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Understanding Aerotropolis

John D. Kasarda, PhD

The Father of the Aerotropolis Concept
President of Aerotropolis Institute China
Chief Advisor of the ZAEZ
Professor Emiratus, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The aerotropolis is a new urban economic form where cities are built around airports connecting time-sensitive manufacturers, distributers, and businesspeople to their suppliers, customers, and enterprise partners, near and far. Properly designed, the aerotropolis generates  a seamless multimodal “urban pipe” that reduces the time-cost frictions of distance locally, nationally, and globally, increasing operational efficiencies of aerotropolis firms and places by offering them “economies of speed”, which have become as important as economies of scale and economies of scope for many businesses and cities to compete and prosper.

The Fifth Wave

Aviation and airports are driving business location and urban development in the 21st century as much as highways did in the 20th century, railroads in the 19th, rivers and canals in the 18th, and seaports in the 17th century.  The aerotropolis represents the fifth major wave of transit-oriented urban economic development.

Aerotropolis Structure

The aerotropolis consists of two components:

the airport’s aeronautical, logistical, and commercial facilities anchoring a multimodal, multifunctional airport city at its core and

outlying corridors and clusters of aviation-oriented businesses and industries that feed off each other and their accessibility to the airport and other key transport and urban/commercial/residential nodes.

Aerotropolis Strategy

The aerotropolis is also a comprehensive strategy consisting of a coordinated set of multimodal infrastructure, commercial real estate, and government policy interventions that

upgrade airport-area urban and employment assets,

reduce ground-based transport times and costs, and

expand national and global air route connectivity

to improve business operations, attract talent, and boost trade in high-value, time-critical goods and business services by making the airport and its outlying areas more globally connected, locally accessible, economically efficient, attractive, and sustainable.

Aerotropolis Integrated Planning

The strategy integrates airport and surface transportation planning objectives optimizing  mobility of people and cargo to and from the airport and commercial locations, business site planning objectives of maximizing operational efficiencies and profits of enterprises making capital investments, and urban planning objectives of livability and environmental sustainability.