Atlanta and Barlecona: how sprawl makes transportation more difficult
There are few words in the realm of urbanism that stir up emotions like “density.” Injecting that word it into any conversation about cities is a sure way to bring out the anger in many people. The concept of increased density as a good thing — in many of us, it brings to mind some kind of totalitarian, oppressive state where people are “herded” or “forced” into high rises.
But if you want to talk about making transportation more efficient and preserving the environment in a constantly-expanding world population, you’re going to have to bring up the “D” word at some point.
This article from the World Bank blog explores the differences in density between Atlanta (apparently the international poster child for sprawl) and Barcelona and how the latter’s higher density makes transportation infrastructure more efficient.
The respective densities of Atlanta and Barcelona greatly affect the cities’ ability to serve their citizens. For example, in order for Atlanta to accommodate as many people as Barcelona’s public transit system, Atlanta would need to build an additional 3,400 kilometers of track and about 2,800 new metro stations. Atlanta could then support 30% of trips through mass transit which Barcelona accomplishes with only 99 kilometers of tracks and 136 stations (World Development Report 2009, 211).
The point: if Atlanta’s population wasn’t configured in such a sprawled-out pattern, transportation infrastructure would be less expensive and more efficient. Not that Atlanta could or should be like an old European city. Atlanta can have its own identity like no other city while still be less sprawly and less based around a car-dependent model.
And by the way, here’s what oppressive density looks like in Barcelona (those poor bastards):
Barcelona image by Flickr user Rodolfoto