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THE three-deck street is coming. Our sons and daughters living in the great cities of tomorrow will have become accustomed to three levels. If they go to the heart of the city on rail they will be on one level. If they take their motors they will speed along on a street level designed exclusively for wheeled vehicles, and if they seek to walk about the heart of the metropolis then they will confine themselves to the foot level.

The Regional Committee of New York City has considered such a plan for the relief of congestion. Noted architects have drawn plans to show how such a city would look. Harvey Wiley Corbett is probably the most outspoken in its favor.

“First,” he says, “divide traffic into the three natural divisions into which we long ago began its segregation—rail, wheel, and foot.

“Since we have already put much of our rail traffic underground in our large cities, let us elevate the sidewalk to the existing second story level and leave the street level wholly to wheel traffic.

“The sidewalk would then be carried on a strut a few feet away from the building line, cantilevering under the building to carry the load, and being supported so as to permit steps up or down.

“This would increase the capacity of any thoroughfare, say two hundred per cent even when we did not have the third level for rail -traffic underground. Our present sidewalk system is archaic. It originated in a day when none could have foretold the throngs which now stop at street intersections to wait the passing of automobiles or dodge their way through and between them.

“Under this arrangement streets would be bridged at the sidewalk level and foot traffic never become mixed with wheel traffic. Shops and stores and entrances to buildings would be placed at the level of the elevated sidewalk. This leaves wheel traffic where it already is, on the surface of the earth. Thus its level doesn’t have to be dug out or built up.”

The triple deck street, architects say, has the obvious advantage of elasticity. The plan can be tried out with small units at a time and at a minimum of expense. There is no need of cutting new streets and the great expense of burrowing and excavating is eliminated.

“The greatest advantage in the three level street,” Mr. Corbett says, “lies in its ability to permit the uninterrupted development of each kind of street traffic.”

Health authorities point out that light and air would be better on the elevated sidewalk level. There wouldn’t be so much carbon : monoxide. Retail concerns would attract shoppers who wouldn’t fear traffic dangers.

  1. Jeff says: April 6, 200912:13 am

    That’s actually great idea.

    I cross the Chicago Loop on foot a lot, and it’s not so bad – walkers outnumber the cars – but for drivers it’s tough to make a turn because the road is clogged with pedestrians.

    I guess it would make the street level kind of dark and gloomy, though.

  2. Steve says: April 6, 20091:30 am

    Ah, great! An article by good old UTHAI VINCENT WILCOX. I always wondered whatever happened to that guy. 🙂

  3. John Savard says: April 6, 200911:41 am

    Elevated open walkways and the like have often been part of concepts of the city of the future. This probably wasn’t even where the idea got started.

    It makes sense to have the pedestrian level the topmost one, but then there’s the problem of needing to climb stairs, or take the elevator or the escalator, to leave downtown.

    And, of course, we who live in the future know that what the city of the future really needed was multi-level parkades, so that people can easily change from being automobile passengers to pedestrians.

  4. Casandro says: April 6, 20092:54 pm

    Why allow cars to get into cities at all?

  5. Toronto says: April 6, 20095:09 pm

    Casandro – the cars do a good job of packing down the snow for me on my bike.

  6. Love Encounter Flow says: April 7, 20096:28 am

    if you want to see a city like this go see hongkong central district (????) e.g.…

    i am not sure i like the result tho

  7. Love Encounter Flow says: April 7, 20096:29 am

    crap! you beast swallowed my characters! that’s 香港中環 to you!! gee can i even write an umlaut in this system? lets try äöü

  8. Love Encounter Flow says: April 7, 20096:32 am

    it’s actually worse than what i thought

  9. Baron Waste says: April 7, 200912:11 pm

    This is actually a tie-in / cash-in to Just Imagine (1930). Elsewhere on this site is an article describing the city model built for that film. The dead-on resemblance will be instantly obvious.

  10. Eli says: April 7, 20093:04 pm

    No traffic lights needed because intersecting traffic will be on different levels? This, of course, presumes that no one going north or south will ever need to turn east or west.

  11. Torgo says: April 7, 200911:43 pm

    What a great idea! What planning! This is why New York is such a clean, efficient city today!

  12. LightningRose says: April 8, 20095:42 pm

    Parts of Chicago have multilevel streets for auto and truck traffic, and downtown Minneapolis has a human habitrail system so pedestrians can move around without dealing with the winter weather.

  13. Kizor says: April 15, 20097:01 am

    There are some areas with the suggested two-level system in Helsinki. The one that largely consists of offices seems like a pleasant, if bizarre piece of retro-futurism dropped into the middle of a city. A view from the top of the plate:…

    The one that largely consists of apartments is eveyone’s favourite whipping dog as an example of soulless, industrial design, but is apparently magnificent for parkour.

  14. jayessell says: April 15, 200910:25 pm

    Mutants on the bottom level?

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