the purpose of infrastructure

There is no doubt that I enjoy being in public transport design, where the purpose of the infrastructure created is connection, bringing enhanced communication, increased opportunities for employment and leisure, reduced environmental impacts, equality of movement and context, and social benefit directly recycled from our taxes.

And so I thought it would be interesting to place this in perspective by visiting the complete opposite, by taking a look at the US/Mexico border for myself.

Segregation Carousel0

Segregation Carousel4

Whether I learnt anything of benefit to my design canons is difficult to say, but as I dwelt on the subject of public infrastructure I couldn’t help likening this ongoing debate to the one which is presently going on closer to home.

This is an infrastructure:

  • that introduces segregation while risking damage to both the environment and the economy, on the basis that it may or may not prevent things people don’t want arriving in their land.
  • which extracts an inordinate cost from the public purse, for the process let alone the structures required to enable it, and that is seemingly without the balance of clear fiscal benefits.
  • that has been generated by a divisive play for power amongst and by those we have chosen to govern on our behalf, who have employed largely unjustified claims of benefits and dis-benefits, appealing to hearts and pockets over minds and mores.
  • where the perceptible rewards from increased self-governance are hard to identify, while the additional layer of border checks and the mistrust inevitably engendered are all too obvious results.
  • that is introduced by a population that is itself divided; where those whose livelihood it will most dis-benefit are by and large the stronger supporters.
  • that ignores the distribution of work between rich and poor, serviced and servicing which, while hard to justify in the bigger picture, nevertheless provides a livelihood for many on both sides that will be difficult to substitute.

Segregation Carousel8

Of course what this reinforces is not what strategy to employ with Europe – for who knows where that’s going – but rather that :

  • justified sustainability
  • a robust business case
  • positive political will
  • broad compliance
  • solid stakeholder support
  • economic inclusiveness

are all aspects for consideration in the early development of our transport systems, and that the Purpose of Infrastructure can be as complex as the Engineering, and equally if not more important if it is to truly reward its users.

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