • Toronto – gentrification is a large shaping force; neighbourhoods that once offered affordable housing are no longer affordable, sending more and more of the city’s population living below the poverty line into the suburbs; limited transit system – lower income population relies heavily on transit for childcare and employment, but forced further and further from the city’s core and job markets in search of affordable housing;  the city will have no choice but to invest in infrastructure to keep up with its growth, but will it be able to fund such investment if water, sewage and transportation need upgrading all at once?

The US:

  • see the thread! as in #mapmooc is a US based course, but does this affect the content more, due to special characteristics such as…
  • the United States is simply too young to have had to deal with many of the transportation and access issues that many parts of the world had to overcome; for example urban streets have always been optimised for personal automobiles rather than the narrow alleyways so prevalent in Eurasia that were originally designed to accommodate oxcarts and/or Marie Antoinette’s ‘tumbrils’
  • costs to build work-where-you-live public transit/bicycle/walkable friendly communities are often so high that those who’d like to take advantage of those features simply can’t afford it
  • issues with urban sprawl, a natural consequence of the increasing use of personal vehicles and the continually improved, accessible public highway system; as happened with rail travel in the 1800s populated areas sprang up along corridors as personal automobile-oriented streets and highways expanded
  • a few communities, like the resort community of Mackinac Island in Michigan, have simply banned private automobiles; in Albuquerque we’ve shut down a few downtown streets, barricaded and converted them into pedestrian pass-throughs by repaving and allowing restaurants and bars to expand their operations into outdoor courtyards; charming, but from a business and public safety aspect, rather ‘mehhh’ results
  • New Urbanism – in essence a return to the pre-personal automobile era when people were could easily walk or utilise mass transit to access places where they lived, worked, and played; features include medium density housing above small retail establishments where the workers or store owner can live, single family housing featuring alleyways behind the structure and off the main streets to facilitate driveway, parking, and/or garage facilities that aren’t a dominant feature of the house’s architecture, housing closer to the sidewalks to encourage neighbor-to-neighbor interaction, the return of the traditional ‘front porch’ that also encourages residents to interact with each other; hasn’t really taken off in the United States, due to the typical American’s love of their personal automobiles which allows them the freedom to move about at will, plus Americans prefer single-family dwellings and the privacy that allows; home ownership is a major component of the vaunted, “American Dream!”; established communities of this nature, like Celebration and Seaside, Florida, tend to be primarily upper market developments with prices that are above what the average American can afford; not only are they expensive but some of the ‘benefits’, like ‘work where you live’ become unrealistic as the guy who runs the little retail store probably can’t afford to live upstairs in the $300,000+ residence!

Bon mot:

  • for big, metropolitan cities, railed transportation is inevitable, for their ability to carry tons of people, and punctuality
  • transportation is key to a great livable city – I’m a suburban girl so I like a good mass transit system and highways nearby; affordability and green space are nice too, but as long as the transportation systems are in place so you can easily get to anything your city doesn’t offer that’s good enough for me
  • the rail station and its relationship to the road network –> when the railway station is not in the town centre; CPH central station not on the metro, etc
  • can we change our age old love for personal transit, fancy fuel guzzling jets and honking and traffic jams, which are the trademarks of cities around the world? –> do we have to? Bjorn Lomborg
  • walkability suits a more ‘neo-urban’ environment where people live within easy walking or mass transit-friendly proximity to their place of work –> so not value free, but can be combined with mass transit

So…this exercise has enabled me to move beyond base 1 provided by the lecture. For me there has to be a way of maintaining the buzz and cosmopolitan feel of a big city – a city shouldn’t have a sleepy small town feel. Livability needs life, something you can’t really plan for, but which is sometimes designed out.

Current hot topics in city transportation include bikeshare schemes and smart cards, road pricing, the cost of public transport (less so; most places try to encourage use).

Nytorv in Copenhagen, 1972 - with a tram and without tourists

Nytorv in Copenhagen, 1972 – with a tram and without tourists (photo: Museum of Copenhagen)


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