Many of Europe’s fastest-growing cities are also the least affordable and face connectivity challenges. Though longer commute times alone can be a sign of a city’s appeal, metropolitan areas have to fix their traffic problems in order to prepare for the future.
“The best-connected cities will win,” Chris Choa, a vice president at AECOM focused on cities and urban development, said at the recent ULI Netherlands Conference in Amsterdam.
Throughout history, Choa said, successful cities have grown as wide as the distance that can be traveled in one hour. Before the Industrial Revolution, Paris and Rome were six kilometers (3.7 miles) wide—about an hour’s walk. Now, London might be 60 kilometers (37 miles) across, but that is about an hour’s travel by train, Choa said; likewise, driving the highways of sprawling Detroit takes an hour by car.
The biggest cities will keep getting bigger: in 2016, there were 30 megacities—cities of 10 million or more—which will become 41 megacities by 2030, with most of the growth coming in Asia. Measured by population density, the United States has just six or seven metropolitan areas with urban cores, Choa said. As urbanization continues, traffic problems will only get worse.