Transportation/Circulation

 
 
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The transportation/circulation components, along which movement takes place or through which materials are moved, are a part of all land use schemes. The most apparent system is roads and their associated parking areas. Less apparent are systems to move power, oil and gas, water, sewage and stormwater runoff. However, all of these networks use large amounts of land and their construction is a major factor in preparing land for development. The provision of 'infrastructure,' as these systems are collectively called, is a major cost in building. The type and arrangement of these systems is an important consideration in any site design.


In the big picture of transportation, the ideal pattern for a traveler would be a fully integrated land, water, and air transportation system allowing for seamless transitions from one form of transportation to another. For example, one would like to be able to fly or take a train into an urban area and connect to a clean and efficient light rail system for reaching destinations in the center. At that point, walking or a short taxi ride would get one to the final destination. Few urban areas have fully integrated systems. In most, long bus or taxi rides are necessary to get from one city area to another or from one form of intercity transportation to another.


For the urban or suburban resident it is desirable to have many alternate forms of transportation available. Walking or bike paths should be available for short to medium sized trips and for recreation; the automobile for longer trips or access to rural areas; and various forms of mass transit for urban access needs. In most areas there are limited alternatives available or the alternatives are not well linked together. Transportation systems, presently dominated by the automobile, are in great need of redesign and restructuring.


Beneath the ground of most places there is a vast network of pipes. Oil and gas pipelines run across forests, streams, and farmland to serve urban centers along their routes. Urban areas are crisscrossed with plumbing for drinking water, sewage, and stormwater catchment and drainage. Above-ground powerlines in vast interconnected grids provide electrical energy to even remote sites. These lineal systems of transport carry the vital juices of contemporary society.


Site design in permaculture will frequently connect to the larger infrastructure system and develop internal systems of its own. A site will have a connection to get to it, places to store vehicles, paths and roads to move from one section to another. We may rearrange and build drainage structures and waterways on the site. Some provision for sewage and greywater movement and treatment will be devised. Drinking water and power will be necessary and may be brought into or generated on the site. These systems are essential for a properly functioning design and need to be considered from the very beginning of the design process. Often they influence the arrangement and use of other elements.


All too frequently, the infrastructure elements are thought of as separate from one another. For example, in most urban areas drinking water, storm water, and sewage waste water are controlled by separate authorities. In permaculture we are aware that water, in all forms, is a resource. Rainfall can be captured for drinking. Runoff can be collected and stored, used for washing and passed on for irrigation. Low-flush toilets can feed wetland treatment areas that provide habitat for beneficial insects, birds and amphibians. Running water can provide hydropower for use on the site.


Site circulation systems occupy land that might be put to productive use. Therefore, it is important to design efficient systems that use the least amount of land. There are essentially three generic types of arrangement -- grid, radial and branching. Grid systems are efficient in providing consistently sized land parcels with equal opportunity for access. Diagonal movement is difficult. Radial systems provide ease of dispersal and land parcels of varying size and shape. They have a chance for congestion to occur where the spokes come together. Radial systems frequently incorporate one or more ring roads to connect the spokes. Branching systems work well to fit roads to landforms but access from one branch to another is circuitous. Usually, some combination of the pure systems will provide for the most accessible and usable pattern.