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Discuss the role of urban transport systems in shaping the modern city.

Discuss the role of urban transport systems in shaping the modern city.

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Aoife Fleming. Originally submitted for European Studies , with lecturer Prof. Moray McGowan in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Aoife Fleming. Originally submitted for European Studies , with lecturer Prof. Moray McGowan in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
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Discuss the role of urban transport systems in shaping the modern city.
 Abstract:The rise of urbanisation and industrialisation meant that the nineteenth centurycity expanded, both in terms of area and of population, at a rate that had never before been seen. As such, this era had a lasting effect on the shape andstructure of many modern cities. This essay discusses one development thatplayed a large role in this shaping of the modern city; that is, the invention of mass transport technology and its diffusion throughout Europe and the UnitedStates. These new means of transport - omnibuses, trams, suburban trains andunderground trains - meant that cities no longer needed to be physically smallenough to be traversable by foot. It was now possible for people to live outsidecity boundaries while still working within the city. Residential suburbs and dailycommutes became a part of working life, opening up formerly residential areasin the centre of the city, which were redeveloped and turned into business andcommercial zones. Although suburbanisation benefitted many people, it alsoexacerbated previously existing social problems for the poorest members of society. The divisions between rich and poor areas became more sharplydelineated as the newly built suburbs allowed the middle classes to escape thecity while the lower classes were forced to remain in the inner cities, squeezedby the rising cost of rent brought about by commercial redevelopment. This wasparticularly true of London and certain American cities, while the negativeeffects of suburbanisation in Paris, Berlin and Leipzig were mitigated by tighter municipal regulation of transport networks and a culture that was morepredisposed to apartment living, even for the well-to-do. Although there werevariances from city to city, depending on their individual cultures, geographicalcharacteristics and municipal policies, the development of urban transportnetworks in the nineteenth century had an enduring effect on the shape of themodern city.
The nineteenth century saw a huge wave of urbanisation across Europe and theUnited States. Towns expanded to become cities, while cities that were alreadyin existence increased in size to become metropolises on a scale that had never before been seen. In Europe, cities such as London, Paris and Berlin boomed,with populations doubling, tripling or even quadrupling in the period between1850 and the outbreak of the First World War, while New York, Boston andPhiladelphia in the United States expanded to a similar degree. Smaller citiesalso grew, as the percentage of the population living in urban areas increased to44% in France, 60% in Germany and just under 80% in Britain.
More notable even than the growth of urban populations was the expansion interms of area and the changes in spatial structure of the modern city. Thesecities were not simply larger-scale versions of an urban type that had existedbefore; instead, they formed a new structural type of urban area. Modern cities had vastly larger populations than earlier cities but were often less crowded, asinstead of piling an increasing population within the city walls they tendedtowards urban sprawl and the formation of suburbs. These suburbs, some of which were country villages which had been subsumed into expanding cities,were themselves a new type of spatial form, where the ease of access providedby transport networks made it possible to combine urban and rural ways of life.
 Early nineteenth-century cities had primarily expanded in terms of population,and less so in area, which had resulted in huge overcrowding. An examplewould be that of Lille, where the city population almost doubled between 1804and 1860, from 59,000 to 100,000, without growing outside the city walls.
Inthe second half of the century, however, the growth of suburbssuch as Fives,which grew up around the railway line to the east of the city, meant thatpopulation density in the city decreased even as total population increased.
Lees, Andrew and Hollen Lees, Lynn,
Cities and the Making of Modern Europe, 1750-1914 
,(Cambridge, 2007), p. 5.
Kern, Stephen,
The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918 
, (Cambridge, Mass., 1983) p. 191.
Bessel, Richard, “Transport”, in Chant, Colin (ed.),
Science, Technology and Everyday Life,1870-1950 
, pp. 162-199 (London, 1989). p. 163.
Dickinson, Robert E.,
The West European City: A Geographical Interpretation 
, (London, 1998),p. 136.
One of the impediments to spatial, as opposed to population, growth in cities inthe early nineteenth century was the lack of a reliable means of city-widetransportation. Without transportation, it was difficult for the physical boundariesof a city to expand past the point where it could be traversed by foot.
Onlythose wealthy enough to own private carriages could live more than a mile or two from the city centre. Thus, although the early nineteenth century saw thedevelopment of a few wealthy suburbs in areas such as Kensington in Londonand Jamaica Plain in Boston, suburbanisation could only become a truly massphenomenon with the development of an urban transport network that wasaccessible to all classes of society.
The necessity for some f or m of mass transportation within cities was recognisedas early as the 1830’s, with the advent of the horse-drawn omnibus. The 1870’sthen saw the development of horse-drawn trams, which allowed a smaller number of horses to pull a heavier weight than had been possible with theomnibus.
The growth of suburbs along intercity railway lines which could beused for commuting into the city, as seen in the example of Lille above, alsoincreased throughout the second half of the century. In London, for example,between 6,000 and 10,000 people were commuting into the city by rail each dayas early as the 1850’s.
However, that was a small percentage of thosecommuting into London by the end of the century, as railway lines at that pointwere not designed for suburban tr affic and, particularly in the north of the city,consisted of only a few lines connecting London to other British cities.
Kern, p. 191.
Reeder, D. A., “A Theatre of Suburbs: Some Patterns of Development in WestLondon,1801-1911” in Dyos, H.J. (ed.),
The Study of Urban History 
, (London, 1968 p. 254 and Warner,Sam B.,
Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston, 1870-1900,
(Cambridge, Mass.,1962), p. 53.
Lees, and Hollen Lees, p. 140.
Lees and Hollen Lees, p. 138.
Kellett, John, R., The Impact of Railways on Victorian Cities, (London, 1969). p. 283.

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