Prague is a finished city, says the deputy on the four, who do not like the construction of the subway D. A similar attitude is not an isolated fad. The resistance of some locals and experts is caused by high-rise buildings in Žižkov, Pankrác and Kamýk, new tram and railway lines or the construction of a home for the elderly.
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But the Czechia does not need Prague ready, preserved in the state of 2020, with today million and a half registered and unregistered inhabitants. We would all benefit from Prague twice as big, three million. And as soon as possible, preferably by 2050.
It is not an unattainable utopia. European cities have already managed to grow at such a pace, even at a time when there was no such loud and powerful opposition to urban sprawl. That is why we must now begin by repeating the absolute obvious, namely the reasons why we should strive for a three-million-strong Prague.
First of all – people just need to live in Prague. Source: real estate advertising, in which even haunted cellars not approved for living and with a burnt-up price do not warm up for a long time. Guide: economic and social opportunities that are lacking in the regions, not only the Czech ones.
Secondly, the concentration of talent, knowledge and capital that takes place in the city generates wealth, which can then benefit those regions as well. If you need to have in-depth explanations and filtered numbers, try a book, for example The triumph of the city by Edward Glaeser, unless you choose from hundreds more. (The bookshelf, according to which it leads to wealth moving out of rural towns, is noticeably empty.)
Practical example: The bigger and richer the city, the greater the chance that it will find employment not only for a top scientist, but also for her husband, who needs to be a top tailor. The better the chances that the two of them will run into an investor at a party, who will research it or its sewing to turn it into a successful company that attracts other people’s tools and generates more wealth.
In this context, there is often a lamentation that Prague is already sucking out clever people from smaller Czech cities. I wish it was true! For the most skilful, Prague is the maximum stop on the way to Berlin or London. Although our capital is the 13th least European city, it is also the 33rd largest agglomeration. Fifteen EU Member States attract people to a city or conurbation where they can find more potential employers, employees or life partners than in Prague.
The third reason – moving to cities is an inconspicuous and common voluntary measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Heating an apartment is cheaper than heating a house, most city roads are more convenient to walk or public transport than by car.
One thing should be added: It is uncertain whether housing would be cheaper in Prague, which is three million, than in the current one. It would increase not only supply, but logically the demand with the success of the city’s success. And for that, the prices will always follow the national investment strategies “once you have it, kill it all in the apartment.”
We now know why it is a good idea to use the benefits of living in Prague for another million and a half people in thirty years. But how to do it?
It would be a utopia to build one more Prague next to Prague in that time. Fortunately, this is not necessary. The project can be divided into three smaller and more feasible, each of which should accommodate approximately half a million people.
The first step is to thicken the existing area of Prague so that by 2050 it can accommodate a third more people. Where to build, to build up, even if it has to be removed from the World Heritage List. (To be sure: we’re talking about the wider center and suburbs, not the Old Town Square.) Leave extremely pro-motoring standards to parking spaces, which in many places occupy several more usable floors, and leave the storage of cars on the market (and tow trucks). To enable the construction of sixteen-meter studios for singles. Do not be afraid to find out whether the phenomenon of empty investment flats and whole houses is real and large at all, and if so, to try to remedy the limits of the rule of law. It is hard to imagine a coalition of real leftists and anarcho-capitalists to push for all this for the last time, but fortunately there are many ways to thicken the city and it is not necessary to blow them all away.
The second step is to shorten travel times. Not all of the million and a half new Praguers have to live directly in Prague, just live anywhere from where I can get to any metro stop within an hour. This will allow quite a tolerable commute. In the same way, the definition makes a virtual Pražák also of people living near a railway station, which will reach one of the Prague junctions in half an hour.
Over the next two decades, such virtual Praguers will become residents of Pardubice, Hradec Králové, Jihlava and Ústí nad Labem. All these cities are to be connected to Prague by high-speed rail in about half an hour. Great news.
Even better news would be if we could speed up the current corridors to Pilsen and České Budějovice or build the planned corridor to Liberec. And by the way – the minimum number of commuters is necessary when speeding up trains, so the “finished city” cannot and cannot be argued in debates about increasing public transport capacity.
In the next thirty years, we have only half a million new souls left to accommodate in the newly built districts, which is the third and last step towards three million Prague. We can be inspired, for example, by an old plan suburb of Etarea. We only needed three of them.
It wouldn’t be completely risk-free. On the example of the newly built Brno Fence street we will see how pernicious current construction standards and regulations are. But there is still a lot of time left to change them, and even if that doesn’t work, it’s better to have an ugly street that can at least theoretically be improved later by tearing down noise barriers and placing flower pots than no street.
In the end, the very best: The expansion of Prague for three million inhabitants is one of those projects that will be successful, even if they are partially unsuccessful. It is not the construction of a nuclear power plant or a new airport, which are useless at least until the tape is cut. Every additional 50,000 people who can work, create or study in Prague will move us to our destination. This is a country that has offered its (and not only its) inhabitants the opportunity from which they must now either compromise or look beyond their borders.