The ideal density of the city is one hundred inhabitants per hectare, Prague has only a quarter on average
Two years before New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg began closing Broadway for cars, he ordered the collection of data from GPS taxis. He waited for the drivers’ first hysterical protests to subside, then stepped out to the conference, where he waved his speedometer. It was approaching about 14 meters per hour – before and after the closure of Times Square. The team won the battle.
With this story, former mayor Tomáš Hudeček started the launch of the publication Density and Urban Economy. Today, Broadway is a popular pedestrian zone, and Hudeček, who, by the way, tried to close the waterfront in the center on weekends as his mayor, lectures on urban planning and development at several Czech universities.
The project, which results in the publication, should provide arguments to mayors and representatives who decide what the headquarters will look like in the future.
It shows, on specific examples of different types and structures of development, how urbanism is described in the economy, not only in the form of investments in public infrastructure, but especially in the form of operating, maintenance and renovation costs. After two years of data collection and analysis, Hudeček’s team came to the conclusion that densely populated localities are significantly cheaper for public budgets than carpeting of family houses.
Prague is a very rare city. It has an average density of only 24 inhabitants per hectare, which is low compared to other cities such as Vienna (41) or Milan (73). And, for example, according to the creator of the Metropolitan Plan, Roman Koucký, it is actually a wonder that Prague can function economically at this density and has not yet gone bankrupt.
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Urban planners often operate with a density of 50 inhabitants per hectare, which is the minimum, for example, for the efficient operation of public transport. Urbanist León Krier considers the ideal density for new cities to be as much as 250 to 330 inhabitants per hectare. If you can now think of what’s perfect about living like a sardine, you’re next. The desired Prague districts such as Vinohrady (221 inhabitants per hectare) or Vršovice (322 inhabitants per hectare) have this density. On the contrary, the outskirts of Prague, such as Nová Dubeč or Slivenec, have a density of 21 to 30 inhabitants per hectare.
The authors of the book Density and Economics of Cities compared how this quantity affects the costs of the public coffers. Take, for example, a colony of family houses with 29 inhabitants per hectare and a block of flats with 260 inhabitants per hectare. For family houses, the annual cost of maintenance and operation of public spaces is 5900 per person, in block buildings at 1283 crowns. According to Hudeček et al., The economically profitable border is one hundred inhabitants per hectare. Just to give you an idea, the locality of Cibulka with 77 inhabitants per hectare is approaching with breakthrough density, or Kobylisy with 112. With further thickening, the costs do not fall sharply, while dilution below the “hundred” increases dramatically. For example, the density decreases from 70 to 20 inhabitants per hectare, the costs are sought from 3,200 crowns per capita and a year to 8,000 crowns.
Go to the townhouse
It is with a density of less than a hundred inhabitants that the most savings can be achieved and it is finally necessary for them, the authors of the book came to the conclusion. An increase in density from the current less than 30 inhabitants to 80 to 100 inhabitants per hectare could be considered a success. “These would still be very modest values, which can be achieved by already building houses with their own gardens,” notes the urban planner Pavel Hnilička.
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An interesting solution is the so-called town house. The name “town house” is used in English for a specific type of construction on very small and narrow building plots. Houses usually have three to four floors with one or more apartments, often with a separate entrance from the outdoor area with separate gardens, even on the roofs of other apartments. Because it is a compact and at the same time very individual cost saving that age-old dream of owning a house and garden without large demands on land, urban planners applaud this phenomenon.
One hundred inhabitants per hectare is also the border from which walking begins to work. For 50 inhabitants per hectare, public transport is already so sparse and so expensive that it ceases to be attractive. And 30 inhabitants per hectare already means a clear dependence on the car. The street then becomes a road. The domination of the car as the only means of transport is in the form of entire neighborhoods. At the same time the population density contribution not only public budgets, but also such variables as the feeling of happiness or obesity.