Thursday, October 25, 2018

Jerusalem and the Traffic Engineers

We can get a lesson in the failings of mid-twentieth-century city planning by comparing the two most important gates to the old city of Jerusalem.

The Jaffa Gate was massively "improved" after the 1967 war, when Israel took the old city, and it became the main tourist entrance to the old city.  The traffic engineers built a highway below grade to create a large plaza for people entering this gate.

As a result, tourists have a good view from the plaza.
But there is a very weak connection for pedestrians coming from the adjacent Jewish neighborhood.  Tourists get off the bus and climb up this ramp, but people living right next to the old city rarely walk up to the Jaffa Gate.
As a result, the shops near the Jaffa Gate virtually all sell souvenirs to tourists. The vendors are generally Muslims, but the merchandise is Jewish or Christian religious trinkets.
By contrast, the Damascus Gate is the largest entrance to the old city from the adjacent Muslim neighborhood, so it was spared this sort of massive "improvement." There is a small plaza in front of the Damascus Gate because the old city is on a lower level than the surrounding city, but it gives you a view of the adjacent neighborhood, not a view of the distance. 
When you leave the plaza, a lively neighborhood is right across the street.
The people from this adjacent neighborhood go to the old city for their everyday shopping.  Inside the old city, near the Damascus Gate, there are stores selling clothing, toys, hardware, baked goods, and other useful products, rather than trinkets for tourists. 
At the Jaffa Gate, mid-century traffic engineering cut the old city off from the surrounding neighborhood. The Damascus Gate was spared by the traffic engineers, so the old city remains an integral part of the surrounding neighborhood.


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