Buenos Aires

Some numbers about Madrid (2)

Madrid has a dense public transportation network. An essential element is the metro (rapid transit) network, opened in 1919 and counting today 12 lines, 296 km of track and 238 stations. The network is managed by the Regional Government, and is integrated in a Regional Transportation Consortium that has a unified fare system.  In 2010 metro sold 630 million tickets, the highest figure among the elements of the transportation system.

As in most rapid transit systems, it is focused on core- periphery relations; the network extensions have reinforced the nodal role of the historical city core through the links among confluent lines. Not having a fixed limit for the core center, and taking as a reference the limit of the scope of the Proyecto Madrid Centro, 48% of that area is at less than 300 m of a metro station. That figure is similaire to that in Paris; Manhattan seems to present a similar figure. Mumbai, a city that plans to introduce a rapid transit system in the next years, uses the rail network as the backbone of its public transportation system, with a less dense coverage. Buenos Aires combines a low density rapid transit network with the railroads. The following maps show the described networks of those cities at the same scale, as well as the 300 m radius from the stations.

The network finds its best efficiency through its exchanges with other public and private transportations modes. The city is served by several high speed and conventional rail lines, long distance buses and the Barajas airport; the metropolitan scale transportation rests on the suburban rail network, along conventional rail tracks, and some recent extensions of the metro network.

Line 12 (also known as Metrosur) (A) is noteworthy among these extensions. It is a circle line linking the southern metropolitan municipalities (historically those less favored in economical terms). It is linked to the rest of the network through the suburban trains and a single connection to a metro line.

Three tram lines have been added recently to the network. One covers the new residential developments on the northern part of the Madrid municipality (B), and the two others cover the low density developments to the southwest (C,D); a still reduced occupation rate at the northern housing areas and low densities on the southwest make for a complex economic management.

Some references:

Large Metropolitan Areas

Large metropolitan areas are the most complex stage of the urban phenomenon. When these cities are also the political and/or economic capitals of their countries, their functions become even more complex.

The overlay of highway infrastructures is the most present layer of the future configuration of public spaces and the visibility of the urban landscape, regardless of its qualities. Public transportation using often tunnels, the urban freeways create the true face of the metropolis.

The urban insertion of these road systems can be done with different degrees of success. Cutting traffic on the riverside embankments of Paris seems a simple solution; reclaiming the Manzanares embankment in Madrid by burying the M30 traffic means a huge cost, but brings back a quality public space that has become a clear public success. The Mumbai sea link proposed roads seem similar in concept to what was the M30 beltway in Madrid five decades ago: relocating an infrastructure problem in a public domain, solving the mobility flux with a strong impact on the environment and the landscape.

The urban quality of these spaces comes also from their ability to integrate open spaces and landscape features : rivers, large parks, sea shores, beaches… the presence of several uses on the elements that by themselves are transit ways is one of the main issues.

The hierarchic structure of the city is also relevant in metropolitan areas. The territory is never isotropic, and even if the urban theory is always devising polycentric structures that can often work, the most usual is to see a strong central core. The experience of many American cities, where this core has been depleted over time by the translation of functions to the suburbs, shows that urban quality can suffer when the center cannot hold. The historical cores that where almost the whole city a century ago are today just a small part of the population and a shrinking proportion of economic activity, but they still have a strong symbolic role.

The dynamics of the urban core, even if it keeps a relevant strength, can have a negative impact on population. The role of the core as a symbol can increase the presence of large public facilities or corporate headquarters, usually reducing the local scale public facilities and services for the area inhabitants, that can feel they have better chances in the suburbs.