Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Aerotropoli and rethinking the scale of mobility networks in the context of a global economy

Late in 2011 when there was a lot of coverage of the idea of aerotropolises--places built around airports--I didn't really pay it much mind, because it didn't seem all that new, given how Ross Perot Jr. had begun doing something like that more than wo decades ago around the Fort Worth Alliance Airport and making it the first "industrially-oriented airport" (New York Times article), the impact of FedEx and UPS air delivery systems and the development of logistics-related businesses in and around their respective major hub airports in Memphis and Louisville, etc. ("UPS Worldport: a logistics case study").

See "Aerotropolis: A New Model for Cities?" from Streetsblog.

But then, I don't get out of the country much, certainly not to places like Dubai or Singapore or Hong Kong or Songdo, South Korea, even if I read about the globe-trotting exploits of Tyler Brûlé in his weekend column in the Life and Arts section of the Weekend edition of the Financial Times.

The article in today's Washington Post travel section, "Songdo, South Korea: The city that could change the way we travel," on the Songdo aerotropolis makes me realize that I just wasn't thinking about the issue at the right scale.

From the article:

What is an aerotropolis? At its simplest, it’s a city built around an airport. Instead of sticking an airport on the outskirts of an existing city, building a city around the airport allows for faster movement of goods and people. And as Greg Lindsay, co-author of “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next,” argues, in the era of globalization, efficiency is paramount. Lindsay believes that the old real-estate rule of “location, location, location” is being swapped for the new rule of “accessibility, accessibility, accessibility.”

“Cities have always formed around transportation — ports and harbors and then train stations,” says Lindsay, pointing to Boston, New York and Chicago as examples. “Air travel is the only way to connect globally, and now, more frequently, cities will grow around airports.” ...

While Songdo’s status as a sustainable city certainly helped in its successful bid to house the Green Climate Fund, so did its proximity to Incheon International Airport. “You land at the airport and there’s a convention center, a hotel, a golf course,” says Lindsay. “Business travelers already live out of conference hotels; now you’re seeing conference cities. You still go to Seoul if you have leisure time, but this is the hyper-efficient movement of people. This is taking the scale of business travel to the extreme.”

Even though I mostly write about planning of transportation and mobility at the regional/multi-state, metropolitan and sub-metropolitan (suburban and center city) scales, in this entry "Second iteration, idealized national network for high speed railpassenger service" I did discuss planning for transportation modes at national and international scales.  But mostly I don't think about mobility at that scale.

Aerotropoli and at least in terms of providing international travel connections via airports (e.g. how airports within the largest metropolitan areas end up specializing some on international vs. domestic travel) is planning at the international scale.

This is about accommodating global commerce and the people are engaged in it. Seoul doesn't matter as a place to visit as much as it matters to go to South Korea to conduct business, and only business.

The Travel article on Songo as an aerotroplis is worth a read and is another example of why reading travel sections of newspapers (and travel magazines) is an important element of keeping yourself up-to-date on mobility and cultural planning.

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At 6:04 PM, Anonymous H Street LL said...

I'm bout to jack your style for this post.

1) So do you think is a valid theory/paradigm or not?

2) In America, an example of this is Atlanta and their huge airport. Although it was started as a railroad town due to its central location.

3) Regarding the location quote - is location really different than accessibility? Same concept.

4) I've never been to S. Korea (have been all over India), but why was the author in a cab? I thought the country was renowned for its excellent public transit infrastructure.

5) numerous cities have convention centers and hotels at the airport - is that part of it really a big deal?

6)airport shopping? yawn.

7) There are some good points about changing global travel patterns.

At 7:03 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

3) I agree with you. In transpo planning generally the shift is to "accessiblity" vs. traffic throughput, and maximizing people throughput rather than car throughput.

Similarly the point on accessibility is about linking transpo and land use. So yes, you're absolutely right it's about location, nothing new.

7) I think this is the big take away from the article, global travel patterns are changing as global commerce changes and regions like Asia become more prominent and key in travel and commercial flows.

The best way to think of this is in terms of "flows" and yes, Hartsfield or OHare are other examples.

and yes, the shopping isn't that big a deal, although it's nice if you're stuck in an airport. (E.g., 20+ years ago, waiting in the Milwaukee airport, they actually had a used bookstore. DK if they still do.)

At 8:51 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I don't know. Reading between the lines, it sounds more like Dubai (let Arabs get alcohol), Macao (let Chinese get hard currency through "gambling") or Orlando than a real city. Or even Vegas, back when we restricted gambling.

Duty free shopping means a lot to Chinese which have very high duties; not so much to everyone else.

Dubai is a better example, even outside my snide comment, because you have the concurrent investment the airport (largest in the world?), the airline (Emirates is low the biggest long haul carrier), cargo (Emirates, again), and a few other factors (gold smuggling, Iran sanction avoiding, and not having to cover up your ladies)

At 10:07 AM, Anonymous rg said...

@ H Street L -- I thought the same exact thing re: taking a cab. The author complained about the traffic, but I had zero sympathy. Based on what I have heard about public transit in the Seoul region, taking a cab seemed a poor choice.

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