This week’s readings discussed a variety of transportation planning topics such as trends in urban transport and transportation planning and its relationship to land use. This blog will compare transportation to/from and within two suburbs in two different countries: Fairfax, Virginia near Washington D.C. in the US and Golders Green, Barnet near London in the UK.

Getting There

My Amtrak journey to Fairfax was delayed by two hours which I was advised by other passengers was not unusual with the aforementioned service. Back home, however, I am used to making intercity journeys that run more frequently, with fewer disruptions and at faster average speeds. Levy (1) provides two main reasons for these service discrepancies. Firstly, he describes how the sparse land use pattern in the US leads to less demand for public transportation and thus a less frequent service. Secondly, the author states that Amtrak uses railroad freight lines to provide service. This means that the tracks do not have the appropriate infrastructure to support high speed rail and are frequently interrupted by freight transport, leading to slow speeds and delays.

Getting Around

The neighbourhood in Fairfax County in which I stayed (‘The Reserve’) is, as many American suburban neighbourhoods are, designed for cars. Cul de sacs, parking on every stretch of road and garages for almost every house are a few design features I noted.

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The Reserve neighbourhood. (Google Image)

‘Fair Oaks Mall’ is just across I-66 however walking there requires crossing a slip road off the highway with no pedestrian crossing. The nearest mainstream supermarket, ‘Target’, is an hour long walk away (this time crossing two highways). To get around Fairfax County I used the WMATA bus service which was hourly and had many stops. The Reserve and greater Fairfax County characteristics mentioned above resonate strongly with Levy’s description of American suburbia (2).

On the other hand, Golders Green and the greater Barnet area possess the characteristics of transit orientated development (TOD). That is, predominantly high density, mixed use and multifamily development within walking distance of public transit. In Golders Green, the station and main high-street are a pedestrian friendly space with wide walkways and multiple pedestrian crossings.

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Golders Green High Street. (Google Image)

There are a few supermarkets within 10 minutes’ walk from my house and there is a department store easily accessible by various modes of transport. Public transport in the area is abundant and is used daily by all types of citizens, from low to high income individuals.

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Map of Golders Green highlighting bus stops in the area in blue. Golders Green Station which forms part of the London Underground is also shown. (Google Maps)

Levy (3) mentions that many urban planners favour the latter, TOD style of development. From the comparisons made above it’s clear that I do too.

References

  1. Levy, John M. Contemporary Urban Planning. Page 239-240.
  2. Levy, John M. Contemporary Urban Planning. Pages 236 – 238.
  3. Levy, John M. Contemporary Urban Planning. Page 241.
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