JF Ptak Science Books Post 855
The idea had never occurred to me before seeing the work of Edgar Chambless, whose Roadtown (the entire 172pp of the 1910 work located here) projected the idea of super long linear road-cities. Actually it was the illustrations that attracted me more than Chambless' pamphlet, though I'm surprised to admit, there's some interesting bits and pieces in that exceptionally odd work of city/future planning.
Michael Graves also proposed a linear city [aerial perspective below] to form a contiguous, living corridor between New Brunswick and Trenton, and alluded to the development of "consequent new patterns of life" though doesn't say what they might be.
And certainly there have been many plans for incorporating, engulfing, transportation systems into the very fabric of a city (as seen in the "Is This the Railway of the Future" image that ran in Popular Science in 1932), though the idea of combining transportation and the city itself into a linear creation is far more uncommon.
But getting back to this living-in-a-line part: according to some rough napkin-logic, I figure that in order to house 300 million Americans in one long structure, it would take something like a building 400' wide, 12 storeys high and 3000 miles long (not including infrastructure and so on) to allow 400 square feet of living space for every person. Oddly enough I randomly chose an individual unit of 400x800x120 feet to work with, which is within just a percent of two of the total volume of the Empire State Building (bizarre!), meaning that it would take about 20,000 Empire State Buildings placed end-to-end to perform the housing of every American in this straight J.G. Ballard-like world.
Now Chambless offered an architectural-something much less complex1 than this notion I just imagined, though his philosophy of life and living in such a city was developed well enough to get the interest and attention of major movers and shakers (including Tom Edison). There was evidently quite a buzz about Roadtown though that's all that ever happened--buzz and no sting, meeting after meeting, happy attendees, then off to another meeting with apparently nothing to show for it all in the end, an interesting idea that took a decade or two to die.
Edgar Chambless and Michael Graves images from the wonderful book, Unbuilt America, by Alison Sky and Michele Stone. (Sky and Stone--very close to sky above/mud below.)
1. (From The People's Almanac, 1981): "In cross section, Roadtown would, beginning at the top, consist of: (1) a roof promenade--a glassed-in sun parlor in winter, shaded walk in summer, with bicycling and skating paths and towers housing schools, nurseries, recreation facilities, stores, and power plants; (2) a two-story, above-ground house, with a workroom at street level, a living area above it, and utility lines (electric wires and gas and water pipes) enclosed in a runway beneath the house; and (3) three below-ground levels of railroad lines for expresses and locals, to carry both passengers and freight"