Transit, Infrastructure and Scale: The New Polycentrism

Grace W. Cheng
Vice President
CallisonRTKL, Los Angeles

In urban planning and design, even the most strategically laid plans are inevitably influenced by the location of harbors, rivers, bridges and tunnels and the prevalence of the automobile, which creates unique development patterns and directs the flow of people in ways that define a city’s urban character.

This presentation explores how these patterns drive density and are further impacted by infrastructure and scale. The bigger the city, the greater the impact, and when combined with the fully realized potential of well-connected, efficient and high-quality transit, unique opportunities can be found to transform the urban fabric in a sustainable, forward-looking way. However, quality transit is often part of the opportunity rather than the existing reality, and connectivity must be an integral part of a holistic approach to urban planning and mixed-use environments that prioritizes the human scale—an approach we consider to be the new polycentrism.

In China specifically, the new “One Belt, One Road” strategy promises to knit together some of the world’s largest megacities with huge implications for the future of polycentric development and de-centralized urban centers in between. Using a series of project case studies, this presentation demonstrates the potential economic, social and environmental impact of this massive investment on vertical and horizontal development in key Chinese cities.