THE URBAN OASIS: Guideways and Greenways in the Human Environment

by Roxanne Warren, Architect


Table of Contents

Author's Abstract of the Book

The great majority of all kinds of trips begin or end at home; and when an automobile is needed on either end of a trip, there is every incentive to continue by car for the entire journey. Thus, it seems fairly certain that providing high quality systems of local circulation in close proximity to development with a residential base will make the use of longer distance public transport far more convenient, feasible, and likely.

Providing a quality of local service capable of competing with the private car requires 24-hour availability and reliability - criteria uniquely satisfied by automated peoplemovers (APMs). Yet ironically, when densities of development rise sufficiently high to justify installation of guided transit, they are typically associated with traffic congestion and the massive paving of land for roads and parking - factors which have helped to spur centrifugal migration toward outlying areas and away from access to public transport. With this dispersal of population, the cities are deprived of wealth and culture; non-motorists, including children and the elderly, are isolated; and per capita consumption of land and fuel spirals upward to unprecedented proportions.

We have the means at hand to make centripetal migration once again desirable, through a synthesis of four key elements: 1) new urban neighborhoods as pedestrian zones 2) peripheral parking, 3) abundant re-landscaping, and, tying it all together, 4) short-range automated shuttles and loops (which just happen to be the most economical types of APM to build and operate). In conventional high-density construction, its associated parking is contained on sub-plaza levels; all levels above the plaza comprise, in effect, a pedestrian zone. But with an automated shuttle or loop serving as "horizontal elevator", this organization can be turned on its side, with its parking structures located at nearby highways and major roads, and its buildings suffused with living vegetation. Lest peripheral parking be considered onerous, the APM should be fare-free, with its costs covered through rentals and parking fees; this will also preclude the need for fareboxes, and make the system more user-friendly and less costly to build and operate.

Several variations on this scheme are illustrated; each would house a community of some 5000 residents, together with commercial, educational, and community amenities. In one example, new development is clustered in compact form within a 3-minute walk of its station, and ample amounts of surrounding greenspace are protected from being taxed into development through a binding easement. In another, a station-cluster is built at lower densities for the same size population, with the length of station access extended to a maximum 5-minute walk; here the development is more continuously pervaded with semi-private areas of greenery. In a third type, the available land consists of smaller tracts, with new development distributed among two or more station-clusters - an option where larger tracts of land are unavailable. A fourth type would include and count residents of existing adjacent buildings as part of the community of 5000 - a scheme for which new clusters may, in fact, be more easily retrofitted within existing urban areas.

urban oasis model - plan view In this model of an urban oasis, buildings are clustered within a 5-minute walk of the station of an automated guideway circulation system. Immediately around the station are a sizable regional shopping mall and low-rise office facilities, aimed at attracting the public from a wider area, as well as residential towers containing small apartments. Densities trail off toward the greener outskirts, decreasing down to two-story matrix housing at the fringes.

Located within or near a city, strategically sited within reach of a major transportation corridor, yet built in a green park, the urban oasis would juxtapose advantages of urban and rural space. It would reintroduce into the larger urban area, through a highly contemporary expression of guideways and greenways, those desirable components of the small town - an intimate scale among neighbors and a close proximity to nature - which have been all but lost in our explosion of development all over the landscape.

The book contains an overview and analysis of pedestrian zones in Europe and North America, and of elements that have contributed to their successes or failures. Also included are illuminating descriptions of the numerous types of automated peoplemover technologies, in language that is accessible to the lay reader. It is concisely written in 197 pages, and includes 98 illustrations.

Roxanne Warren, AIA, is principal of Roxanne Warren & Associates (NYC), whose major clients have included the NYC Transit Authority and the Port Authority of NY & NJ. She was formerly with I.M. Pei, among other firms, has spent many years in the study of automated guideway transit technologies and their potential urban application, and has been an active participant in conference seminars on the subject in the United States and France. She is a member of the Transportation Research Board and serves as a member of the Board of the Advanced Transit Association

Roxanne Warren can be reached by phone at 212-580-5500 (office) or fax: 212-580-5690 or via e-mail: Her mailing address is Roxanne Warren and Associates, Architects, 2112 Broadway - Suite 507, NYC 10023

Copies of the book can be ordered from McGraw-Hill, phone 1-800-2mcgraw or The Amazon price is $51.73 new, $0.48 used.

Last Modified: 06/08/2013