City Planning for Happy Living
Imagine a city where you have the most satisfaction living your life and you find your life full of purpose and happiness. Hmm.. could this be a dream city or could it be a reality in future??
Traditionally all cities grew along the banks of a river or a major trade routes. Ancient civilizations almost always existed along a major river. The river gave them water for drinking, farming, transportation and helped the society to flourish. Modern day cities grew along railway lines, major highways, important trade destinations, along with a river or seaport, or due to strategic military or natural resource mining requirements.
One of the most important requirements of any city that had an organic growth was the need of a human being to travel and transport his goods. This helped the cities and societies to grow at a much healthier rhythm. Other smaller societies remained as small villages due to the lack of this transport medium or any strategic requirement. Few of the largest cities on Earth are near a seaport or with an easy access to the sea via a river. Excess produces needed to be transported and traded to improve the economy and thus, the city grew accordingly.
This could have been true for trade in between the cities, but what about transport or travel within. Historic cities mostly used the river as a means of travel within themselves and hence were spread out along the river, or along a sea coast. But as the cities grew larger, the need for better roads and for better connect became a necessity and so the cities grew inwards, but still fighting to be as close to the main means of transport.
People preferred to stay near railway stations, or bus stations or even airports as this afforded them with an option of easy travel, something so fundamental within us, we value our freedom and the freedom to travel keeps our adventure spirits high. Major Industries needed transport connectivity, either by roads or railways, but eventually, the access to a seaport was necessary.
Within the cities, the major resource subtly changed from transport of goods to transport of human resources. Services became a major part of our economy and the pressure on improving the internal travel and transport needs within a city became much more urgent. Many cities during their growth realized this and built underground metros, or sub-urban trains, built flyovers and better roads connected to major important destinations within a city.
Soon we realized that almost everyone in the city was moving to almost all the locations within it and it was not possible anymore to localise or regionalise a part of a city. The reason is very simple, my need to exercise my freedom and I would rather choose to travel to the other end of the city for my daily bread and butter if it offered me better perks. The inequalities within a city’s localities created a need for travelling a distance for our needs. A family may stay at one location of a city, but the daughter’s college could be at the other end or the son’s school could be nearby, or the father’s work takes him across the city or the mother needs to travel to the city centre for her chores. So, with so many different requirements within a family, creating all the infrastructure needs for a family within a specified travel zone, was no longer possible. Then what about individual choices of shopping at a particular mall, which happens to be at the opposite end of the city from where you stay?
Once we realise that the citizens need of travel and of feeling free to choose, it becomes imperative that a better city planning is required, in fact, the city planning should be to do more with transport planning, than planning residential and commercial zones or to do with what these zones should be like.
Technology is advancing at a pretty fast pace, unfortunately, techonology has not been able to improve our personal transportation needs. Yes, roads have become wider, there are multiple ways one can travel from one point in a city to another, but the safety issues, the time consumed and congestion remains. Travelling within a city is considered to be the biggest drivers of modern day stress.
Google Maps & other such Apps help us in planning our travel within our city, but we are still worried about getting stuck in traffic or missing the tube/metro or the bus or worst still finding it overcrowded with no parking space. Then there is this rush hour traffic congestion that we dread about. The simple pleasure of feeling free of being able to go anywhere has suddenly become a herculean task, full of stress and tensions.
The need of the hour is to develop much more efficient personal transportation system that could be extended to the public transport. Faster, congestion free and sustainable transport is required to make our present day cities, much more connected and much happier.
Imagine that every household is designed with an access to transport as a primary requirement and you can choose to go anywhere within the city at any time and the maximum time taken will be 15 minutes and the ride will be hassle-free, enjoyable and a pleasure to take. All other requirements of yours are at walkable distance. There is a high degree of safety and security all around. Whether you wish to visit the park for your children or take your kids to the museum or the zoo, the travel time will always be 15 minutes or less. Want to go to your favourite cinema or taking your family to the city’s best Chinese restaurant, all you need is 15 minutes to get there. No traffic jams, no congestions and no waiting time. Now that is a city worth living, a city that offers its citizens happiness.
It is said that the journey is more important than the destination; unfortunately, it does not hold true while travelling within a city. Many times the time taken to reach another city is far shorter than to reach a destination within one. It’s time that cities are planned around transportation as the main criteria of design, much more than aesthetics, open spaces and buildings.