The Transportation Transect

Trans Transect [72]

TRANSPORTATION TRANSECT (click image for hi-resolution graphic)

The Rural to Urban Transect is Andres Duany’s master stroke for analyzing urbanism. Here, we will use it to classify various modes of transportation according to principles for sustainable urbanism, efficient transportation and democratic land economics. The transportation transect presents an aspirational condition where carbon based transportation technologies have been superseded and cities & towns are built to maximize social mixing.

T1 – Untrammelled Nature

Highways and railways ride along the edge or cross into the undisturbed natural reserves.

T2 – Rural Areas and Agricultural Reserves

Rail, electric cars, farm equipment and trucks use T2 zones.

T3 – Suburbs

Electric vehicles, trucks and rail cross suburban lands.

The defining characteristic of the suburbs for transportation are densities ‘too low to support mass transit’. Residents drive to commuter rail and tram stops where they park-and-ride to zones further up in the Transect.

Introducing mass transit into suburban lands undermines the primary purpose of the suburbs: providing affordable housing across the social strata.

T4 – Human Scale Urbanism

Trams or streetcars serve T4 urban neighborhoods. They also link together T4 tram towns strewn along rail rights-of-way in T2 and T3 zones.

T4 urbanism presents livable streets in walkable, human-scale neighborhoods where the built form does not exceed 3 storeys height.

Electric vehicles and trams share arterial rights-of-way combining with high levels of social mixing to create urban spines.

T5 – Downtowns

Subways and trams provide the transit capacity in T5 hi-density urban cores.

In North America T5 urban zones built out in the early decades of the 20th century with a lessened sensibility for human-scale urbanism. While the livability of these ‘first downtowns’ can be called into question, the walkability and affordability of pre-automobile core areas keeps their vibrancy alive.

T6 – Hyper-Density Urbanism

T6 urbanism is best avoided on the basis of aesthetic, economic and social principles.

In the post-WWII era hyper-development turned away from the downtowns to create ever grander centers of commerce.  Following on the tradition of The Lexicon for the New Urbanism (pdf) we show T6 crossed out, indicating a condition where the urbanism is not sustainable.

Principles in land economics reveal that when private and public investment is concentrated too highly in any given urban footprint unwanted results are triggered (Martin Adams, Land, 2015).

On the one hand, clustering public and private mega projects in the same urban site lifts land prices to the point where the affordability of housing, for example, becomes prohibitive for everyone but a small cadre of wealthy elite. On the other, aligning the interest of governments and just a few powerful corporations and individuals puts democracy at risk.



The Transportation Transect mixes various transportation technologies optimizing their levels of service.

  • Trucks—limited to T2 and T3 zones. Their cargo moves into T4 and T5 urbanism riding on specially modified tram cars.
  • Electric vehicles—roam the full transect. Road space for EVs can be restricted in T4 and T5 zones where urban spines give priority to trams and pedestrians.
  • Trams—ride T4 and T5 zones. Adding a café car modern trams ride rouge on the railways providing commuter rail service to the region.
  • Subways—performing ‘trunk line functions’ deliver high levels of service between the busiest destinations without adding congestion on the ground.
  • Railway stations—locating on the perimeter of T5 zones use taxis, subways and trams to link to core destinations.
  • A walkable and livable urbanism—structures T4 and T5 urbanism to return positive results in mobility (a) with destinations located a short walking distance from every home private vehicle trips are reduced by as much as 50% or more; and (b) the reach of the 5 minute walk is extended by fast and efficient tram service.



As renewable energy prices drop below the cost of pumping, processing and distributing petroleum products (gasoline) urban sites will finally be rid of the pollution that made the air hazy and dangerous to human health.

Moreover, new opportunities dawn as the promise of photovoltaics producing electrical energy at the point of consumption becomes practical and affordable. Every gigawatt of energy generated at home, at the office or work place represents an added increment of GDP. Taken together over the totality of homes and work places—everywhere on the vast and sprawling footprints of urbanism on the globe—private generation of electrical power will revolutionize energy production.

Waiting just beyond the event horizon is the promise of vast and almost limitless private energy generation with consequences that are very hard to predict.


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