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Tunnel City

New kind of roadway
  [vote for,

Have you ever driven across country and noticed how beautiful the natural, untainted wilderness is, then start seeing all that beautiful prairie (sp?) and forest become increasingly dominated by concrete and artificial strucures as you near a city?

I propose a new kind of city, one which promotes coexistance as opposed to encroachment. My idea is this: To build a city, just one to see if it garners support, where all roads are underground. Power lines and phone lines, as well. There would still be above-ground sidewalks, but the 20-ft+ wide streets, and 40-ft+ tall power poles, which I think are an eyesore, would be gone. It would be more environmentally sound, I think, and safer, because tunnels are more easily regulated, so police could more effectively enforce traffic laws, and children's playgrounds and such would be safely away from busy streets.

Basically, the city would have two or more levels: one below ground, which would consist of little more than streets and garages, and one above ground, which would be the aesthetically pleasing section of the city. The tunnels would be lit during the day by Sola-Tubes, which amplify sunlight from the surface, but don't require power (this is not magic, Sola-Tubes really exist), and at night by low-energy flourescent street lamps.

In addition, all the smog and vehicle pollution in the tunnels would build up pressure (through funnel-shaped vents in the cieling) and could be used as an alternate energy source. Imagine being able to drive home from work, go upstairs to your home, and walk the dog without worrying about crossing busy streets, or being able to take your child to the park without worrying about someone driving up, grabbing your child, and driving away. That wouldn't be possible because the parks and playgrounds would be accesible only by sidewalk. With the streets below, drive-by shootings would also be prevented.

There would be little violence in the tunnels because people would be in only long enough to drive to a parking garage and walk to the stairs (or escalator, elevator, etc.)

It would be a beautiful, efficient city, with plenty of room for recreation. I would also suggest downsizing populations and making more cities like this so everyone has more room. The 3rd dimension is an oft-overlooked resource.

I'm kinda new here, so please tell me if something like this has already been posted. If it has, I'll delete it or make appropriate changes. I'm not out to steal someone else's ideas.

21 Quest, Jan 17 2006

Cost of the Big Dig http://www.csmonito...19/p02s01-ussc.html
[Worldgineer, Jan 17 2006]

Example of a freeway lid http://www.vrseattl...owse.php?cat_id=232
[Worldgineer, Jan 18 2006]


       // It would be more environmentally sound, I think, and safer// Guess you haven't heard of the "Big Dig" over here in Boston!
xandram, Jan 17 2006

       Underground cities of this type, usually with landscaped scenery up top, have been mooted in a host of sci fi stories.

       But your assumption about the level of violence in the tunnels is wide of the mark. Hidden places are magnets for muggers and other criminals - neither will the alarm will be raised so easily nor will there be any other people to come to the victim's aid.
DrCurry, Jan 17 2006

       //It would be more environmentally sound// Apart from the huge spoil-heaps.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jan 17 2006

       I actually like the idea quite a bit. Capping roadways with public-use areas is fairly common, and extending this idea throughout a city would solve a lot of problems (and create a few more - see [DC]'s comments). Cars don't need open air and views - people do. I think the main reason this isn't done more is cost - see the Big Dig link.

       Of course there are a lot of little pieces wrong with your idea - like the pollution pressure free energy thing. And it's not an original idea.
Worldgineer, Jan 17 2006

       What hidden places? With street lamps and vent holes in the cieling, what could someone hide behind? The walls would be smooth and offer no hiding places or shadows. Nothing would be down there except emergency services. Everyone would have their own garage, which could be closed by remote before they ever got out of their car, and they would have no reason to linger down there after getting out because there's nothing down there that concerns them. As far as not being able to raise the alarm, have you ever heard someone shout in a tunnel? Sound and light travel very quickly. To make the tunnels safer, there could be armed police stationed at even intervals along the tunnel, with foot patrols along railed corridors, and security cameras. This would also mean there's always someone available to direct traffic around wrecks until EMS can get there.
21 Quest, Jan 17 2006

       Still working out the cost-effectiveness problem [world], but if you have some suggestions to make it work, please tell me.

       Oh, and I forgot to mention above, narrow tunnels give muggers and other criminals only two directions to run, making them much easier for police to apprehend. Also, high-traffic tunnels aren't a very smart place to hide in for risk of being killed (not much room to dodge wayward vehicles)
21 Quest, Jan 17 2006

       That's odd - didn't another military gentleman propose this solution in "War of the Worlds"?
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jan 17 2006

       Did he? I was in elementary school when I read it, so memory is quite fuzzy. Why wasn't his idea accepted?
21 Quest, Jan 17 2006

       How would the tunnels would be pressurized?
half, Jan 17 2006

       Energy-efficient pressurization does raise a tough puzzle... perhaps if the tunnel entrance were below the level of the main part of the tunnel, heat generated by the vehicles would cause the air in the tunnel to rise to the cieling. Hot air rises. Vehicle exhaust is hot, therefore it would rise to the cieling. If the entrance is low enough, and perhaps has solar-powered fans blowing inward, the exhaust would have nowhere to go but up, into narrow vents, causing pressure build-up. Is something wrong with this logic? I feel foolish, but I hadn't thought of this problem before hand so I'm trying to think of ways to make it work. What do you suggest? I believe that it's possible, and I'll continue to research the matter.
21 Quest, Jan 17 2006

       You won't gernerate much energy from the heat difference, though you may be able to use it to ventilate the tunnel during traffic jams.
Worldgineer, Jan 17 2006

       Hmm.....ventilation *was* my original reason for the vents, then I thought about additional uses and came up with power. Oh well, can't have everything, can we? There still might be a way to get power, though... thanks for the insight.
21 Quest, Jan 17 2006

       Excellent idea with many practical problems ... but this isn't full bakery is it [+].
I'm wondering what percentage of a city area consists of roads, parking lots and garages...
ixnaum, Jan 17 2006

       Now that I've gotten myself thinking about it, there could be several underground layers, for example: one layer for residential only, so everyone on that entire layer would be driving in the same speed range, the layer below that for all the places people go above ground besides home, like restaraunts and work, again so everyone is going the same speed range, and the lowest layer consisting of only highways and interstates going in and out of the city.

       Yeah, it's expensive, but I think it could be done just once for a prototype, and if the government puts aside a savings account, in several years we could slowly start building more of them, or if a lot of big corporations like Microsoft, Arizona Beverage Company, etc. got together and provided independent funding for it.

       I really like the idea of multiple layers because you could have more traffic in the same ammount of space, and it would be safer if everyone who's on the same kind of trip (ie, going to work or shopping, going home, or going on vacation) was going at least close to the same speed. That way rush hour wouldn't slow down people trying to get out of the city for vacation, and vacationers wouldn't jam the roads during rush hour.
21 Quest, Jan 17 2006

       Mmm.. I was just thinking of some of those beautiful Italian villages where the roads are too narrow for cars. You park at the edge of the town and walk into a car-free bliss.

not_only_but_also, Jan 17 2006

       EXACTLY :)
21 Quest, Jan 17 2006

       I've done conceptual sketches & drawings (they're long lost on the hard drive of where I worked 3 jobs ago) of parking "garages" that had ramps connecting directly to the enclosed private garage of residential townhomes. It was not an easy thing to work out. For even a pretense at being cost effective, the habitation mass decreased rapidly the higher up you went. - I couldn't sell it well enough to get it passed on to any developers we worked for.

       I've often wondered if using subtereanean streets / utility tunnels could be cost justified by decreasing the maintenance / usage monitoring costs by having the utilities unburied.

       To further that thought, I wondered about semi-immersing the transportation partway & fill the residential / commercial area up to the next level. I suspected that large airvents would be required to vent combustion exhaust.

       Lastly, It's always better to write out "the Big Dig" or call it "the Boston Underground" or something when you're talking about it. "the Big Dig.com" raised a few eyebrows when overheard one time. Dirty minded jerks.
Zimmy, Jan 17 2006

       Take a look around you

       At the world we've come to know

       Does it seem to be much more

       than a crazy circus show

       But maybe from the madness

       something beautifull will grow

       In a brave new world, with just a handfull of men

       We'll start all over again.
zeno, Jan 18 2006

       There is plenty to discuss here - I thought I'd add to a few of the threads.

       Re: private garages. I don't think this is necessary or useful at all. The only time such a city would be at all cost effective is if it had high population density - apartments and condos, not single family houses. Large open garages work best for this, currently exist all over the place, and are secure enough for millions of people so far. I don't feel afraid when I park underground at the mall.

       Planned city. Your tone seems to be to build this city, then let people move in. This is not reasonable - the cost of constructing a city is far more than a government can afford. I think your best bet is to retrofit a city using freeway lids. Lids are basically structures built over a roadway. Seattle (as just one of many examples) has built quite a few. Just continue adding lids in pieces until the entire city is covered in lids, and have buildings construct entrances on what is now the 2nd floor. As current infrastructure generally provides parking under buildings, most of your plan is in place.
Worldgineer, Jan 18 2006

       Sounds interesting...and a lot more cost-effecttive [world]. Just to clarify, are you suggesting that, instead of going down, below the existing level, we go up, above it? How does that get rid of the eyesore?
21 Quest, Jan 18 2006

       The same way that going down does. Pedestrians will exist at a different level than cars. They will have all of the sun, and you can plant grass and trees on lids. For clarity - cars would be on the lower level, people above.

       See link.
Worldgineer, Jan 18 2006

       Oh, I think I get it. Basically raising the ground, huh? That is a *damn* fine idea!
21 Quest, Jan 18 2006

       My idea doesn't call for underground buildings, though. Just the opposite. Homes and businesses will still be above ground. You just have to go underground to drive anywhere.
21 Quest, Jan 18 2006

       On a city scale, this is a bit ambitious. On a smaller scale, say a new-construction housing development, it might work as a test case.

       Perhaps as a possible solution to several logistics issues, you could have a high-density automatic carpark at the outskirts, with robotic carts (punch in your destination and sit back) to take you to your door. They'd be electric, so there would be no problem with exhaust. To eliminate unnecessary waiting, the car retrieval process would begin as soon as you leave your home.

       I like it. [+]
Freefall, Jan 18 2006

       That's a good idea [free]. Thanks for the input.
21 Quest, Jan 18 2006

       Or just provide a means of connecting to hybrid cars. Seattle's underground bus line uses hybrid busses to avoid exhaust issues.
Worldgineer, Jan 18 2006

       Allow companies to extend their business licenses to whatever extent they'd choose, as long as their adjacent facilities are connected by a pedestrian tunnel or landscape-covered inhabited structure, and Katy bar the door!
reensure, Jan 18 2006

       What do you mean when you say "extend their business license"? I don't know much about business, so please explain this to me.
21 Quest, Jan 18 2006

       Very appealing [+].

       Too rigid. Even with the "lids" (nicer, but still quite hard to work around, and shade trees with taproots can't be grown on them....)

       But, you may find, that once you get rid of the cars and the room for the cars, you save 20-40% of the area (researched #'s, not pulled out of my @ss), and thus much less need of cars. Everything is so much closer that you can easily walk or bike.
sophocles, Jan 19 2006

       Certain US States, [21 Quest] allow one's business license to cover operations at site over some distance, as long as certain real estate covenants are satisfied. Let's say by way of example that I possess a license to sell liquor (approaches six figures) at a certain location, say 4th Avenue N and 82nd Street.

       By the local real estate use restrictions and definitions, I can operate my establishment anywhere on that North block. However, should I decide that to operate on the South block would offer my patrons a shorter walk to parking I cannot just relocate my business there without relicensing due to crossing a public right of way. Alternately, were I to pay for construction of a pedestrian archway across 4th Avenue or a tunnel beneath the public right of way, my license would serve me the right to conduct business on either side of the avenue contiguous to the North block. That is what I meant be 'extending my business license'.

       Other states require that the owner provide and maintain a sidewalk or awning over a sidewalk between locations. Another variation on this is the requirement that the licensee own all property, irrespective of roadways or utility easements, between buildings for the site to be considered contiguous.
reensure, Jan 19 2006

       Ah, thank you. That makes a lot of sense, and would attract a lot of business, and therefore a lot of revenue if the condition for extending the license is that they must help pay for the city. Must be careful, though, to avoid letting too many companies have monopolies over too large an area.
21 Quest, Jan 19 2006

       Oh too true. Similar restrictions are in place for a multitude of other activities. It would be a bad idea to have intersecting tunnels or you may find that it would be implied under certain circumstances that you were voluntarily committed to a conflict of interest just by where you are walking.
reensure, Jan 19 2006

       [reensure], surely, there has been a bountiful crop of lawyers to sort out any injustice in such situations.

       [Worldgineer], I now wonder if you might be a co-author of some of the books I prize residing on my bookshelves. "Give the City back to the People", "Communitas", "The Old Way of Seeing Things", Etc, Etc. If I try and look for any one specific book to verify the title, (or just wanting to see it) It always finds a way to escape me. I've an evil Library, I do.

       One of the most deserving of respect Architects I can think of in the commercial age is Moshe Safdie. I've been wandering, wondering, how to make his systems work in a more Agro dominate way. I've struggled with that. I still struggle. 10 years it's been and still in the back of my mind the soup stirs.

       Can anyone comment on the concept that buring utiliies may not be as cost effective in the long run as to have them stacked in a tunnel? It'd be mightily expensive to do them like that initially, but when you consider the cost of corrosion & relocation w/ poorly kept records, It may be worth it.
Zimmy, Jan 21 2006

       That's a very good point. After a few years, the more efficient tunnel system would begin to pay for itself.
21 Quest, Jan 21 2006

       This idea is already kind of baked in central New York, London, Paris and Moscow, where the <i>de facto</i> mode of transport is the metro.

       Tunnels are very expensive to build and they only pay off if they have a high throughput of passengers per hour. It think that tunnels would be uneconomic in the kind of low density city you envisage.
kinemojo, Mar 14 2006

       Underground roads are rarely economical because their capacity is too low. Even underground railways, which have a way higher capacity, struggle to be economical.

       Turning every single road into a tunnel would cost hundreds of billions of dollars just for a single city! Fishbone.
kinemojo, Feb 12 2007

       I think what we really need to make this affordable are giant pet earthworms.
Worldgineer, Feb 12 2007


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