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Pile them high: Thoughts on population density and city infrastructure

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Pile them high: Thoughts on population density and city infrastructure

he London 2012 Olympics are now over and within a day or so the activity in the city centre is near normal again. There has been deep consternation in central London during the games because the city has been so quiet! Realising that the city risked becoming gridlocked due to the extra Olympic traffic, the transport planning authorities were asked to provide a solution. Their action was drastic yet effective, and raised interesting questions.

Special traffic lanes, so called “games lanes” were created across the city for the sole use of Olympians. Resented as they were by Londoners, transport chiefs took the even more unpopular move of throttling road traffic at key junctions coming into the city to compensate for the reduced road capacity. They also ran a massive publicity campaign to encourage commuters to work from home for the duration of the games. The measures were so effective that the city felt empty. Shops and businesses off the main thoroughfares felt the pinch. Mid games even the Prime Minister made a call for people to return to the centre of the city.

Yet, the underground system reported that during the games it had carried more people than at any other time in its history!

Many questions are raised by this experience about the relationship of transport and other infrastructure networks to population density. We know from the disastrous Modernist experiment that when a city is not dense enough public transport networks, shops and other crucial facilities, cannot be sustained and the environmentally crippling use of the car rockets. But conversely, there is no agreement on what is too dense.

Could a massively dense infrastructure network sustain cities of far greater population density than we are used to today? Almost certainly is the answer!

The graphic featured here from the website persquaremile by Tim de Chant and posted in January 2011, puts density into perspective by imagining what area the world’s population could live in if it was as dense as Paris, London, San Francisco, New York, Singapore, or Houston. As thought provoking as it is, I would like to see the idea developed to imagine the scale of infrastructure necessary to support such a city.

 

image: Tim de Chant

Source: www.detail-online.com

20/08/2012

 

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