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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Downfall of Subways

Subways allow for an amazing proliferation of people throughout the city.  Railways are part of the infrastructure that defines a culture as civilized.  It recognizes that they have developed far enough industrially and economically to not only have need for such a thing, but the capability to construct these huge nodal linkages.

One can enter into this wormhole on one side of the city and arrive on the other side in just a few minutes.  The stop takes you within a few minute walk of wherever your destination may be.  You can exist underground- you switch lines entirely underground, shop underground, eat underground, all on your commute.  Emerge and submerge, never really knowing on what side of the ground plane you’re on.  Time becomes irrelevant, and yet the only thing prevalent.

The perfect example of the utmost efficient subway system is in Tokyo.  One never has to travel far to find a subway station, and the stop will take you to precisely where you want to go.  The subways are incredibly clean.  No one has to wait longer than a few minutes for a train to come, and it seems to always accommodate all its users.  In cases when the subway is really full it still remains highly civilized.  The front train care is always reserved for women only, so women would not feel uncomfortable being too closely packed to their stranger counter parts.  Even as a foreigner to the Japanese subway system there are always information booths available more than willing to give you directions or help with whatever problem you have concerning your subway experience.  For that matter, police booths exist at ground level, or ‘koban’, that can help direct you as well.  Ultimately, this system goes beyond providing the needs it was constructed for.  It creates a standard any city can only hope to live up to.

While speeding under Shanghai, I ponder my nearly hour long route to ‘work’.  More precisely how my commute breaks down to about 20 minutes of walking to the station, a 5 minute wait at the station, 15 minute train ride and finally a 15 minutes from the station to my place of work.  If I go during ‘traffic hour’ I have to wait for a couple of trains to finally fit in one.  If I wait for an off time I can hop on a train right away.  Once inside the train I feel like a sardine.  That’s when I start to wonder, when do demarcations of civilization cease to be civilized? – as someone’s elbow jams into my ribcage and the man rubbing against my frontloaded backpack burps loudly in the face of the woman smashed against him.  At the particular stop I take, to switch lines I must go above ground and walk couple blocks to reach the transfer, then buy a new ticket as their systems are not yet connected.

There is one main issue here: the subway does not meet the needs it was constructed for.  That is when it stops being civilized, when it can’t meet the demands made on it.  It is not efficient, or timely.  This subway is not part of large spanning underworld, it is simply pieces of what it could be.  Shanghai’s subway system is scheduled to double by 2022.  And it needs to, as of now the city is growing faster than the infrastructure that provides for it. It is only the city center that is well provided for by the subway system.  People’s Park is incredibly easy to maneuver via subway.  However on the current outskirts of the city there aren’t nearly enough stops or lines going to those far reaches of Shanghai.  Once additional lines are built there hopefully will not be a problem with overcrowding a train car or lining up for the third subway to arrive.  Shanghai is a huge sprawling city.  For the area the system covers it does quite well.  All of Tokyo only covers a fraction of the area Shanghai covers and furthermore has only been developing for a fraction of the time.

//Lexie

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Filed under: China, Infrastructural Growth, Japan, Subways, Urbanism

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Students:
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu