NYU Urban Seminar: King on Spatial Aspects of Transportation Policy

News & Events | September 16th 2015

On September 15th, the NYU Urban Seminar series, co-hosted by the NYU Furman Center and the Marron Institute, hosted a presentation by Dr. David King, assistant professor of Planning and Preservation at the Graduate School of Architecture of Columbia University. He presented his work on classifying modes of transportation into two categories—spatial and aspatial—as a framework for discussing policy implications for urban planning.

King’s work focuses on the distinction between spatial forms of transportation, which involves the strategic location of infrastructure to affect desired change in particular locations, and the "aspatial"; a newly-coined term for transportation interventions that take advantage of ubiquitous networks such as roads and highways.

King clarifies the difference between the two categories by framing the discussion of transportation modes in terms of flexibility. Spatial transportation systems—such as public bus routes, train stations, and the re-emerging street car—are designed to improve the value of a location by creating greater access through transportation infrastructure. Though desirable for planners and investors, these infrastructures, once established, are very difficult to remove or shut down in response to consumer utility. On the other hand, aspatial transportation systems—such as Uber and Megabus—are inherently flexible. Many aspatial systems take the form of on-demand consumer services, where they can change one of their routes or decide to discontinue service to a particular area in response to consumer preference or operational capability.

King suggests that planners ought to consider this paradigm in conversations regarding transportation policy moving forward. Though the spatial and aspatial are not mutually exclusive, many examples of spatial transportation modes are publicly-financed, while aspatial systems tend to be privately-operated. The public’s turn toward spatial planning using transportation infrastructure, combined with private pressures on improved services, could have implications for how cities will grow, manage congestion, allocate road space, and manage public infrastructure to improve quality of life for residents.


Photo: Copyright joiseyshowaa via Flickr 

The NYU Urban Seminar series is co-hosted by the NYU Furman Center and the Marron Institute. The speaker series is focused on research with implications for urban policy, and features a variety of researchers from across the U.S. discussing their work. View the full list of fall 2015 speakers. The NYU Urban Seminar is open to the public; registration is required.

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