Richard Florida’s latest piece for The Atlantic Cities is entitled “Cities With Denser Cores Do Better.” The focus on the value of density to a thriving and vibrant urban area is a regular reference in his writing, and it’s something that I focused on in my own research.
However, the focus – as it is here – often seems to be on real physical density. That means, the number of people per given unit area. However, if we think of ‘density’ as a reflection of not the physical proximity of individuals, but rather the temporal distance between them, we can create new concepts of urban density. For instance, my apartment is 50 mins from Toronto by public transit – a distance of about 70kms. My apartment is also 50 mins from Confederation park – a distance of about 13kms. To an ‘urban user’, both are equally as far.
If we start to look at ‘temporal density,’ we can develop new ways of comparing cities’ ability to allow users (citizens) to interact – the goal of Florida’s reference to density. Reducing friction on mobility through the creation of adequate public information systems is itself a reduction on the restriction of the flow of people in the urban environment. Their increased ability to reach further destinations in shorter times is in itself a means of increasing densities in cities.
As cities may try to increase physical density in their cores, we may instead soon start comparing isochrones of areas to increase the temporal density of their cores.