With increasing urban density, cities are being forced to find sustainable alternative solutions to problems of transportation in urban centers. In cities like Hong Kong, where urban density remains a major issue, creative projects have dramatically changed the urban landscape.

The Mid-Levels is a residential area built on the steep slopes of Victoria Peak. It is located directly above Central, Hong Kong’s central business district. In order to improve accessibility and relieve traffic congestion, a pedestrian escalator system was built in 1993. It is the longest covered escalator system in the world, carrying users over 800 meters in distance and 135 meters in elevation.

urban density and transportation in Hong Kong

Now a tourist attraction unto itself, the escalator remains a well-traversed commuter corridor with nearly 43,000 people per day. From 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. it runs downhill, carrying residents to their jobs and errands down in Central. At 10:30 a.m. it changes direction for the rest of the day, bringing tourists and commuters up to the restaurants, shops and residences.

The streets directly surrounding the escalator have changed dramatically with an increase in foot traffic and additional commercial space. The neighbourhood is now home to trendy bars, cafés, galleries, shops and expensive housing.

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With the seeming success of the central escalator project, urban planners have proposed the construction of several more similar projects around the Mid-Levels to improve accessibility for aging residents and to reduce traffic congestion. A series of escalators in the up and coming Sai Ying Pun district, just West of the current escalator, are almost complete. Running along Centre Street, this new series of escalators will service the mainly residential area and draw in an array of new small businesses. This area is likely to undergo a massive transformation in the coming years, especially with the completion of a metro station, slated to open in 2014.

Other escalator projects are currently in the works, including a system along Pound Lane that has drawn considerable opposition. Residents fear that gentrification of the area will push out long time residents and businesses, and will in fact do little to ease congestion.

By Sophie Plotell at Global Site Plans – The Grid - a This Big City partner site

Images via Marc van der Chijs, KlausNahr and JMR_Photography