Transport Systems and Cities Viewed As Self-organising Systems
ROONEY A, Transport SA, Australia
From ancient times, cities I have been the focal point of activity within a state. They grew as communities of interest focused on defence, production and trade with other states. Often located adjacent to a fiver, they became the centre of a web of trans
From ancient times, cities I have been the focal point of activity within a state. They grew as communities of interest focused on defence, production and trade with other states. Often located adjacent to a fiver, they became the centre of a web of transport links. Many cities were quite large, even by today's standards. Alexandria is reputed to have had more than 500,000 inhabitants and Rome was larger still. Cordoba was the greatest city of the Islamic West and, for a time, in all of Europe.
While some cities were planned, many grew more "organically". Apart from roads and in some cases water, there were no city-wide public "systems" as such and even these two were essentially non-mechanical in nature. Thus these cities could be readily perceived as "living" systems, self-organising in nature, with increasing levels of order and complexity as they developed over the centuries.
Today, at the end of the 20th century, modem cities dominate their regions, both in terms of population and, in many cases, economic activity. They are supported by complex physical systems including those for transport, power, telecommunications, water and waste. The planning, supply and performance of most of these systems is generally centrally eontroUed, either directly or through contracts and they are influenced by national and in some eases, international standards and protocols.
These systems pervade every aspect of our lives, reaching as they do into our homes, offices, recreation, entertainment and the means to access them. As a result, we are surrounded by artificial (mechanical/electronic) systems - the factory with its robotics and CAD systems; the air-conditioned office with telephone, fax, computer, copier, email; the air-conditioned house with TV(s) connected to optical fibre, the video, computer with interact connection, telephone/fax/answering machine, burglar alarm linked to a central service; the business person with mobile phone, desktop/palm computer with email and fax making a call on the way to the airport before boarding the plane which, in addition to personal screens showing the latest news and weather, increasingly has facilities for phone/fax and email services in flight; the boat with its GPS, depth sounder, fish locater, weather fax; the sports field with its large electronic screen for replays so the umpire can be proved to be human and fallible in front of the whole crowd and, in time, perhaps even ultimately replaced!
Association for European Transport