Connectivity for whom and at what cost: contesting network infrastructure duality in urban planning

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Liang, Xiaofan
Andris, Clio
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In our increasingly interconnected urban environment, the growth and expansion of network infrastructure play a pivotal role. This infrastructure encompasses transportation systems that facilitate movements and social amenities that foster community bonds, bringing influence and growth to a place. However, network infrastructure can also encode inequality and exclusion: barricaded highways, railways, and airports can replace local social infrastructure and impose physical barriers to local mobility flows; they are also prone to car-oriented urban forms that are unfriendly to pedestrians and bikers. Prior studies often focus on network infrastructure in its own locale or abstract it into spatial social networks, represented as nodes and edges on maps. Such simplification overlooks how network infrastructure sustains spatial and social connections in the built environment and fails to account for the complex and sometimes conflicting functions such infrastructure provides for different demographics and connection types. This dissertation introduces an exploratory framework about network duality, delving into the nuanced yet often contradictory dynamics of urban networks. This framework argues that connectivity is a multifaceted urban phenomenon embedded in network infrastructure that can induce duality, such as connecting one population while excluding the other, exhibiting influence in one system yet causing inequality in another, or co-existing with other infrastructure in some places but not others. Mitigating this duality is important for an inclusive and equitable network society. The critical inquiries are two-fold. First, what types of connectivity are prioritized or supported by urban infrastructure, for whom, at where, and at what cost? Second, what are some strategies (e.g., approaches, toolbox, and practices) that planners can use to mitigate the harmful effects of network infrastructure duality (e.g., exclusion and inequality), especially on marginalized communities? The three papers take different perspectives to answer these big questions. The first paper explores how the AeroATL Greenway Plan reconnects Aerotropolis communities when Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport presents a barrier to local mobility flows. The second paper examines the social costs (such as losing social ties and memories) of demolishing a historic street for a new subway station in Guangzhou, China. The third paper answers where social infrastructure exists near subway stations and what factors influence the degree of their co-existence. All three papers use participatory computational approaches, including participatory GIS, participatory modeling, and volunteered geographic information from OpenStreetMap, to contest the inequality in the existing connectivity scheme.
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