Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Theory of Urban Fabrics: Planning the Walking, Transit/public Transport and Automobile/motor Car Cities for Reduced Car Dependency

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Theory of Urban Fabrics: Planning the Walking, Transit/public Transport and Automobile/motor Car Cities for Reduced Car Dependency

Article excerpt


In this journal in 1955 a classic paper by economist/geographer Colin Clark set out how transport is the 'maker and breaker of cities' (Clark, 1955). This understanding of how transport shapes cities was given greater scientific credibility by Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti (1994) and Zahavi and Talvitie (1980) who were among the first to show that there is a universal 'travel-time budget' of around one hour on average per person per day. The travel-time budget therefore helps us to see how cities are shaped (Newman and Kenworthy, 1999; 2006). The urban fabrics of cities grew to be 'one-hour wide' based on the speed at which people can move in them. If they go beyond this they begin to be dysfunctional and start to change their infrastructure and land use to adapt again to this fundamental principle (Van Wee et al., 2006; Cervero, 2011).

This paper will show how the three urban systems or fabrics of walking city, transit/ public transport city and automobile/motor car city have formed, and now in combination have an ongoing life of their own, with distinct and important differences in their fabric elements, qualities, lifestyles and economies. Most of all it will show how strategic and statutory planning need to do more than land use and transport integration, and they need to have different approaches in each of the three urban fabrics.

Most cities in the world today are struggling with the problem of the car. Why some cities achieve good results in becoming more public transport-oriented and walkable, and others less so, is a complex issue involving urban governance, economics, transport planning, town planning and other factors such as vested motor car interests. There continues to be debate about sustainability and the compact city (e.g. Burton et al., 2003; Naess, 2014), but recent trends suggest that demand for cars and motor car-based urban fabric is in decline and demand has switched to finding a more walking and public transport urban fabric (Newman and Kenworthy, 2015). Most planners are therefore faced with the challenge of providing more walkability, better public transport systems, and denser, mixed uses to create a more 'liveable' urban fabric. But do they have a clear framework of concepts, theories and statutory controls which can be used as a tool for achieving these objectives?

We seek to answer this question and to support the existing efforts of planners worldwide in producing cities that are better functioning, more liveable and less dependent on the motor car. It will do this by demonstrating a new theory about the three urban fabrics and how urban planners, citizens, enterpreneurs, politicians, officials and researchers might apply it in their work. The new theory is needed to replace the old-but-still-dominant framework of the Modernist City and its applications, which do not distinguish between these different fabrics and which undermine most efforts at rejuvenating the walking and public transport fabrics unless specific intervention is made.

The paper has evolved from a recognition of the three basic types of cities and an understanding of how cities work, developed through academic research based on urban data collected from cities around the world and published in books and journals (i.e. Newman and Kenworthy, 1989; 1999; 2015) together with the practical work of a city planner working in the small Finnish town of Kuopio for twenty years (Kosonen, 2007; 2015). The Kuopio work has created the practical application of the theory and tested the concept with results that have been recognised in Finland by Mäntysalo and Kanninen (2013) and extended to other Finnish cities (Ristimäki et al., 2013), but limited in its further communication. The overlap of interests in how cities work based on their transport systems has led to a parallel way of thinking, parallel concepts and the development of a new theoretical framework we have called 'three urban fabrics' (TUFs), outlined below. …

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