Arturo Soria and the Linear City

"The key factor in urban living is not distance but travel time."

The Linear City", Arturo Soria

September 30th and October 7th, 2002 - In contrast to Ebenezer Howard and the Garden City Movement where large cities are considered to be the antithesis of good city planning, Arturo Soria (1892) believed that large cities well in excess of one million residents could be built to provide a decent quality of life. A key building block to the construction of such large cities was the development of fast mass transit systems capable of transporting passengers across vast distances that not only separated neighborhoods within a city but indeed, between cities themselves. When Soria proposed this type of development, the fast moving trolleys of the late 19th Century maintained speeds of about 30 kms per hour, resulting in Linear Cities of less than 30 kms in length.

While Soria recognized the limited speed of 19th Century mass transit systems, some of his later day followers believed that the development of Linear Cities would one day include urban corridors such as the US Northeast Corridor or Tokyo-Osaka-Nagoya that would stretch for hundreds of kilometers. And while such urban corridors have evolved, there are few if any transportation systems currently in operation that are able to provide the urban commuting service necessary to transport workers to their workplaces hundreds of kilometers in distance, quickly, affordably, conveniently, and consistently. (The sole exception could be the Shinkansen in Japan.)

The contrast between the Garden City Movement and the Linear City is being debated today so that planners can find an alternative development scheme to manage the growing urban population boom in this century. According to the International Herald Tribune, in the next 40 years, the equivalent of 1000 new cities, each with a population of 3 million people, will have to be built to manage urban population growth demands.
It is evident that the Garden City Movement while very appealing in the developed world, will fall far short in providing a decent urban environment for such large expected urban population growths, especially in Asia and Africa. Even in China, the government has adopted the "Linear City" concept. While the Chinese policy is called the Interlocking Metropolitan Region, the design is consistent with the approach favored by Soria.

Although Soria's concept is over 100 years old, the evolution of new transportation and telecommunications technologies are now just beginning to provide urban planners with the infrastructure to merge adjacent metropolitan regions into a single urban catchment region. Arturo Soria did not advocate that cities should grow outwardly by pouring concrete over agricultural lands and the countryside. He instead favored the developed of a polycentric linear city where urban settlement patterns would be localized in "Urban Islands" that would facilitate countryside access to urban residents and would preserve a viable agricultural economy.

The Interactive Megalopolis replicates the very design principles established by Arturo Soria. Magplane would provide easy access to urban corridor residents because the Magplane system would serve numerous well-located stations. And because Magplane is able to transport passengers directly between their point of origin and destination without making time-consuming intermediate stops, corridor residents could travel longer distances. The combined effect of transportation and telecommunication technologies would enable employers to organize their workforces differently to minimize the need for long distance travel while maximizing an opportunity to travel such long urban distances, when absolutely necessary.

The Magplane system provides an effective and environmentally sustainable method to build and manage the growth of Linear Cities that Arturo Soria promoted. His Linear City Concept and the Magplane system are timely contributions to alternative urban developments that will be needed in the first half of this century.

The Linear City and Arturo Soria