chapter  2
27 Pages

Urban Systems and the Growth of Cities

Travellers might be traders, judges or ministers on circuit, pilgrims, artisans and journeymen, or students. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is a famous Middle-English epic poem relating the experiences of one such group of assorted travellers on their way from a Kentish village to Canterbury Cathedral. In the past, the speed of travel defined the extensiveness of urban systems. Figure 2.1 illustrates how travel times from New York City shrank between 1830 and 1857. Now, on a daily ‘round-trip’ basis, ‘bullet’ trains carry people who work in business and government, and even students, between destinations, e.g. Tokyo-Nagoya-Osaka in Japan, and Hamburg-Amsterdam-Cologne-Bonn-Munich in Europe. In much the same way, airlines provide ‘walk-on’ shuttles for commuters in high-density corridors connecting cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco on the US west coast, or New York City and Washington DC, or the London Docklands and cities in the European Union.