This is more of a general question than a query about any specific model of arcology, but to make the question easier, let’s assume the arcology is either domed or covered by some sort pyramid made from selectively permeable solar panels, has an internal land area of about 8-10 square kilometers, and incorporates a mixture of smaller megastructures like large residential towers or farms alongside smaller buildings you can walk between via skyways. It houses a few million people, and while any location within the arcology is theoretically only a short walk away, traffic congestion in choke points and just the general need for convenience and efficiency demands a rapid mass transit system.

How would you do this?

Ideally I’m looking for practical solutions above all else, but I’m not above indulging in rule of cool (after all I’m intending for whatever transit system I end up using to be plagued by thrillseekers and its own version of punk biker gangs). One idea I’ve heard that overlaps nicely with an idea I had myself are pods that accelerate along predetermined tracks. The general idea was for the pods to be smaller, car-sized affairs, but I’m thinking more like a monorail system or cable cars that connect some or all of the more distant buildings to each other. To borrow an idea from Alistair Reynold’s Chasm City novel, perhaps the cable cars are all attached to a giant, web-like network of cables and they “crawl” along them using robotic arms like a spider, allowing them to freely change course by grabbing different cables and plot the most efficient route from one place to another using some city-wide traffic AI. Would this be safe and practical enough to pass muster, or is this too much rule of cool?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ 8-10 square km of internal space? Assuming levels being 3m tall... Everything could be easily squeezed in to cube a with edge smaller than 333 m. Walking and lifts (even with sky lobbies) would be boring but sufficient. $\endgroup$
    – Shadow1024
    Nov 18, 2017 at 19:15

3 Answers 3


Pedestrian and Bicycle Lanes

Some movement is good for your health, and your arcology won't be that large. If you are worried about chokepoints, consider that any other system will have similar problems -- intersections, subway platforms, etc.

  • The punks can be kids who hang out in some places, drink beer, play loud music, maybe sell drugs, and intimidate ordinary citizens.
  • The thrillseekers can be kids on unsafe bikes, or skateboards, or whatever, riding in an unsafe way.


For people who do not want to climb stairs, escalators may be better option than lifts. They do not have to wait until a car arrives, and escalators are no faster if they stop every other floor.

  • There may be etiquette that people stand on the right, walk up the moving escalators on the left, or vice versa. The options for punks and thrillseekers should be obvious.
  • Sliding down the rails of an upward escalator?

As a variant, moving walkways even for level stretches.

Streets for Computer-Controlled Cars

There will be situations where walking or cycling does not work. Delivery vans, fire engines, ambulances, the elderly, etc. Have roads where only robotic, networked cars are allowed to drive.

  • Thrillseekers can hang on the outside of these cars, e.g. completely unmanned delivery vans.
  • Even more thrillseeking people can try to get an "ambulance override" for their manually controlled car and watch how the traffic system shunts all other vehicles out of their way. Until they miscalculate and a full school bus cannot dodge them in time.


Arcology, a portmanteau of "architecture" and "ecology",2 is a field of creating architectural design principles for very densely populated, ecologically low-impact human habitats.

Had to look it up!

From OP

perhaps the cable cars are all attached to a giant, web-like network of cables and they “crawl” along them using robotic arms like a spider, allowing them to freely change course by grabbing different cables

This works fine. Cablecars do it now. The cables do not actually suspend the cars, which run on corresponding tracks below and utilize the obliging Earth for support. Cables provide power. http://roundaboutsanfrancisco.com/attractions/cablecars.html cable car DC wires overhead

I propose that all buildings of any size be central and clustered. This allows one centralized heating and cooling of all of them with one plant and efficiency of scale. You mention skyways; you could also have motorized walkways or horizontal elevators. This too is not very creative and is currently done. Here is the Atlanta airport. https://blooloop.com/news/alcorn-mcbride-waldeck-flight-paths/ atlanta airport motorized walkway

I feel like having monorails and pedestrian walkways is sort of 1970s Epcot Center. I am trying to think of ways to update these ideas and make them more interesting. Before someone invokes pneumatic tubes: also I want something Futurama did not already do.

  • Maybe ziplines? Everyone goes up a central tower and then ziplines down to their destination? That has not been done, to my knowledge. It might be tricky to have motorcycle gangs terrorize ziplines.

    • People movers with cars pulled along by big cables - well, San Francisco did that too back in the day.

    • Use as canals the giant sewers built for an ancient city 1000 times bigger at that site? That could be pretty cool and terrorizable.

    • City is built around fallen starship. The elevators still work, powered by the old fusion engine but now elevators run horizontally. Perfect people movers! The rest of the ship, though, is probably best avoided. A piece of wood is epoxyed over those buttons to keep people from accidentally pushing them.


See for example, the one in Larry Niven's novel "Oath of Fealty" I think it was 1 x 2 miles, about 20 floors, but lots of multi-floor open spaces. Inverted pyramidal light wells pierced the roof, with balconies overlooking the wells. The roof was a park.

Main travel routes had 'slidewalks' -- a concept also used in Denver's Stapleton airport in real life.

While people moving can be largely on foot, bike, or roller blade, scooter, you still have to have some form of bulk transport. Imagine getting a new sofa home by escalator and bike.

I suspect that well over 50% of the floor space would "un-owned" That is, not 'mine' in the sense of 'my apartment' but would be in the form of access hallways, utility corridors, shared balconies, public spaces, shopping centres.

Note that an arcology has a rather intense cooling requirement. Most high rises have a net cooling requirement even in winter. Well designed ones, use surplus heat from the south side to warm exterior faces on the north side, but the waste heat from electrical use throughout the building imposes a need for cooling. In winter this is easy: Bring air in from outside, dilute it with inside air, and pipe throughout the building. In summer, you can use evaporative cooling in dry climates, or some combination of evaporative cooling, off peak power usage to create cold water/ice/brine to store coolth when it's cheap, to use during peak periods.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .