June 19 2013

Astana, Kazakhstan’s Heyday is yet to Come, so What Should it Learn from a Nineteenth Century City?

Most of Astana's residents dwell in high-rises.

Most of Astana’s residents live in high-rise apartments, like those pictured above.

Astana, Kazakhstan. In Cities of Tomorrow, Sir Peter Hall writes, “Stockholm in 1950 still looked and felt like a small city: a metropolitan area, including suburbs, of only about one million people, in which a 20-minute walk from the center would bring a visitor to greenery…” Replace “Stockholm in 1950” with “Astana in 2013,” and this description remains apt.

When projected to swell from one to two million residents, what did Stockholm do? The 1952 General Plan for Stockholm proposed “new suburban satellites, each for 10,000 to 15,000 inhabitants, strung like beads along the lines of a new subway system.” Astana, like Stockholm sixty years before it, is projected to swell in coming decades.

Suburban residential developments characterized by oversized homes on small lots have begun to dot the periphery. Advertisements for these communities, as for those emerging in the U.S. in the 1950s, promise “harmony with nature” in halcyon neighborhoods, safe and salubrious environments in which to raise children. Small lots notwithstanding, these are desirable places to live for many of Astana’s current apartment-dwellers.

Now back to Stockholm – like Stockholm in 1952, Astana must determine how the city’s new suburbanites will be linked to the city itself, as well as what form the city’s suburbs should take.

Astana’s akim (mayor) announced that Astana will construct a light-rail tram line prior to 2017, when the city hosts Expo 2017, to shuttle the projected 6-7 million attendees (Astana’s population is less than one million) to the exhibition sites and throughout the city. According to French firm Alstom, the tram could include three lines, 42 stops, and 50 cars. Astana’s akim further stated that the city will establish a rapid bus system prior to the exposition.

Under Astana's current system, its buses do not have devoted lanes.

Under Astana’s current system, its buses do not have devoted lanes.

The national and city government aim to make Astana a “twenty-first century city.” Accounting for the transit needs of the city’s new suburbanites while drafting and implementing the Expo 2017 transit plan will best serve the city’s long-term development goals. As the former mayor of Bogota, Enrique Penalosa, opined, “A developed country is not one where the poor own cars, but one where the rich ride public transit.”

How well does public transit serve suburbanites where you live? Comment here or on Twitter! Share with friends on Facebook!

Credits: Photographs by Sunny Menozzi. Sources and data cited through links.

Sunny Menozzi

Sunny Menozzi's military duties have taken her to diverse and exciting places, from Singapore to Arizona, South Korea to Afghanistan, and North Carolina to Hawaii. Sunny's travels inspired her interest in cities, especially how they function, the impact of the built environment on the residents, the methods planners employ to shape natural features, and the vibrancy that can be cultivated by good planning and design. She will begin her pursuit of a master's degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 2013. Sunny plans to focus on reuse and historic preservation, community-building, and economic and environmental sustainability. She hopes to contribute to projects that repurpose military bases. An avid runner, Sunny is interested in the design of recreational trails and policies that encourage the development of walkable communities. She holds a B.S. in International Relations and Russian from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 at 9:06 am and is filed under Infrastructure, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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