Infrastructure at the Urban Periphery: Houston’s Third Highway Loop and Istanbul’s Third Bridge Kelsey A Walker 2014-04-25
The Grand Parkway will connect Houston’s suburbs. (Houston Tomorrow)
The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul’s northern region. (AA Photo)
Created for Global Urban Lab Rice University: School of Social Sciences & Kinder Institute for Urban Research
Executive Summary At the edges of Houston and Istanbul, large-scale infrastructure projects are underway. Construction continues on the Grand Parkway in Houston’s suburbs, and contractors hired by the Turkish national government rapidly build the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge in Istanbul’s northern region. Once complete, the parkway and the bridge will be the third highway to loop around Houston and the third suspension bridge to span the Bosphorus Strait, respectively. This report examines how the two projects evolved within the context of each city’s development and considers the projects’ impact on the quality of urban life. Istanbul and Houston developed under different geographic and historic conditions, so their transportation systems assume distinct forms today. While Houstonians generally accept the Grand Parkway, many Istanbulites object to the highly politicized Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge project. Because these peripheral routes bypass the congested core of each city, they may help to accommodate the increasing number of automobiles. However, these projects will influence the speed and direction of each metropolitan area’s expansion. Secondary development will arise around the new infrastructure, impacting existing communities and the natural environment. Moving forward, decision makers in Istanbul and Houston can take steps to ensure these projects proceed in a way that maximizes quality of life for citizens.
Table of Contents Kelsey A Walker ............................................................................................................................................... 0 2014-04-25 ............................................................................................................................................... 0 Executive Summary.......................................................................................................................................... 1 Table of Contents ............................................................................................................................................. 2 Report .............................................................................................................................................................. 3 Introduction ............................................................................................................................................. 3 The Issue .................................................................................................................................................. 4 Research & Methodology ........................................................................................................................ 4 Key Findings ............................................................................................................................................. 4 Discussion & Recommendations............................................................................................................ 11 Works Cited .................................................................................................................................................... 13 Acknowledgments.......................................................................................................................................... 15
As sites of cultural fusion and economic growth, Houston and Istanbul assume distinct and increasingly important roles in the network of global cities. Situated along both sides of the Bosphorus Strait – the waterway that separates the European and Asian continents – Istanbul is internationally renowned for its rich history of cultural exchange. Tourists flock to the city to experience its distinctive architecture and acclaimed festivals. As the center of the emergent Turkish economy, Istanbul also attracts investment from around the world. As a remarkably diverse metropolitan area, Houston is poised to make significant cultural contributions in the 21st century. Anglos and African Americans live alongside large (and increasing) numbers of Hispanics and Asians, many of whom immigrated to the metropolitan area from abroad. Cultural innovation and creativity abound, and the city receives increasing recognition for its food and art scenes. Houston also serves a global center for oil refining and petrochemical manufacturing, and its medical center employs and treats doctors, nurses, and patients from around the globe. Because of their cultural vibrancy and economic vitality, Houston and Istanbul attract immigrants; both cities have grown substantially since World War II. Istanbul’s population climbed from under one million in the 1950’s (Cox) to ten million in the year 2000 (Turkish Statistical Institute). By 2013, 14.2 million people called the city home (Turkish Statistical Institute). Though Houston houses less than half the population of Istanbul, the metropolitan area continues to experience impressive growth. The city of Houston was home to fewer than 600,000 people in 1950 (US Census Bureau, 1998), but by the end of the twentieth century approximately two million people lived within the city limits (US Census Bureau, 2012, Table 27). In the past fifteen years, the suburban regions beyond the jurisdiction of the city have grown rapidly as well. From 2000 to 2010, the population of the metropolitan region grew by 1.2 million, increasing from 4.7 million to 5.9 million people (US Census Bureau, 2012, Table 20). Because of the growing populations, more cars travel along the roads of Istanbul and Houston than ever before. While Istanbul had only 2.3 million registered motor vehicles in 2005, the city had approximately 3.1 million automobiles by 2012 (Turkish Statistical Institute). Although Houston’s metropolitan population is less than half the size of Istanbul’s, the Texan city is home to more motor vehicles. As in Istanbul, the number of cars in Houston has increased substantially in the past decade. In 2012, the Houston metropolitan area had an estimated 4.0 million automobiles, up from 3.3 million in 2001 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013, 2002). Both Istanbul and Houston will need to develop infrastructure to accommodate even larger populations in the coming decades. Already, the increasing number of commuters strains existing transportation systems: Rampant congestion plagues both Istanbul and Houston at peak hours throughout the day. Ordinary citizens and experts agree that traffic constitutes a major dilemma in these expanding metropolitan areas. Nearly one third of Houston area residents named traffic as the biggest problem facing the region in 2014 (Klineberg), and Istanbulites frequently complain about delays associated with congestion. Recent research indicates that heavy traffic negatively impacts the personal wellbeing of citizens. In one study, researchers associated burdensome commutes with declines in both health and mood (Novako et. al.). 3|Page
From an economic standpoint, congestion is also inefficient. Commuters produce nothing for firms as they struggle through stop-and-go traffic, and receive no direct compensation for the hours they spend on the road. Neither leisure nor labor, sitting in traffic constitutes a regrettable necessity in the lives of millions of Istanbulites and Houstonians. Because traffic detracts from quality of life and economic efficiency, the local and regional governments of Houston and Istanbul have substantial incentive to reduce congestion. The Issue
This report assesses two ongoing attempts to expand metropolitan transportation systems for increasing urban populations: Istanbul’s Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge and Houston’s Grand Parkway. These two projects lend themselves to comparison. Both the bridge and the parkway are currently under construction at the periphery of major metropolitan centers, and both are the third of their kind in their region. The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge – a project initiated by the Turkish national government – will be the third bridge to span the Bosphorus Strait. The bridge, and the new highway it will connect to, will pass through the forested greenbelt in Istanbul’s northern districts of Sarıyer and Beykoz. Just as the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will lie further from Istanbul’s historic center than the two older bridges, the Grand Parkway will lay beyond Houston’s two existing circumferential highways. Istanbul’s Third Bridge and Houston’s Grand Parkway can improve the quality of urban life if they successfully reduce congestion, but these projects will exert a multidimensional effect on the metropolitan regions. Once completed, they will impact transportation patterns and preferences, and effect long-term demand for roadways. By increasing the accessibility of outlying regions, they will spur peripheral development that will impact existing communities and alter the natural environment. Both the projects will heavily influence the course of future urban development in Istanbul and Houston. Research & Methodology
A variety of primary and secondary sources inform this report. Existing literature on the development of both cities provided background information about the transportation systems. News articles and interviews with citizens, policymakers and planners of Istanbul and Houston informed my understanding of the current state of the projects as well as prospects for the future. Key Findings
Background & Spatial Development. Although Houston and Istanbul both compete on the world stage today, the two cities evolved under remarkably different conditions. Istanbul’s oldest districts developed adjacent to waterways centuries before the invention of the automobile. Accordingly, the city acquired a dense urban fabric that it maintains today. Houston, in contrast, expanded radially outward into flat, uninterrupted terrain during the heyday of the automobile. To evaluate the efficacy of the infrastructure projects currently underway, it is imperative to understand how these projects relate to the existing transportation systems and the spatial development of each city. The report now examines each city’s beginnings and evolution in turn.
Istanbul’s origins trace back to early settlements along the Bosphorus. The historic center of the city is situated on the peninsula defined by the Sea of Marmara to the South, the Bosphorus Strait to the East, and the Golden Horn to the North. The early builders of the city encountered physical and technological constraints to growth. Waterways and hilly terrain restricted contiguous outward expansion. Fortressed walls built to protect the city from attack acted as manmade barriers to growth. The limited means of transportation available to citizens heavily influenced the urban fabric as well. Out of necessity, builders created neighborhoods that could be traveled by foot (Cox). Istanbul quickly spread beyond the city walls in the eighteenth century. As the city grew, the nearby waterways continued to played a critical role in its development and eventual form. Though the city expanded, it could not do so in a contiguous fashion. Connecting the older districts on the historic peninsula to newer developments north of the Golden Horn represented a significant challenge. Ferries and eventually bridges facilitated connections between the two districts. Settlements along the Asian side of the Bosphorus were even more difficult to access. Given the size of the Bosphorus, the Asian and European sides of the city remained somewhat disconnected from each other (Turan). Urban expansion came to a halt in the 1920’s. After Mustafa Kemal Atatürk established the capital of the new Turkish Republic in 1923 in Ankara, the people of Turkey turned their attention away from Istanbul. The population of Istanbul declined. However, in the 1950’s, Istanbul once again received attention from the national government. Urban development fit into the Turkish Republic’s goals of modernization, increased foreign investment, and full participation in the global economy. Accordingly, the national government spearheaded several infrastructure projects in this era. Prime Minister Adnam Menderes pushed for a system of major thoroughfares and highways. Although wider streets could increase the flow of automobile traffic, multi-lane roads contrasted drastically with they old city’s intricate network of narrow, winding streets. Since the older portions of the city developed centuries before these automobile-oriented initiatives, the thoroughfares and highways had to be carved out of the established urban fabric (Turan). Urbanization accelerated in Turkey after the 1950’s. Immigrants from rural areas flocked into the city, and the new thoroughfares and highways guided the expansion of the city. Entirely new neighborhoods – including gated communities and shantytowns – developed along the highways extending away from and alongside the Bosphorus (Turan). The metropolitan and national governments searched for ways to connect the increasingly decentralized city. In particular, they hoped to connect the European and Anatolian sides of the city, and provide means of transportation across the Bosphorus. Though a ferry system could transport citizens between European and Asian settlements by sea, Istanbul lacked a land route that connected the continents. In the 1970’s, the city built the First Bosphorus Bridge and an associated highway (the E-5), providing Istanbulites with a way to travel between the city’s Asian and European sides via automobile. After the much-anticipated opening of the First Bosphorus Bridge, the metropolitan and national governments eagerly developed plans to construct additional structures that would span the great strait. One plan called for the construction of five bridges total. The construction of a second bridge - the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge - and the Trans-European Highway stemmed from these plans, and opened in the 1980’s. Although citizens and planners alike hoped the 5|Page
second route for automobiles would help alleviate the heavy congestion on the first bridge, most were disappointed with the result. Automobile use in Istanbul continued to grow, and today congestion plagues most of Istanbul, and especially the two bridges. While fully uniting the two halves of the geographically divided city remains a challenge in modern times, transportation infrastructure increases connectivity between the Asian and Anatolian parts. The Houston metropolitan area followed a different course of development and today assumes a different geometry. Largely, these differences stem from the two cities’ disparate geographic situations. While waterways divided and surrounded Istanbul, Houston developed as an inland port. Houston’s original town site – now the city’s downtown – lay on the banks of one of the many bayous that weave throughout the region. In contrast to the historic district of Istanbul, the original town site lays roughly 25 miles from the nearest body of saltwater. While the freshwater bayous feed into the Houston Ship Channel and eventually Galveston Bay, they do not disrupt contiguous development as the Bosphorus does. Though Houston’s waterways facilitate the import and export of goods, the channels are narrow, and extremely easy to cross. Accordingly, unlike Istanbul, Houston retains the geographic capacity to expand radially outward in a contiguous fashion. Transportation infrastructure played a critical role in Houston’s early development. In contrast to Istanbul, modern means of transportation were available shortly after the Allen brothers established the city in 1836. By the turn of the twentieth century (less than seventy years after the city’s conception) a streetcar system facilitated initial suburban expansion. Early streetcar lines ran from the city’s early central business district to some of its first residential suburbs, including Bellaire and The Heights (Slotbloom). Automobiles also began circulating throughout Houston within the first century of its existence. In 1914, vehicles akin to taxis serviced fixed routes, and posed significant competition to the streetcar industry. Just a decade after these taxis originally began to operate, Houston’s first bus service opened. Over the next fifteen years, buses gradually became favored (especially by suburban developers) over track-bound streetcars. In 1940, Houston Electric terminated its streetcar program entirely, and the city began removing the remaining tracks (Slotbloom). Without a politically powerful planning department during much of the 20’s and 30’s, Houston’s urban expansion proceeded haphazardly. However, in other American cities, the push for organized transportation infrastructure systems quickly became the norm. Inspired by the ideas of the French architect Le Corbusier, Los Angeles and New York both developed comprehensive highway plans to facilitate efficient transportation. Motivated by the plans of other cities, members of Houston’s planning community advocated for highways within Houston. In particular, they advocated for a highway that would connect Houston to the coastal city of Galveston (Slotbloom). In 1942, a more organized and politically powerful department of planning proposed a new street plan to facilitate efficient movement throughout the growing city. This plan established a network of thoroughfares, and identified corridors suitable for future highways. In the early 1940’s, plans calling for the construction of the Gulf Freeway (which would run between and Houston and Galveston) through one of these corridors were approved. By the eve of the Second World War, Houston was well on its way to becoming an entirely automobile-oriented city (Slotbloom).
The freeway between Houston and Galveston opened to automobiles in 1948, becoming the region’s first highway segment. Four other approved freeways, three of which passed through central Houston, were constructed shortly thereafter. This burgeoning highway system enabled traffic to flow in and out of downtown. The highway planning and construction process relied on the coordinated collaboration of Houston’s City Planning Department, its Chamber of Commerce, Harris County, and the Houston office of the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT). More than other in other cities, Houston exerted considerable control over the exact paths of freeways. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 substantially reduced the financial burden of construction faced by local and regional governments, and enabled the city to proceed constructing its highways without struggling to find funds (Slotbloom). After the development of these highways extending radially from downtown into peripheral areas, the city completed a circumferential highway circling the center of the city. Today, this highway is known as the inner loop. The city also continued working with the county, the TXDOT and other stakeholders to develop a comprehensive highway plan that would guide the region’s development in the years to come. This plan called for the continued development of a loop and radial system. More radial highways would directly connect the suburbs to downtown, while circumferential highways would provide loops that allowed easy travel between outlying suburbs and activity centers. Plans in the 1960’s called for second and third circumferential highways beyond Highway 610. The second loop - Beltway 8 - was constructed in the 1980’s, and is now colloquially known as the Outer Loop. Moreover, the plans proposed a third loop - the Grand Parkway - which is currently under construction today (Slotbloom). Planning for Population Growth Both Houston and Istanbul expect high rates of population growth in future decades. To accommodate future growth, both metropolitan areas pursue strategies that will enable the city to house and transport more people. The distinct geometries of Houston and Istanbul factor in heavily to the development strategies proposed by the regional planning commissions of each metropolitan area. Today, the city of Istanbul extends nearly sixty miles to the west of the strait on the European side and roughly 40 miles to the east in Anatolia. While Istanbul spreads north along the Bosphorus, from the historic peninsula on the Sea of Marmara toward the districts of Sarıyer and Beykoz on the Black Sea, this is not the primary axis of urban expansion. The highways extending from the Bosphorus and Sultan Ahmet bridges facilitate growth east and west of the Strait, along an axis perpendicular to the waterway (Turan). Surprisingly, the far northern districts of Sariyer and Beykoz remain relatively undeveloped. Though recent developments – most notably, the new campus of Koc University – have occurred in the northern region, the area is still known primarily for their fishing villages and intact forests, especially the Belgrad forest of Sarıyer (Sarıyer Municipality). The Istanbul Metropolitan Planning and Urban Design Center, established in 2004, completed Spatial Development Plans for the metropolitan center in 2006 and 2009. These plans emphasize the importance of concentrating future development along the east-west axis perpendicular to the Bosphorus. The IMP believes that by growing away from the Strait, rather than along it, Istanbul can better protect its water basins and forested areas. The plan also identifies a collection of sub-centers that should become sites of increased development (Turan, 226). Internationally renowned architects created master plans for some of these sub-centers. 7|Page
For example, Zaha Hadid envisioned a way to transform the Anatolian neighborhood of Kartal into a bustling mixed-use area. By establishing a network of activity centers along the city’s eastwest axis, the IMP hopes to decrease the immense congestion associated with the extreme concentration of activity around the Golden Horn (Turan, 226). In contrast to the metropolitan government, the national government has plans for increased development to the North of Istanbul. Prime Minister Ergodan plans to construct a large airport in the region, and has discussed the possibility of building an artificial canal. If these plans proceed, the city will likely see significant development in its northern region. Although Houston extends radially, rather than axially, outward from its historic center, the planning community around Houston also embraces creating a network of multiple activity centers. The Houston-Galveston Area Council, which coordinates planning efforts across the tencounty metropolitan region, identifies several neighborhoods within Houston and its suburbs as ideal sites for future “Livable Centers”. Regional planning commissions around Istanbul and Houston also develop transportation plans in conjunction with their plans for urban densification and expansion. Transportation planning in Istanbul since the construction of the second bridge has been the source of ongoing controversy. After the Second Bridge failed to generate substantial reductions in traffic, members of Istanbul’s planning community discussed the idea of boring a tunnel under the Bosphous that could transport commuters by rail. When the Highway Department proposed to construct a third bridge in 1996, Istanbul’s planning community responded with criticism. The Istanbul chapter of the Chamber of Architects argued that solutions to Istanbul’s congestions should focus on transporting people, rather than accommodating automobiles, and passionately advocated for the creation of a tube under the Strait (“Tube or Bridge”). Nevertheless, the State Planning Department announced official plans to construct a third bridge in the late 1990’s. These plans called for a bridge located closer to the Marmara Sea, south of the Bosphorus and Sultan Ahmet bridges. The department hoped to link the bustling historic peninsula to the Anatolian district of Kadikoy. Organizations around Istanbul continued speaking out against the third bridge. The Turkish Union of Engineers and Architect’s Chambers (TMMOB) argued that additional bridges could not possibly accommodate the expected increases in automobile trips across the Bosphorus in future decades. TMMOB urged the Turkish government to transition away from automobile-oriented infrastructure and pursue the metropolitan municipality’s plans for a rail tunnel under the waterway (TMOBB). Criticism stalled progress on plans for this southern bridge. After an earthquake struck the city of Izmit just east of Istanbul in 1999, the national government focused their efforts on recovering from the damage (Oskin). Although plans for a third bridge at this particular location fell through, components of the Planning Department’s proposal made their way into the final project plans for the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge. The proposal called for a bridge with eight lanes of automobile traffic and two railway lines – the cross section under construction today (ICA). In 2003, the State Planning Organization rekindled discussion of a transportation routes across the Bosphorus by once again announcing its tentative support of a third bridge. Encouraged by the State Planning Organization, the State Highways Directorate pursued the idea of a third bridge further, conducting new studies and proposing five potential locations for the project, most of which were within close proximity to the exiting bridges (“DPT”).
However, the metropolitan government of Istanbul favored the idea of a rail tunnel under the Bosphorus over the Highways Directorate’s proposal for a third bridge. The metropolitan municipality hoped the public transportation tunnel would lead to the city’s selection as the site of the 2020 summer Olympics. Although Istanbul lost its bid to host the international games, the Marmaray tunnel opened in 2013, on the 90th anniversary of the Turkish republic. The tunnel serves different functions throughout the day. During the morning, afternoon, and evening, commuter trains arrive every ten minutes to transport Istanbulites from one side of the city to the other. After 11 p.m., however, freight trains run through the tunnel (Yetkin). Another tunnel for automobiles is expected to open to traffic in 2015. As machines bored the Marmaray Tunnel under the Bosphorus, the national government pursued the construction of a third bridge with renewed energy and organization. The bridge will connect Sarıyer and Beykoz, the northernmost districts in European and Anatolian Istanbul, respectively. An official groundbreaking ceremony took place in May of 2013, and the bridge will to open to automobiles and trains when construction finishes in 2015. The Northern Marmara Highway, another peripheral project pursued by Erdogan’s government, will extend from either end of the bridge (“First Steps”). The construction of the Grand Parkway – officially State Highway 99 – proceeds incrementally. The first segment of the parkway, located in Houston’s eastern suburbs, opened to traffic in 1989. Another segment, to the far west of the city, opened to traffic in 2009. A third segment just north of the original segment in 2013, and the TxDOT expects to complete construction on three more segments northwest of the city in 2015 (Grand Parkway). The city of Houston has increased other forms of transportation infrastructure as well. In preparation for the Superbowl, Houston developed a rail line running from the downtown area through the Texas Medical Center to the stadium complex. Although the line covers only a short distance, ridership is high. Park and Ride lots near the Southern end of the lines enable workers to avoid driving through the congested medical center and downtown areas. Recently, the city has expanded its rail network. The original line now extends to the north of downtown, and Metro expects to open two east-west lines by the end of 2014 (METRORail). Though these lines will connect the neighborhoods of central Houston, they cover an extremely small fraction of Houston’s land area. Given Houston’s low density, connecting the areas of the metropolitan region via rail line will require immense political and financial will in decades to come. For the foreseeable future, Houston will remain a city oriented around the automobile, and highways will remain the salient component of the city’s transportation network. Politics of Construction The construction of transportation infrastructure benefits certain stakeholders in metropolitan community more than others. Developers holding large swaths of peripheral land profit greatly from the increases in property values, while older urban communities find their neighborhoods divided by the new highway. Because transportation infrastructure projects so often pit the small community against the larger region, planning and construction of these projects is an inherently political process. While local, regional and national governments are involved with both the bridge and the parkway, the relationship between the levels of government differs between the two projects. 39 districts (including Sarıyer and Beykoz) comprise the greater Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. 9|Page
Each district elects its own governing body to oversee local development, while the Istanbul metropolitan government coordinates efforts for the entire urban area. The Houston-Galveston Area Council coordinates regional transportation plans for the ten county region surrounding Houston, then passes these plans to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) for implementation. Grants from the U.S. federal government supply the majority of the funds for highway construction projects. Within the Houston area, the governments of the city and its larger suburbs wield substantial influence. However, the small communities within the city and its suburbs carry less political power than the local municipalities of Istanbul. Although many neighborhoods have civic clubs and some have management districts, these organizations are less formally recognized than the governing bodies of the Istanbul’s local municipalities. In Istanbul, the third bridge is especially politicized. The construction company responsible for the project touts the bridge as a “symbol of modern Turkey” (ICA). However, the municipal government of Sarıyer expresses concern about the impact of the bridge. The Northern Marmara highway cuts through the Sarıyer’s Belgrad forest, a natural area that contributes greatly to the quality of life and the tourism industry in the district. The municipality worries that compromising this intact natural area hurts the district in the long term. In Sarıyer’s 2010 development action plan, the local government supports constructing an underwater tunnel instead of a bridge and outlines steps to protect natural areas from impending urbanization. The municipal government names zoning as its top priority, hopes to implement legislation that can regulate land use in its forested areas (Sarıyer Municipality). In this case, the political agendas of the national and local governments directly contradict one another, since the national government passed legislation permitting increased development of forested areas (“More Forests”). The construction of highways facilitated the suburban expansion of Houston. With highways that could efficiently take them in and out of the city, many fled from central Houston to more suburban locations. Originally, the suburban flight was of little concern for Houston. Under Texas State law, Houston had the unusual power of extraterritorial jurisdiction, meaning that it could easily annex outlying areas. Though emigration from Houston proper meant a decline in the city’s tax base, this represented only a temporary loss in population and tax revenue to the city. After all, Houston could easily incorporate peripheral areas in the future, and re-include the residents of new suburban subdivision in the city’s taxable population. For the same reason, economic developments in suburban areas did not threaten the city’s strength. Once again, the city of Houston could pull these new centers of economic activity into their jurisdiction through their unchallenged powers of annexation. Recent changes to Texas’ annexation laws necessitated a shift in Houston’s planning strategy, and changed Houston’s relationship with its suburbs. The city’s annexation of Kingwood – a master-planned community in northeast Houston – generated tremendous uproar from local residents in 1996, and three years later the state legislature qualified the provision of extraterritorial jurisdiction (Lee). Today, the process of annexation is politically and practically infeasible for Houston, so the city now finds itself in a more adversarial relationship with the suburbs. The city’s planning department now hopes to incentivize inner-city redevelopment through Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones and neighborhood Management Districts. Ultimately, the city hopes to increase its population density and attract people back to the region’s urban core.
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Because of this new relationship between city and suburb, the Grand Parkway project differs from the circumferential highways built in the past. Never before has the Houston region endeavored to build a peripheral highway loop while the city actively strives to increase urban density. Discussion & Recommendations
Prospects for Congestion Relief: Prospects & Recommendations Principles of traffic flow suggest that these new infrastructure projects have only limited capacity to reduce congestion in the long run. Traffic expert Downs notes that building new infrastructure often reduces congestion significantly less than anticipated because of a phenomenon he calls “the principle of triple convergence.” When a new road opens up, the route is initially free of traffic. But very quickly, three types of individuals realize it is to their advantage to drive along this new road, and so they switch over. First, individuals who initially took other route choose to drive on this new road. Theoretically, this lessens congestion in other areas of the city, but this decrease in overall congestion is also temporary. Individuals who originally chose to drive at a non-peak hour may now elect to drive at the peak hour given the reduction in congestion. Likewise, individuals who opted to commute via an alternative mode of transportation – such as bus or train – may now find it marginally more convenient to commute via automobile. Collectively, these individual decisions offset the initial reduction in congestion due to new infrastructure. The principle of triple convergence will likely come into play in both Houston and Istanbul after the completion of the Grand Parkway and the Third Bridge. While a long-term reduction in congestion is an admirable goal, because it would increase the quality of urban life, it is unclear if either infrastructure projects will achieve this. Environmental Implications Increasingly, scientists recognize the relationship between humans’ manipulation of the environment and supposedly natural disasters. Periodically, tropical storms and hurricanes bring heavy rains and winds into the Houston area, so flooding represents a considerable threat to the region. Today, the soft soils of the Katy Prairie and surrounding wetlands absorb significant amounts of rainfall, and act as a natural drainage system. However, the region’s capacity to retain water will decrease significantly if these outlying areas are developed into subdivisions. Houston planners worry that if a tropical storm or hurricane inundates western Houston after significant construction and development, water will enter the bayous more quickly, and increase water levels and flooding damage around the region. Istanbul lies along the North Anatolian Fault, which runs along the southern coast of the Black Sea. Over the past century, earthquakes associated with this fault have caused fatalities and harm throughout Turkey. Most recently, a 7.4 magnitude quake in 1999 caused considerable damage in the city of Izmit, approximately sixty miles east of Istanbul. Because the earthquakes along the North Anatolian fault progress from east to west over time, seismologists predict that another quake will impact Istanbul within the next twenty years (Oskin). While development around the new bridge and the highway in these areas will not impact the magnitude of future earthquakes, unregulated construction along the steep slopes of Sarıyer and Beykoz could exacerbate damage. 11 | P a g e
Considering Quality of Urban Life Different organizations around Isanbul and Houston can take steps to increase the likelihood that the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge and the Grand Parkway impact the quality of urban life in Houston and Istanbul in congestion in a positive and lasting way. To minimize congestion in the long term, the departments of transportation in both Texas and Turkey can implement strategic tolls and set aside lanes for public transportation. Tolls are advantageous for three main reasons. First, they generate revenues that ease the financial burden of construction. Moreover, they increase the marginal cost drivers incur when they travel from place to place. These prices help to capture the true social cost of driving and to stem demand for automobile trips. If it costs more for certain individuals to travel by car than to take public transportation, these commuters will opt for public transportation, and reduce roadway congestion. Finally, peak hour pricing systems can help distribute of traffic more evenly and efficiently throughout the day. If drivers must pay more to use roads during rush hour than during less congested times, more individuals will choose to travel during less busy times, and ease the collective burden of congestion across the city. Both the bridge and the parkway have already planned to charge drivers a fee to use the new route, and should incorporate peak hour pricing schemes into their plans as well (Downs). However, charging fees may not reduce congestion by enough, especially in Istanbul. The city already charges drivers for each trip they take across the Bosphorus or Fatih bridges, and congestion continues to plague these routes during the key commuting hours of the day. To further decrease demand, both metropolitan areas should plan to incorporate public transportation into these peripheral infrastructure projects in order to provide citizens with easy alternatives to automobile travel. The two rail lines running down the center of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge and High Occupancy Toll lanes planned for the Grand Parkway represent steps in the right direction. Because these less congested lanes will be free and accessible only to buses and high occupancy vehicles, they will encourage citizens to avoid the type of behavior that increases demand for roadways. Finally, both cities will need to carefully monitor the infrastructureâ€™s impact on the natural environment. The Third Bridge and accompanying highway pass through one of Istanbulâ€™s few remaining natural areas. Likewise, the Grand Parkway crosses through the fragile Katy Prairie. While efficient transportation and reduced congestion is an extremely worthwhile goal, the two cities should be wary of sacrificing intact natural areas for expanded highway systems. Increased regulations for development within the Katy Prairie and the Belgrad Forest can protect these natural areas and decrease the risk of flood or earthquake damage. The proper implementation of these two projects will require additional policies to ensure that the increase to the quality of life associated with reduced congestion is not completely offset by endless peripheral expansion and environmental degradation.
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Works Cited “3rd Bosphorus Bridge – 6.” Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge and North Marmara Motorway. ICA. 2013. AA Photo. “Bosphorus’ silhouette changes as construction continues for Istanbul’s third bridge.” Hurriyet Daily News n.d.. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. “About Project.” 3rd Bosphorus Bridge and Northern Marmara Motorway. ICA. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. Cox, Wendell. “The Evolving Urban Form: Istanbul.” New Geography. 16 Aug 2012. Web. Downs, Anthony. “Why Traffic Congestion is Here to Stay.... and Will Get Worse.” 2004. “DPT grants conditional permission to third bridge over Bosporus.” Hurriyet Daily News June 5 2003. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. “First step towards a third Bosphorus bridge.” Hurriyet Daily News July 22 1997. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. “Grand Parkway F-1, F-2 and G.” Grand Parkway 99. Klineberg, Stephen. Kinder Institute Houston Area Survey: 2014. SPSS version. Houston: Kinder Institute for Urban Research, 2014. 25 Apr. 2014. Lee, Renee C. “Annexed Kingwood split on effects.” Houston Chronicle. 8 October 2006. “METRORail: Project Overview.” Go METRORail. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. “More Turkish forests opened for construction.” Hurriyet Daily News. 18 Apr. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. Novaco, Raymond W., Daniel Stokols, and Louis Milanesi. "Objective and subjective dimensions of travel impedance as determinants of commuting stress." American journal of community psychology 18.2 (1990): 231-257. Oskin, Becky. “Flashpoint Found for Istanbul’s Next Earthquake.” Live Science. 18 June 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. Sarıyer Municipality. Sarıyer Development Action Plan. Istanbul: 2010. Slotbloom, Erik. Houston Freeways: A Historical and Visual Journey. 2003. “TMMOB opposes third Bosphorus bridge.” Hurriyet Daily News. 6 Sep. 1997. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. “Tube or bridge for the Bosphous?” Hurriyet Daily News. 30 Dec. 1996. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. Turan, Neyran. "Towards an Ecological Urbanism for Istanbul." Megacities. Springer Japan, 2011. 223-243. Turkey. Turkish Statistical Institute. "Population by Population Group and Sex." The Characteristics Of The Population By Provinces, 2000 Population Census. Ankara: Turkish Statistical Institute, 2010. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. Turkey. Turkish Statistical Institute. "Population of Provinces by Years, 2007-2013." Population and Demography. Ankara: Turkish Statistical Institute, 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. Turkey. Turkish Statistical Institute. "Vehicle types and number of road motor vehicles by Classification of Statistical Region Units Level 1." Transportation Statistics: Road Motor Vehicles. Ankara: Turkish Statistical Institute, 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. United States. US Census Bureau. "Table 18. Population of the 100 Largest Urban Places: 1950." Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990. Washington: US Census Bureau, 15 June 1998. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. United States. US Census Bureau. "Table 20. Large Metropolitan Statistical Areas—Population: 1990 to 2010." Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012. Washington: US Census 13 | P a g e
Bureau, 2012. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. United States. U.S. Census Bureau. " Table 27. Incorporated Places With 175,000 or More Inhabitants in 2010—Population: 1970 to 2010." Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012. Washington: US Census Bureau, 2012. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. United States. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Table 3023. Selected southern metropolitan statistical areas: Average annual expenditures and characteristics." Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2011-2012. Washington: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sep. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. United States. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. " Table 23. Selected southern metropolitan statistical areas: Average annual expenditures and characteristics." Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2000-2001. Washington: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. Yetkin, Murat. “Marmaray connects continents under Bosphorus.” Hurriyet Daily News. 30 Oct. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
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Acknowledgments I would like to acknowledge and thank all of the planners, policymakers and citizens of Istanbul and Houston, who graciously shared their insights and patiently answered all of my questions regarding transportation and urban life. I also wish to thank Rice University’s Social Science Gateway initiative – especially faculty members Ipek Martinez and Abbey Godley – for organizing the Global Urban Lab program. Finally, I wish to thank Dr. Nia Georges for her support and advice throughout the research and writing process.
A rendering of the Third Bosphorus Bridge shows cars and trains passing over the Bosphorus Strait. (ICA).
The Marmaray tunnel connects the Anatolian and European sides of the city via rail. (Marmaray).
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The Grand Parkway, only partially complete, will be the third highway to lop around the city of Houston. (Grand Parkway).
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Published on May 19, 2014