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Polycentric Metropolitan Form: Application of a ‘Northern’ Concept in Latin America



Since the mid 20th century, large urban areas in advanced economies have experienced a fundamental transformation from relatively compact monocentric cities towards more extended polycentric metropolitan areas. By now, it is being commented repeatedly, but not investigated systematically that the concept of polycentricity is also adequate to characterise recent metropolitan dynamics in Latin-America. This paper aims to present a few key-issues for a future research agenda into polycentricty in Latin-American metropolitan areas. These elements are identified from a review of existing literature. Since no clear-cut definition and operationalisation of polycentricity exist yet, we distinguish some key-elements of this phenomenon in North America as a frame of reference for this review. It reveals that 'polycentricity U.S. style' is at best dawning in Latin-America. In order to achieve a more appropriate picture of polycentricity of Latin American metropolitan areas, our ideas for a research agenda take into account these areas typical economic, social and spatial conditions.
Metropolitan Form, Autumn 2009, pp. 127-45
Polycentric Metropolitan Form: Application of a ‘Northern’ Concept in
Latin America
Arie Romein, Otto Verkoren, and Ana María Fernandez-Maldonado
1. Introduction
Until the early 1980s, the monocentric model was
the standard approach to study the spatial struc-
ture of cities in countries of advanced economies.
This model ‘postulated a concentration of employ-
ment in the central business district (CBD) with the
rest of the metropolitan area devoted to residential
use’.1 But not all employment was concentrated
in the CBD: manufacturing was generally located
outside it, in areas with lower densities and land
values.2 Gradually, more employment started to
move outside the CBD, following and anticipating
residential suburbanisation. After 1950, ‘Fordism
simultaneously accentuated centrality, with the
concentration of nancial, government, and corpo-
rate headquarters in and around the downtown core;
and accelerated decentralization, primarily through
the suburbanization of the bourgeoning middle
class, manufacturing jobs and the sprawling infra-
structure of mass consumption that was required to
maintain a suburban mode of life’.3
Since the 1980s, however, we see a more funda-
mental change. The city centre ceased to be the
single focal point for productive activities and jobs.
Metropolitan areas have stretched out into discon-
tinuous, borderless and centreless urban forms with
a growing number of economic subcentres. These
subcentres have functional interrelations with the
city centre and other urban nodes located in the
same city and in other cities, at national or interna-
tional level.
These trends made clear that the monocen-
tric CBD-dominated city was no longer valid. The
polycentric model emerged - and gained popularity
- to denote the new spatial reality of metropolitan
areas. The concept of polycentricity, however, does
not have a clear and undisputed meaning. On the
contrary: to paraphrase Davoudi, the concept has
now different meanings for different people with
regard to different urban congurations at different
geographical scales.4 These different congura-
tions correspond with different manners of spatial
development of polycentric urban systems: the
centrifugal, the incorporation and the fusion mode.5
Due to the spatial origins of their urban systems -
a number of small and medium-sized cities at close
proximity - European studies pay attention to ‘poly-
nucleated metropolitan regions’ and ‘polycentric
urban regions’ that have evolved by an incorpora-
tion or fusion mode.6 On the other hand, United
States’ literature generally addresses a centrifugal
mode5 of outward expansion of single metropolitan
areas with new subcentres of employment.
A variety of forms and sizes of employment clus-
ters in subcentres have been observed in the U.S.
Some even ‘look remarkably similar to a traditional
CBD, with thousands of workers employed in a
wide variety of industries’.7 The CBD may still be
the largest employment cluster, but decentralisa-
tion has had signicant effects on its overall spatial
distribution across the metropolitan area.
consisting of three steps. The rst starts with a brief
historical review of polycentricity in North America,
resulting in a few key-elements that typify the poly-
centric development of its metropolitan areas. In
the second step, the paper gives a bird’s-eye view
of the debate on possible subcentre formation in
large metropolitan areas of Latin America. Since
the local literature on polycentricity is mostly of a
qualitative and descriptive nature, this part nishes
by presenting the results of a breakthrough study of
the metropolitan area of Mexico City (Area Metro-
politana de la Ciudad de México or AMCM) by
Aguilar and Alvarado,11 assuming that similar types
of spatial development may also be encountered in
other large metropolises of the region. In the last
step we present the ndings and recommend some
elements for a research agenda on polycentricity in
metropolitan areas of Latin-America.
2. From monocentric cities to polycentric metro-
politan areas in North America: a brief historical
U.S. studies on urban polycentricity date back to
the beginning of the 20th century. In 1937 Proud-
foot observed the existence of nucleated business
districts outside the CBDs of larger American cities
that were bound to intra-urban highway intersec-
tions.12 Evidence of multiple peaks in land value
functions in the early 20th century brought McMillen
to comment that ‘the assumption of monocentric-
ity was always [our italics] more of a mathematical
convenience than an accurate depiction of reality’.13
Three decades later, the ‘circus tent’ by Berry also
dealt with the intra-city level.14 Already at that time
however, some consumer-oriented services had
started to decentralise to locations outside central
cities, following - or anticipating - residential subur-
banisation: ‘communication agencies, nancial and
legal services, the administrative ofces of political,
recreational, religious and other services as well as
industry concentrated in subcentres in metropolitan
areas’.15 Schnore distinguished already in the late
1950s between ‘housing or dormitory suburbs and
Further, the discourse in North America observes,
often in ‘abstractions of postmodernism’,8 a chang-
ing ‘big picture’ of metropolitan areas within the
context of the globalising post-industrial economy.
An evermore expanding patchwork-type of spatial
distribution of economic subcentres is being
emphasised, connected with their increasing func-
tional diversity and diverging geographical patterns
of functional interrelations.
Several scholars have suggested that metropo-
lises of the developing world also show trends
towards polycentricity.9 Some of them commented
on emerging subcentres in large metropolitan
areas in Latin America. Harris e.g. already mapped
‘the subcentres’ of Caracas, Lima, Sao Paulo and
Buenos Aires. In his ‘model of the Latin Ameri-
can city’, Bähr distinguished a few subcentres,
a phenomenon which became almost generally
accepted as of the 1980s.10 But these subcentres
were generally mentioned in descriptive terms,
without clear denitions, and hardly operationalised
in quantitative terms (as it eventually happened in
North America). Their (spatial) evolution was neither
systematically tracked through time and/or placed
in comparative perspectives.
This paper attempts to broaden our knowledge
on the concept of polycentricity by exploring the
dynamics of subcentre formation in large metropoli-
tan areas in Latin America according to the spatial
distribution of employment. It focuses on large
metropolitan areas, for, if sizeable subcentres of
employment have developed in Latin America, they
are expected to occur there. In essence, this contri-
bution reviews the international and local literature
on the (Latin American) polycentricity debate related
to issues of the metropolitan form and its transfor-
mation through time, but not from the perspective of
planning or governance.
In the absence of explicit criteria to answer the
main questions, an indirect methodology will be used,
The car, and later information and communication
technologies (ICTs), have lowered transport and
communication costs and facilitated distant loca-
tions. Nevertheless, accessibility for employees,
suppliers and customers remains a valid considera-
tion in rms’ location decisions. This has resulted
in polycentric structures insofar these decisions
have taken place in concert with clustering in new
subcentres.22 Subcentres as building blocks of
polycentric structures have particularly emerged at
intersections of the expanding automobile system
across suburban zones.
After three decades of job decentralisation, the
North American downtown, including its CBD, has
lost its status of the single centre of gravity of metro-
politan employment, which has shifted away to
new subcentres. Employment in the subcentres is
almost without exception larger than CBD employ-
ment. Based on data of the Economic Census 1982,
Gleaser et al. classied the 100 largest U.S. metro-
politan areas into four types according to the spatial
distribution of employment. The outward shift of
the metropolitan employment balance is most clear
in the decentralised and extremely decentralised
types [table 1]. On the other hand however, 31 of
these 100 metropolitan areas still belonged to the
dense type with a concentration of minimally 25%
of employment in the 3-mile radius around the heart
of the CBD.23 Possibly, the CBD is still the single
largest cluster of employment in these metropolitan
More recently, downtowns have experienced
a remarkable process of revitalisation due to the
growth of new key-sectors. These include both
command and control functions in operational
headquarters of transnational corporations and
small-scale rms in creative industries, both to meet
their need for face-to-face communication. Further-
more, downtowns are being transformed to places
of consumption of culture, leisure and entertain-
ment industries.24 These new functions are much
manufacturing or industrial suburbs’.16
In the 1950s, however, most urban employment
was still - and by far - concentrated in and around
CBDs. ‘[T]he typical American city’ at that time ‘still
had a high density core where most people worked’,
with ‘a majority of these workers actually living in
suburbs and commuting by car’.17 Atkinson used the
metaphor of the hub-and-spoke metropolis to repre-
sent this predominant commuting ow from different
‘bedroom suburbs’ towards the single urban core.18
In the 1960s, jobs started to follow the ever-larger
share of metropolitan residents that suburbanised
on a bigger scale; the ‘second wave of suburbani-
The role of centrality - i.e. proximity to consum-
ers and workers as well as to business and service
providers - as an explanation for the concentra-
tion of productive activities and their jobs in the
CBD greatly diminished after 1960. Manufacturing
plants were among the rst to relocate, followed by
retail, professional consumer services (e.g. doctors,
lawyers, schools etc.) and business services.20
Calculations by Gordon et al. of private sector
growth rates in fourteen of the largest US metropoli-
tan areas over the time span 1969-1994 show that
these rates were by far the lowest in their central
counties and much higher in surrounding rings of
adjacent counties.21
These relocation trends, and the consequent
change of the spatial distribution of employment,
are usually explained by the dichotomies of (1)
economies versus diseconomies of agglomeration
and (2) decentralisation versus clustering. Decen-
tralisation, i.e. the moving out of rms and jobs
from the CBD of central cities, accelerated because
increasing diseconomies - rising land and conges-
tion costs, scal instability, and social and physical
decline - started to undo the advantages of cluster-
ing in the CBD.
3. Key elements of North American polycentric
3.1 The number of subcentres increases, spread-
ing out over larger territories
U.S. literature on polycentric development does
not cast any doubt on the foundation and growth of
subcentres of employment. But there is no stand-
ard methodology to identify subcentres. Interesting
work on formal quantitative procedures is being
done,30 but it is nevertheless the early, and relatively
little sophisticated model of Giuliano and Small31
that has been repeatedly applied in comparative
research,32 and is therefore useful to observe the
evolution of subcentres. This model denes employ-
ment centres by a minimum of 10,000 jobs and a
minimum density of 5,000 jobs per square mile.
Making a minor adjustment - a minimum density
of 15 employees per acre - McMillen identied the
subcentres in Chicago’s metropolitan area: 9 in
1970, 13 in 1980, 15 in 1990 and 32 in 2000. Data
from 1990 in 62 U.S. metropolitan areas showed
that the number of subcentres rises with metropoli-
tan areas’ population size.33
The new subcentres have been established
further away from their traditional downtowns. ‘The
Interstate System has enabled metropolitan regions
to sprawl to a radius to […] even 60 miles across’.34
In the early 1990s it was already observed that
U.S. metropolitan areas had extended over territo-
ries as large as the ‘100-mile city’ or the ‘100-mile
corridor’.35 This extension is not primarily a matter
of ‘more centres need more space’, which theoreti-
cally would have resulted in an extending but still
rather compact landscape of continuous medium-
to high-density subcentres of employment. Instead,
the big picture is a patchwork of subcentres located
at nodal points of high bid-rent values, interspersed
with open land and residential suburbs with low
built-up densities, and interconnected by extending
networks of freeways and beltways.
less prevalent in peripheral subcentres. Hence, the
metaphor of the ‘donut city’, i.e. ‘a city with an empty
centre drained by parasitical new subcentres’,25 is
not any more valid for U.S. metropolitan areas.
Some authors emphasise that this changing
metropolitan organisation of employment is more
fundamental than just a changing spatial balance
of employment.26 According to Soja, North Ameri-
can suburbia has transformed into ‘ a seemingly
new form, […] arising from a process involving
the urbanisation of the suburbs’.27 The ‘ight’ from
the city centre is no longer the primary source of
employment in suburbs; this centre is no longer the
exclusive ‘point of rst entry’ for rms to a metropoli-
tan system.28
Polycentric development in North America has
evidently taken a great part of the twentieth century,
from which we can distinguish three stages:
- A gradual but slow evolution in the rst half of the
past century;
- An accelerated evolution during the three post-war
decades; and
- A transformation towards ‘a post-industrial form
of urban agglomeration since the end of the
In this last stage, we see a more fundamental
change of the polycentric form and organisation
of metropolitan areas due to several processes,
including the ever-expanding suburbanisation,
car-dependency, the expanding road system, the
widespread use of ICTs, and the emergence of
the global service economy and consumer society.
In the following section, the morphological and
functional dimensions of current polycentric devel-
opment of North America metropolitan areas are
typied by four key characteristics.
ment centres small and dependent satellites’.41 The
transformation of urban agglomerations since the
early 1980s has changed the employment balance
of metropolitan areas from the CBD to subcentres
that are no longer small and dependent.
Garreau emphasised subcentre development
around the most visible landmarks of the metro-
politan areas: shopping mall and ofce-centres. His
Edge Cities were dened by minimum quantities
of 0.6 million square feet of retail and ve million
square feet of ofce space.42 McKee and McKee
argue that the ofce component is far more signi-
cant than retail in Edge Cities because it represents
growing concentrations of corporate ofces and
research facilities that are components of produc-
tion chains of major corporations which operate in
many nations.43
A major explanation of the increasing size of
subcentres of employment is the addition of ever-
more new economic activities and specialisations,
tied to markets and production chains outside their
metropolitan areas, to services and production for
the local market. Bogart and Ferry, and Anderson
and Bogart explain the specialisations of subcen-
tres in terms of exports to national or international
Contemporary subcentres develop indeed
more autonomously from central cities than a few
decades ago, but their corporate ofces are still part
of ‘metropolitan business complexes’: they ‘export’
to the CBD and other subcentres in their metropoli-
tan area and require access to both their suburban
labour supply and to the advanced business serv-
ices in their CBD.
Despite these common elements, the ‘big picture’
of polycentricity across the U.S. includes consider-
able differences between cities. Based on data of
decentralisation cum concentration in subcentres -
of 1980, 1990 and 2000 - Lee distinguished three
3.2 Subcentre development reects the rise of
the service economy
The development of large concentrations of corpo-
rate ofce complexes in edge cities is generally
related to the emergence of the U.S. as a service
economy.36 This general trend has changed the
composition of employment in subcentres of North
American metropolitan areas.37 According to Frey,
‘nonmanufacturing jobs have suburbanized faster
than manufacturing jobs already since about
1970’.38 These latter jobs had already suburban-
ised, or had started to move to ‘other parts of the
world that offered more malleable environments
and lower costs’.39
The development of subcentres towards clusters
of services has rarely been tested with quantitative
data, however. A notable exception is McMillen’s
study, whose data show, for 1980, that the ‘single
largest’ shares of jobs were manufacturing in eight
subcentres, ‘services’ in four subcentres, and
‘transport, communications and utilities’ (TCU) in
the remaining three subcentres.40 The picture had
slightly changed in 1990: manufacturing was the
largest single employer in seven, services in six
and TCU in two subcentres. In 2000 however, the
picture had more drastically changed in the direction
of a growing importance of the service economy.
Manufacturing was still the single largest employer
in only ve subcentres. Services, on the other hand,
was the largest one in twelve subcentres, and if we
include retail and FIRE industries even in seven-
teen. In the remaining ten subcentres, TCU
(6) and government (4) were the largest employ-
3.3 Subcentres have grown bigger and more
autonomous vis-à-vis the CBD
The deconcentration of employment in the rst half
of the past century was limited in size and gener-
ally created small clusters. Most workers still had
a job in or near the central business district, which
was still ‘a large nucleus and the rest of the employ-
migration still accounted for some 50 percent of
urban growth. Despite a gradual decrease over
time, these rural-urban population transferences
still made up for more than 35 percent of Latin
American’s urban growth during 1990-2000, despite
huge country-to-country variations.48 Besides, the
decrease of the rural-urban transferences to the
metropolitan areas was (more than) compensated
by increases in urban-urban transferences, i.e. from
small and medium-sized towns to large metropo-
Ongoing rural-urban migration in Latin America
goes together with growing urban poverty. The
continuous increase of the labour force outpaces
job-growth in the formal economy. Large segments
of the low-income groups nd alternatives outside
the regulated market, through self-employment. This
has resulted in the dramatic growth of the informal
economy, currently a salient element of Latin Amer-
ica’s metropolitan structures. This is characterised
by a network of small- and micro-scale oriented,
unregulated and unprotected production, repair
and service activities, which yield low and unsta-
ble incomes. The proportion of informal economic
activities in urban employment roughly varies from
a relatively low 30 percent in Chile to 60 percent in
The population distribution in metropolitan areas
has experienced large movements, generally from
the centres to the peripheries, which now also
accommodate gated communities, housing projects
for the middle classes and social-housing projects
for lower-income groups. These peripheries, once
almost paramount areas of self-help housing, are
increasingly ‘mixing’ with other residential develop-
ments. As a result, the polarised city with its clear-cut
spatial differentiation between the rich (city centre)
and poor (urban periphery) is gradually turning into
the fragmented city with complex patchworks of
highly different socio-economic groups living apart
types of metropolitan areas:
(1) Those with great decentralisation and low
concentration (Philadelphia and Portland);
(2) Where a signicant proportion of decentralising
jobs has reconcentrated in suburban centres
(Los Angeles and San Francisco); and
(3) Where urban cores (still) perform better than
suburban centres and have remained strong
employment agglomerations (Boston and New
Type 2 represents the most polycentric metropoli-
tan areas. The other two types are less polycentric,
but fundamentally different. Type 1 shows a much
more dispersed spatial organisation of employment
and type 3 has progressed less than type 2 in the
shift from monocentric to polycentric.45
The following question is whether these key-
elements are also visible in metropolitan Latin
America. Do we nd similar phenomena in the
Latin American metropolitan structures? Does Latin
American polycentricity - if developing anyway
- differ from the North American in its spatial and
temporal manifestations, and to what extent? To
answer these questions we continue with step two
of our methodology.
4. Metropolitan Latin America: a different socio-
economic context
Between 1950 and 2000 Latin America’s urbanisa-
tion rate jumped from about 40 percent to over 70
percent, while the number of cities with more than a
million inhabitants went up from seven in the early
1950s to almost fty in 2000. At the beginning of
this century, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires
and Rio de Janeiro amply exceeded the ten million
mark.46 Latin America’s urbanisation process is
clearly linked to economic and demographic proc-
esses since the end of the 19th century, in which
immigration and internal migration played a very
important role.47 During the 1950s, rural-urban
Table 1: The spatial distribution of employment in the 10 largest North American metropolises according to size of
employment (Source: Glaeser et al. (2001))
was more to show the heterogeneity and territorial
extension of the new developments than the very
formation of subcentres. Neither did it concern ques-
tions such as to what degree or why that may have
resulted in polycentric developments. In the next
section we will attempt to tackle those issues, using
data from a study on Metropolitan Mexico City.
5. Subcentres in metropolitan Latin America?
The literature on the changing structures of Latin
American cities has grown impressively.55 In addition
to the concentration of economic activities in their
CBDs, the (largest) Latin American cities boasted
outlying economic subcentres in the early 1970s.56
Consequently, polycentricity-related ideas began to
surface in the local urban literature. Nevertheless,
a proper, comparative discourse on metropolitan
subcentre formation and the emergence of polycen-
tric structures in metropolitan Latin America is still
in its infancy. The literature generally links up the
emergence of subcentres in metro Latin America
with a) the (spatial) expansion of the metropolitan
areas, b) the dynamics of metropolitan populations
and their spatial outcomes, and c) the changes that
took place in manufacturing, commerce and serv-
ices. Building on the observations of section 4, it is
useful to add a few words about the spatial develop-
ments of the latter activity-groups.
Manufacturing. Although several metropolises
had some industries in the late 19th century,
manufacturing growth is mainly associated with
the import-substituting industrialisation policies
launched from the 1930s onwards. Consequently,
industrial activities were seldom located in or near
the city centres, but fanned outwards from the edge
of the inner cities, following the road or rail arter-
ies.57 As of the late 1950s, industrial clusters were
created in the expanding metropolitan fringes. Later,
promoted by neo-liberal trends, newer industrial
parks developed even further out, also as Export
Processing Zones,58 leading to the conceptualisa-
tion of ‘industrial subcentres’ in Latin America’s
Important segments of economic activities and
employment have also moved outwards.51 Clusters
of economic activities have emerged outside the
central areas, oriented to highly different population
groups.52 Shopping malls have been built for the
higher-income groups, while ‘traditional’ open-air
markets came about for the lower-income groups.
Industrial estates sprang up on new manufacturing
locations in the outskirts, while clusters of informal
production- and repair-units appeared elsewhere.
In such way, the formal and informal activities of
the city-centres were ‘replicated’ in the expanding
All these changes produced an increasing demand
for transportation. Private car ownership and its
associated auto-mobility - which in the U.S. have
strongly determined the formation of subcentres of
employment - have also increased impressively over
the past years in Latin America. Nevertheless, both
are still much smaller in size because only a small
proportion of the population can afford car owner-
ship. Hence, most people use collective systems for
their (daily) mobility: suburban railways, subways,
large and small buses, taxis etc. In Mexico City,
approximately 80% of the 30 million daily trips in
2000 was performed by collective transportation
modes, with private cars (including taxis) making up
for the remaining 20%53. In Lima, 77.3% of the 12.1
million daily trips was made using public transpor-
tation in 2004; 7.4% by taxi and 15.3% by private
Based on all these recent types of changes in the
spatial metropolitan structure in Greater Buenos
Aires, Janoschka proposed a new model for the
Latin American city [g. 1], which illustrates the
notion of fragmented city that prevails in Latin Amer-
ican urban studies.
At rst glance, Janoschka’s model suggests some
degree of polycentricity of Latin American metro-
politan areas. However, the purpose of the model
Fig. 1: Janoschka’s model of the Latin American city.
Other (ofce-based) services. The central areas of
Latin America’s metropolises were (and still are)
important locations for government functions, the
headquarters of para-statals and foreign enterprises,
as well as ofces of professionals and practitioners
(like e.g. medical doctors, dentists, lawyers, nota-
ries, real-estate agents, surveyors, underwriters, or
travel agents). Many of these activities were located
in the historic centres, but eventually they expanded
to the adjacent - and frequently better accessible -
zones along the major arteries.
Many services would later ‘follow’ the decen-
tralising metropolitan populations into the
expanding peripheries. By the 1970s, fair concen-
trations of service-oriented activities had emerged
on the metropolitan fringes, catering to the various
income groups.64
The growth of the public and the (national and
foreign) private sector boosted a demand for
medium- and large-size ofces spaces in the
metropolitan areas. Multi-storey ofce blocks were
developed in the inner-cities, generally outside the
historic centres, along major roads, alternating
with international hotel chains, luxurious apartment
towers and shopping complexes. Eventually, this
resulted in the emergence of ‘central spines’: linear-
shaped, medium- to high-rise commercial and
residential corridors.65 Typical examples of such
spines are the well-known Paseo de la Reforma and
Avenida Insurgentes in Mexico City and Avenida
Paulista and Avenida Faria Lima in Sao Paulo.
The continuing demand for ofce space made the
spines too expensive and problematical for auto-
mobile-access. This triggered the development of
new high-rise ofce complexes further away from
the metropolitan centres, located near major high-
ways (to ensure accessibility by car) or/and close
to metro stations or important bus nodes (to enable
workers to commute by public transportation). Over
time, such complexes even merged with residential,
metropolitan areas.59
On the other hand, large numbers of small and
often informally organised manufacturing and repair
activities emerged in the poorer areas of the metrop-
olis. They were generally fairly ubiquitous and
neighbourhood-based, but some of them were also
organised in (sizeable) clustered forms, in spaces in
and around the (covered) market-areas.
Retail-trade. For a very long time retailing activities
were tied to the inner-city areas, which between the
1930s and 1950s also became the strongholds for
convenience stores, shopping centres, large depart-
ment stores, etc. Gradually, the outward expansions
of the metropolitan populations were followed by
the retail sector.60 Tied to the purchasing power (and
automobilisation) of the upper and middle classes,
super- and hypermarkets, shopping-malls etc.
appeared in the expanding peripheries, often with
clear clusters near major transport arteries.61
Today, the modern retail sector is rapidly
expanding in the outskirts of many Latin American
metropolises, combined with leisure and entertain-
ment facilities or/and with ofce and residential
complexes.62 Commercial and service apparatuses
have also grown impressively in self-help housing
districts at the peripheries. Apart from the almost
ubiquitous small, neighbourhood-based shops,
large and small supermarkets, convenience and
specialty stores have entered the scene.
Under the current socio-economic conditions
both the formal and the informal segments of the
retail sector are rapidly growing.63 The ‘formal’ retail
clusters are strongly oriented toward the groups
with higher purchasing power levels and largely
depending on private automobility. On their turn, the
‘informal’ retail clusters are geared to those with little
purchasing power, have a neighbourhood-based
orientation and are dependent on public transport.
the distance categories of Glaeser et al. (see table
1), it appears that almost 70 percent of AMCM’s
employment is located in the rst and second rings.
In Glaeser’s terminology, AMCM would be labelled
a Dense Employment Metro. Outside these rings,
the number of subcentres is rapidly diminishing in
importance. While AMCM’s employment structure
is indeed clearly polycentric, the metropolitan core
still plays a very important role. Using Lee’s typol-
ogy (2007), AMCM might be considered a Type 3
metropolis in which the urban core has the upper
hand over the subcentres.
Breaking down the employment-data accord-
ing to major economic sectors, it turned out that
manufacturing was the single largest employer in
5 of the 35 subcentres. Unlike U.S. metropolises,
manufacturing employment is not yet on the decline
in Latin America where the post-industrial economy
is only in its infancy. Figure 3 shows that manufac-
turing subcentres are still very much present within
AMCM’s core area. Nevertheless, manufacturing
had begun to move outwards, in the late 1960s,
into the adjacent areas of the State of Mexico, by
accommodating relocations from the core and
foreign newcomers.68
Figure 2 presents a picture at a given moment
in time. Aguilar and Alvarado also tried to portray
changes over time by comparing, as good as it gets,
AMCM’s Economic Census data of 1999 and 1989.
Cutting through the hedges, the authors argue that
the number of subcentres has grown. For 1999,
they identied 10 (relatively small) subcentres more
than for 1989. Although the urban core still has the
upper hand over the subcentres in 1999, most of
the new subcentres in the preceding decade had
sprung up away from that core, in the outer ‘Glease-
rian’ ring. Hence, apart from a clear-cut growth in
numbers, AMCM’s subcentres were also spreading
out over a larger territory over time. These observa-
tions comply with one of the trends mentioned in
section 3.
shopping, entertainment and ofce functions, which
also came into being in the context of metropolitan
redevelopment plans. The medium height skyscrap-
ers of the Santa Fe Area, located to the west of the
core of Mexico City, and Vila Olímpia at the South
West of São Paulo are interesting examples of this
Over time, manufacturing-, shopping- and or
ofce-based subcentres emerged away from the
metropolitan cores, which in due course became
quite conspicuous elements of the Latin Ameri-
can spatial structures.66 Remarkably though, the
discussion on subcentres and polycentricity on
metropolitan areas of Latin America has a rather
descriptive nature, while it generally lacks empiri-
cally-based quantications. Moreover, the debate
was (still is) hardly related to the changing economic
structures of Latin American metropolises.
6. Subcentres and polycentricity in metropolitan
Mexico City
Aguilar and Alvarado’s recent study of Mexico City
is one of the few in which the formation of subcen-
tres is supported with empirical (census-)evidence.67
This study processed a set of metropolitan-wide
data from the Mexican 1999 Economic Census,
broken down to the so-called AGEB-level (Areas
Geo-Económicas Básicas). AGEBs are small statis-
tical units similar to the U.S. census tracts.
The Mexico City Metropolitan Area (AMCM) as
depicted in Figure 2 consists of 16 administrative
divisions (Delegaciones) of the Federal District
(DF); 24 adjacent municipalities of the State of
Mexico (Municipios Conurbados), and 17 munici-
palities of the State of Mexico located further away
(Municipios Periféricos). Applying a minimum of
5,000 localised jobs as cut-off point, the authors
identied 35 subcentres in this very large area. Most
of these subcentres are located in or near the core
of the metropolis, in the northern delegaciones of
DF. When we apply Aguilar and Alvarado’s data to
Contrary to North America, manufacturing still is
important in Latin America’s metropolitan subcen-
tre development, and it will continue to do so in the
near future. Decentralisation tendencies might even
lead to the emergence of new manufacturing-based
subcentres in the metropolitan peripheries.
Knowledge and insight about the current vicissi-
tudes of Latin American inner-city areas are rather
limited, certainly as to investment, economic devel-
opment and employment-related issues. Despite
growth of subcentres and associated erosion of the
monocentric city model that also take place in Latin
America, the core areas of its metropolises may still
be considered the dominant, economic strongholds.
The processes that determined the impressive
revitalisation of U.S. downtowns over the last few
decades are not likely to operate in comparable
ways in Latin America.
In a time-space perspective, the metropolitan
subcentres show differential growth tendencies.
Some decline in size (and importance?), others
rapidly grow. Aguilar and Alvarado’s study even hint
at interesting centre-periphery differences in this
respect. Much more difcult, however, is the question
whether (some of) the subcentres in metropolitan
Latin America are becoming more autonomous vis-
à-vis the downtowns, a topic hardly addressed.
As Aguilar and Alvarado have clearly shown, the
use of spatially disaggregated employment data
from the Economic Census data brings rewarding
results. It is to be expected that the future availabil-
ity of more detailed primary statistical data and more
rened methods of disaggregation will improve our
insight in the formation of subcentres and polycen-
tric structures in metropolitan Latin America. We
believe, though, that larger and more detailed sets
of such data alone will not be enough. In our view,
there is an unimpeded need for meticulous and
comparative case-studies of spatial-sectoral devel-
opment processes in the metropolitan areas.
This model cannot be considered as a generalis-
able model for the process of subcentre formation in
metropolitan areas across Latin-America, because
a single case-study is a too fragile basis. But the
Mexico City case shows that subcentre devel-
opment does appear in Latin America, be it in a
different form than in the U.S. It is likely that Mexico
City shows a type of spatial development that may
also be encountered in other large metropolises of
the region.
7. Concluding remarks
Returning to the frame of reference, i.e. to the key-
elements of polycentricity derived from the North
American context, there is little doubt that many
Latin American metropolises also faced growth in
the number/sizes of their subcentres, while moving
towards polycentric metropolitan structures. Further,
it also seems logical to assume that these subcen-
tres are now scattered over a larger territory than
they were before. Unfortunately, we do not have
much hard-core information about the growth and
spatial distribution of Latin America’s metropolitan
subcentres. Certainly, quite a few authors mapped
‘their subcentres’. For some metropolitan areas
we have even cartographic images of subcentres
at different periods. But an attempt to bring these
different images together to track down subcentre
evolution brought disappointing results, due to the
very different denitions. Still, based on the ndings
of Aguilar and Alvarado, one might hypothesise that
the spatial distribution of subcentres of employment
in Latin American metropolises is of a more central-
ised nature than in North America, due to the lower
levels of private-car mobility and the less developed
intra-metropolitan road infrastructures.
Next, the process of subcentre development
in the U.S. reects the rise of the post-industrial
economy, with its declining manufacturing base.
Latin America, however, is still catching up with
industrialisation, and its metropolises are important
accommodators of (new) industrial investments.
Fig. 2: Subcentres of employment in Mexico City’s Metropolitan Area. INEGI, Cuaderno Estadístico de la Zona Metro-
politana de la Ciudad de México, Edición 2002 (Mexico DF, INEGI, 2002).
out of a total of almost 2.9 million for the whole
metropolitan area. However, according to the 2000
Mexican Population Census the labour force of
AMCM exceeded 6 million workers.68 Apparently,
the Economic Census focuses on formal sector
activities only, without taking the informal sector into
account. In societies of advanced economies where
most of the labour force is employed in the formal
sector it may be logical to discard those who oper-
ating outside of it. But what about societies where
informal economic activities do make up for a very
sizeable part of metropolitan employment? Would
it be possible that unregistered, informal activities
appear in clustered forms? And if so, would it be
possible that some of these clusters would meet the
threshold to be considered a subcentre of employ-
Even though informal economic activities are
almost ubiquitously present in the poorer areas
of the Latin American metropolises, impressive
informal clusters also exist. The large, ‘traditional’
metropolitan market sites may be a case in point.
Here, the concentrations of formal, semi-formal
and informal activities may easily add up to large
numbers of traders, brokers, carriers, caterers and
the like. Consequently, many of these market sites
and their surroundings may well qualify as commer-
cial subcentres, or seriously enlarge the employment
base of a subcentre that was already noted from a
‘formal perspective.’ (Pilot-) studies of metropolitan
areas which are known for their concentrations of
informal activities will show whether the number
(and/or the size) of the metropolitan subcentres
might change or not, once informal activity clusters
are also taken into account.
The literature on Latin American metropolitan
development assumes that this development is
characterised by polycentric congurations, as do
their North-American peers. That assumption may
be true, but we still lack much hard-core evidence
to prove so. Simultaneously, we need taking our
A research agenda to understand subcentre
formation better should prioritise a few topics. First,
there is an urgent need for more detailed informa-
tion on the spatial and temporal development of the
metropolitan manufacturing clusters (as e.g. embod-
ied in the parques industriales), quantitatively as
well as qualitatively. Studies of the unfolding retail
structures taking into account (a fair part of) the
broad retail gamut is also needed, including loca-
tional decision-making and accessibility issues.
Further, research on the commercial real-estate
sectors in metropolitan Latin America would be more
than welcome. From the subcentre perspective, a
special focus on the spatial and temporal changes in
the metropolitan ofce sector and its clusters would
be very useful. Furthermore, the study of ongoing
processes of territorial densication and functional
change would be helpful to understand the inter-
play between social and economic processes. And
nally, our research agenda grants a very impor-
tant role to studies of the changing downtowns that
focus on spatial and sectoral changes.
The North American literature uses high thresh-
olds to dene meaningful ‘employment-centres’.
In their study, Aguilar and Alvarado lowered the
threshold to a minimum of 5,000 registered employ-
ees, to t better the Mexican economic reality. Fixed
thresholds are attractive for simplicity’s sake, but
the different socio-economic conditions across Latin
America call for more exible methodologies to
accommodate for smaller metropolitan areas and/
or less favourable urban living and income condi-
tions. Formal quantitative procedures that are ‘in the
making’ open up good perspectives because they
identify subcentres by the size of deviations from
the density of employment functions of the city or
parts of it, rather than by absolute numerical values
for size and density of employment.
Aguilar and Alvarado’s 1999 data-set of 35
subcentres relates to some 675,000 employees
8. Clark, op.cit, p. 141.
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Development: What Have We learned? (Washington
D.C., World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No.
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Regions’, in: Scott, A.J. (ed.), Global City Regions:
Trends, Theory, Policy (Oxford: Oxford University
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in: Champion, T. and G. Hugo (eds.), New Forms of
Urbanization (Aldershot, UK and Burlington, USA:
Ashgate, 2004), pp. 3-24.
10. Harris, W.D., The Growth of Latin American Cities
(Athens: University of Ohio Press, 1971); Bähr, J.,
‘Neuere Entwicklungstendenzen lateinamerikanische
Grossstädte’, Geographische Rundschau, 28 (1976),
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socialräumlichen Differenziering Lateinamerikanischer
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del Espacio Urbano de la Ciudad de México: Hacia
la metrópolis multinodal’, in: A.G. Aguilar (Coord.),
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departure from the idea that possible Latin American
polycentric patterns of spatial urban development
necessarily follow the North American example. For
that, the demographic, socioeconomic and spatial
conditions, as well as the developmental contexts
of both continents are simply incomparable. To ll
in the major gaps in knowledge and understanding
of Latin American polycentricity, a more systematic
research agenda is needed.
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Ana María Fernández-Maldonado is part of the academic
staff of the Faculty of Architecture of the Delft Univer-
sity of Technology, the Netherlands. She is a researcher
in the group of Spatial Planning and Strategy from the
section of Urbanism. Her current research focuses on
ICT-related urban transformations, the urban effects of the
knowledge-based economy, and urban developments in
large cities of developing countries. Her contact email is
Arie Romein is an academic staff member of the OTB
Research Institute for Housing, Urban and Mobility
Studies of the Delft University of Technology, the Neth-
erlands. He is a researcher in the section of Urban and
Regional Studies. His current research focuses on the
activity system of urban entertainment and leisure, and
on the ‘creative city’, with special emphasis on polycen-
tric urban areas and networks. He can be contacted at
Otto Verkoren is an urban geographer, specialized in the
urban geography of Latin America. Before his retirement,
he chaired the International Development Studies Unit
of the Department of Human Geography and Planning,
Faculty of GeoSciences, University of Utrecht. His contact
email is
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... Since the beginning of spatial and functional decentralization in the nineteenth century, urban spatial structures have shifted from monocentric to polycentric forms and have continued to do so until today (McDonald & McMillen, 1990;Newman & Kenworthy, 2015;Riguelle, Thomas, Verhetsel, 2007). This fundamental change is described by Romein, Verkoren and Fernandez-Maldonado (2009) who observe that the Central Business District (CBD) ceased to be the only place of activities and jobs in a city. Based on the work of Davoudi (2003) and in line with You (2017), the shift has been caused by several factors, i.e. the rapid decentralization of economic activities, the increase in mobility due to new transport technology, such as, high-speed transport that gives people the opportunity to move further from urban to suburban areas or to other cities, the fragmentation of spatial distribution of activities, changes to household size and lifestyle, and a variety of travel patterns (cross-commuting). ...
... A monocentric form is not suitable to describe the spatial arrangement of modern urban areas today. As a polycentric model increasingly reflects reality (Clark, 2000;Davoudi, 2003;McMillen, 2001;Romein et al., 2009), studies of the monocentric form have gradually decreased. Instead, the analysis has changed to focus on polycentric urban form (You, 2017). ...
Assessment of polycentricism is one approach to understand the process of urban expansion and its structural changes. The assessment is important to provide knowledge as a basis for future planning and policy. This review article structures the existing concepts of polycentricism, examines the methodologies applied for polycentricism assessment at different spatial scales and across world regions. Based on this, it identifies future research challenges. The review shows that studies of polycentricism have been conducted primarily in cities across the more developed world regions while in the developing world regions, fewer studies are available and only began to emerge in the 1990s, two decades later than the West. The reviewed studies use employment distribution and travel behavior as the primary sources of data. To compensate for the lack of well-documented employment distribution and mobility data, more diverse indicators and sophisticated digital-based approaches have been applied in the latest studies that focus on cities in developing world regions. The reviewed studies demonstrate for the examined cases a general shift towards polycentric development. While in the more developed world regions polycentricism is influenced by employment decentralization, in the developing world regions this phenomenon is influenced by market forces and spatial planning policies.
... Conclusions regarding the extent of polycentricity in Mexico City are mixed. While some studies suggest that Mexico City has decentralized its employment (Aguilar and Alvarado, 2005;Sanchez Trujillo, 2012;Aguilar, 2011;Fernandez Maldonado et al., 2013;Romein et al., 2009), others conclude that the city is still behaving as a monocentric city with most employment opportunities concentrated in the CBD (Su arez, 2007;Su arez-Lastra and Delgado-Campos, 2007;Su arez and Delgado, 2009). Specifically, Su arez and Delgado (2009) posit that, while the city's residents have decentralized, employment opportunities are still concentrated in the center. ...
... In the last couple of years (2016-2017), more than a million vehicles were taken off the streets in order to reduce pollution in the city (Milenio, 2016;Excelsior, 2017). According to Romein et al. (2009), 80 percent of the daily trips use collective transportation modes (formal or informal) with the remaining 20% using private cars, including taxis. Different modes of transportation exist including private cars, semi-public buses (private concessions for public service), and public transportation (BRT, Metro, and LRT). ...
Location is one of the main characteristics households consider when buying a property or deciding where to live, since it determines accessibility to transport and hence to jobs and employment. Using a geographicallyreferenced dataset on new housing developments, this paper estimates how households value accessibility in Mexico City. Results are shown considering road accessibility to formal employment subcenters (private accessibility) and distance to the main public transport stations in the city (public accessibility). Results suggest that accessibility to employment subcenters is valued as an amenity by households but being closer to a Metro station is perceived as a disamenity. Moreover, households located in neighborhoods with a greater proportion of informal workers and with lower education levels give a lower value to private accessibility than households located in neighborhoods with a lower proportion of informal workers or in high-educated neighborhoods. These results are evidence of the existence of spatial segregation in the city where disadvantaged households are segregated, not only because of their economic conditions, but because they are located farther away from employment opportunities. The results in this work stress the importance of thinking about integrated land use and transport policies. FULL ARTICLE:
... Remarkably, even after several decades of research the polycentric concept remains rather ill-defined covering different levels lysis (see e.g. Clark, 2000;Davoudi, 2003, or Romein et. al., 2009. Indeed, as Sarzinsky et. al. (2005) put it, the concept is (still) searching for a definition 2 although there is widespread agreement that polycentrism involves multiple centers of employment, there is no consensus on how significant (either in absolute terms, . A general accepted definition, however, states that an area is polycentri ...
... With regard to Latin America, Harris (Harris 1971) was one of the first researchers who noted the presence of sub-centres in that was soon appearing in descriptive city-models (Bähr & Mertins 1976;Bähr & Mertins 1995;Borsdorf et al. 2002;Stewig 1983). After 1990, thanks to the availability of new disaggregated databases, empirical evidence of polycentric city models gradually underpinned the already existing qualitative images ( Romein et al. 2009;Fernández-Maldonado et al. 2013). On the one hand, these studies showed that the Latin American metropoles might indeed be labelled polycentric characterised with quite some outlying employment sub-centres. ...
Conference Paper
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The paper explores the monocentric as opposed to possible polycentric structure of Cape Town using a disaggregate database of population and employment combined with additional data. Using various approaches to identify metropolitan subcentres, particular from the United States and Mexico, three main conclusions can be drawn from the methodology and data: Firstly, the gravity points of employment and population have already moved substantially away from the old port oriented Central Business District. The application of the Glaeser Rings, however, reveals that Cape Town is also not a typical decentralised metropolitan area. Secondly, based on Suarez and Delgado, the data indicates large local mismatches between demand for and supply of employment, especially in low income neighbourhoods. Finally, using the Aguilar and Alvarado (2004) threshold criteria (jobs > 10 000 and Job Density > 50 jobs / ha) it was possible to identify fourteen employment centres. Nine of the fourteen are manufacturing clusters, as opposed to the more regular observed service centre clusters. Overall it can be concluded that Cape Town is neither a typical monocentric city nor a decentralised city. Polycentric nodes however, as distinguished and defined in the international literature, are definitely present in Cape Town. These nodes seem to follow the historical railway lines and are imbedded within the old spatial urban footprint of Cape Town.
... El paso de la ciudad fragmentada a la ciudad policéntrica ha caracterizado las transformaciones de diversas metrópolis del mundo en los últimos años (Cuadrado & Fernández, 2005;De Mattos, 2006, 2010Duranton & Puga, 2005;Trullén & Boix, 2003). Y recientemente, dichos procesos han sido abordados para la realidad latinoamericana (Fernández-Maldonado, Romein, Verkoren & Parente, 2014;Romein, Verkoren & Fernández-Maldonado, 2009). Así, para el caso chileno, Truffello e Hidalgo (2015) estudian la evolución del área metropolitana de Santiago hacia una estructura urbana policéntrica como consecuencia de la aparición, consolidación y evolución de numerosos subcentros comerciales. ...
... La metrópoli de Buenos Aires no ha sido ajena a estas transformaciones territoriales (Colella, 2013;Romein et al., 2009). La "suburbanización de las elites", impulsada especialmente durante los años noventa, contrasta social y espacialmente con la más antigua suburbanización de trabajadores urbanos que se produjo entre 1940 y 1960 (Torres, 2001). ...
Full-text available
Utilizando datos relacionales, de movilidad obligada, en combinación con indicadores de concentración y densidad de población y empleo, en este artículo se examina la reestructuración territorial en la metrópoli de Buenos Aires desde un enfoque funcional. Se muestra que el crecimiento metropolitano sigue pautas tanto de dispersión como de policentrismo, que se manifiestan en distintas partes de la metrópoli. Los subcentros de empleo presentan capacidad para estructurar el funcionamiento metropolitano y ejercer distinto grado de influencia en los respectivos corredores. Con todo, la ciudad central ejerce un papel estructurante principalmente respecto a los flujos laborales en ocupaciones cualificadas y de mayor formación, que provienen sobre todo de los corredores Norte y Noroeste. La complejidad de estos procesos debe ser considerada en la formulación de políticas públicas tendientes a atenuar los impactos no deseados de la dispersión, conforme se consolidan los subcentros de empleo como articuladores de la dinámica metropolitana.
... Estos procesos de transformación urbana son claros también en la realidad latinoamericana (Prèvôt-Schapira, 2000a;De Mattos, 2006;Romein et al., 2009;Rubiera Morollón y Aponte Jaramillo, 2009;Fernández-Maldonado et al., 2014). Donde nuevos modos de crecimiento urbano pueden constatarse en el caso chileno (Truffello e Hidalgo, 2015; Maturana y Arenas, 2012 y , mexicano (Muñiz et al., 2015), peruano (Gonzales de Olarte y Del Pozo Segura, 2012) o argentino (Vidal-Koppmann, 2008;Romein et al., 2009;Vecslir y Ciccolella, 2011Ciccolella y Vecslir, 2012;Colella, 2013). ...
... Estos procesos de transformación urbana son claros también en la realidad latinoamericana (Prèvôt-Schapira, 2000a;De Mattos, 2006;Romein et al., 2009;Rubiera Morollón y Aponte Jaramillo, 2009;Fernández-Maldonado et al., 2014). Donde nuevos modos de crecimiento urbano pueden constatarse en el caso chileno (Truffello e Hidalgo, 2015; Maturana y Arenas, 2012 y , mexicano (Muñiz et al., 2015), peruano (Gonzales de Olarte y Del Pozo Segura, 2012) o argentino (Vidal-Koppmann, 2008;Romein et al., 2009;Vecslir y Ciccolella, 2011Ciccolella y Vecslir, 2012;Colella, 2013). ...
Full-text available
The city of Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina Patagonia has grown historically dispersed from the location and consolidation of settlements of workers around the broad areas of oil exploitation. This paper aims to recognize and characterize the recent patterns of urban growth in this city using complementary to quantitative data from official sources, own surveys and a technique of observation and analysis of satellite images. This allows identify recent changes in the occupation of space. The results confirm that the dispersed expansion of the city tends to deepen with strong connotations of social and spatial fragmentation.
... land rent in those communities increase and agriculture, which hitherto was the main economic activity, is outbid by residential, commercial and other urban activities. Eventually, agricultural activities in peri-urban communities located close to the city give way to housing and other urban developments (Brueckner, 1987;Kraus, 2003;McMillen, 2006;Romein et. al., 2009). Similar developments have been reported in peri-urban areas of other African cities such as Kumasi in Ghana (Aberra and King, 2005) and Banjul in Gambia (Roth et al 1996cited in Rakodi 1999, where land is taken from indigenous residents and leased to 'outsiders' who have the means to pay high rents charged by customary land 'owners'. ...
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Accra, the capital of Ghana, is a fast-growing African city. Its growth has brought in its wake an ever-increasing demand for land, which has in turn led to the emergence of a land market that is increasingly supplanting the age-old customary land tenure system. The customary land tenure system is based on communal, rather than individual ownership of land. However, over the last few decades, the system has come under pressure from the forces of rapid urbanization, city expansion and increasing demand for land for urban development. The purpose of this paper was to examine the vulnerability of residents of indigenous communities in peri-urban Accra due to the emerging urban land market. The case study approach has been used to explore vulnerability among residents of two indigenous communities in peri-urban Accra in respect of their ability to access land. Household surveys, focus group discussions and key informant interviews involving community members, leaders and municipal officials were the main techniques used to collect data. The study revealed that indigenous and long-term residents had their farmlands converted to urban development without any measures in place to protect them from the collapsing customary land tenure system and the evolving urban land market. This has negatively impacted their quality of life, especially with respect to livelihoods. There is therefore the need for municipal assemblies to include the preservation of farmlands in the management of physical growth and land use so as to minimize the rate at which farmlands are being converted to urban development. Measures should also be put in place to restore farm households that have lost their land to urban development in the form of compensation and provision of alternative livelihoods. Keywords: Vulnerability; customary; land tenure; urban growth; land market
... Conclusions regarding the extent of polycentricity in Mexico City are mixed. While some studies suggest that Mexico City has decentralized its employment (Aguilar and Alvarado 2005;Sanchez Trujillo 2012;Aguilar, 2011;Fernandez Maldonado et al;Romein et al. 2009), others conclude that the city is still behaving as a monocentric city with most employment opportunities concentrated in the CBD (Suárez 2007;Suárez and Delgado 2007;5 Suárez and Delgado 2009). Specifically, Suárez and Delgado (2009) posit that, while the city's residents have decentralized, employment opportunities are still concentrated in the center. ...
... The polycentric urban structure has emerged in Latin America and Asia (Romein, Verkoren, and Fernandez-Maldonado 2009;Aguilar, Ward, and Smith 2003;Sridhar and Narayanan 2016), but only a few preliminary studies have examined the travel effects. These studies reveal that emerging subcenters have little influence on commuting distance in Mexican Valley (Trujillo and Muniz 2014) and worsen the transportation situation in Singapore as most travelers still need to travel to the CBD and large employment subcenters (C. ...
This article first provides a critical scoping review of empirical literature on the relationship between urban structure and travel in China. The review finds that residential suburbanization alone increases travel, polycentric development has mixed effects, and jobs–housing balance reduces travel. Second, this article compares the empirical findings of the urban structure–travel relationships in China with those observed in other countries, and it identifies contextual factors that can explain the differing relationships in China. We suggest that future research improve data and methodology and broaden the research scope to investigate the complex mechanisms that affect the urban structure–travel relationship in China.
... In conventional literature, this phenomenon is already widely discussed (Anas, Arnott, & Small, 1998;Hall & Pain, 2006;Kloosterman & Lambregts, 2001;Meijers, 2005). Development of employment sub-centres in most cities reflects the rise in service economy and also indicates increased autonomy of sub-areas within the city from the CBD area (Romein, Verkoren, & Fernandez, 2009). Linkages with transport and customer/labour/goods leading to, for example, commuter flows, are important drivers of polycentric development (Giuliano, Redfearn, Agarwal, & He, 2012). ...
This article describes how employment sub-centres can be identified applying geo-spatial modelling techniques in the context of metropolitan areas in India, and how the development of these employment centres can be linked to the levels of accessibility to labour, access to transport infrastructure as well as land use mix and land use diversity. For the city of Ahmedabad, employment sub-centres are identified for the year 2010, while the progression of employment in retail, commercial and industrial sectors in each of these centres is studied for the period from 1980 to 2010. Definite the signs of sprawl-type development and polarization reversal are observed, including the emergence of new employment sub-centres across the urban area, and the rapid growth of centres further away from the central business district. Retail and commercial sectors have grown exponentially, whereas industrial and manufacturing sector’s growth is stagnant. This development is mixed and heterogeneous, with the growth of the retail and the commercial sectors found to have a significant and positive relation with access to labour and transport infrastructure. These identified patterns of development provide important information to urban planners enabling them to make informed decision, for example, in locating future employment activities, identifying future transit-oriented development nodes, etc.
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This paper aims to show how shopping centers in Latin-American cities create a relationship between spreading and concentration that is different from traditional urban public spaces like squares. These centers of economic and social exchange have created new public spaces in the surburbs, leading to a relative democratization in the access to the center while increasing the the gap between the poorest and the middle classes. If they create spaces of concentration and spatial spreading on distinct scales, they constitute fewer places of social gathering and dispersal.
Seeks to explain change in these big cities in comparison with the colonial cities, to give reasons, and look ahead. In the centre of the cities are concentric circles dating from colonial times (C.B.D., mixed housing, business, industry and inner slums). There are sectoral extensions (caused by city-periphery migration of upper classes and new industries along railways and main roads). On the margins are cells of state-aided housing and squatting. Examples are given of Santa-Cruz (Bolivia), Bogota, Lima and Mexico City. -D.J.Davis
Many have studied South American towns in such detail that models have been suggested, eg 1976 Bahr's, 'Ideal model of the Latin American great city', and Borsdorf's, 'Structural model of a Chilean town'. These have been much discussed, and used in schools, and Borsdorf now attempts to bring them up to date.-D.J.Davis
In the context of globalization processes, economic restructuring and state reform, the article describes and analyses the main social and territorial transformations that have been taking place in Montevideo Metropolitan Area. This transformations mainly refer to population dynamics, changes in the structure and morphology of the territory and changes in the economic base, as well as the advance in social segregation processes and new arrangements for institutional management. Finally, some reflections around these issues are proposed, leading to the identification of singularities in the Montevideo metropolitan process.
This paper addresses the phenomenon of the simultaneous and explosive expansion since the late eighties all over Mexico City metropolitan space, of the globalized retail chains and the street informal micro commerce. The processes linked to this phenomenon are explored by examining evidences regarding metropolitan population consumption practices, observed in a sample of neighbourhoods areas concerning a wide spectrum of urban environments and socio-spatial strata co-existing in the metropolitan territory. The analysis shows, on one hand, a transformation of consumption practices that, as it was expected, are differentiated according to residential location and its corresponding urban environment, individual and household socio-economic level, and alternative forms of mobility (private car - public transport). But, on the other hand, that these practices are also shaped by a specific economy of mobility and by specific compatibilities between globalized consumption forms - which tend to incorporate, though under different modalities, all social classes-, and the role played by the informal micro commerce.
The spatial transformation of Metropolitan Lima represents an important case study because of the dramatic changes in places where people work, live, and play and the relationships among them. This case study sketches important elements to be considered in the development of metropolitan regions, which are expanding their international links. This article includes also a conceptual review of metropolitan spaces and networks, as well as an empirical assessment of the reorganization of metropolitan activities and networks in Lima, which have been driven by the ability of local actors to tap international capital and information.
Since the 1990s there is a rapid transformation process going on within Latin-American metropolises and megacities, related to global restructuring and neoliberal economic policy, that has led to an increasing polarization of urban economics (formal-informal, rich-poor). One effect is an equally increasing socio-spatial fragmentation and segregation. A typical expression are the gated communities of upper-, middle- and partly under-classes within the urban and suburban regions and the class-related shopping-centres, which are becoming the nodal points of spatial action within the fragmented city.