Time Zoning
Urban Crossroads #14

                          An exterior makeshift market area. (The Jordan Times)

                          An exterior makeshift market area. (The Jordan Times)

A previous article of this series addressed the concept of zoning, which involves specifying different areas of the city for different functions. Time zoning is a modification of traditional zoning that allows different activities to take place in the same location, but specifies the time of day - or even year - during which each of these activities may take place.

The more we are able to distribute various activities in a given location over the hours of the day or night, the more we enable that location to accommodate these activities with higher levels of efficiency and ease.

For example, staggering work hours for schools, offices, and shops helps relieve traffic congestion at peak traffic times, i.e., when people go to and return from school or work. For example, school hours would begin at 7:30 AM; governmental offices would open at 8:00 AM; and retail shops would open at 9:00 AM. Also, the loading and unloading of goods may take place at night, when traffic is minimal and loading vehicles can park along commercial streets without hindering traffic. A very common example of time zoning is limiting parking along certain streets to evenings, night, and weekends.

The concept may be extended so that a busy street that serves office buildings during the day but becomes almost completely deserted at night may then become a pedestrian zone with vendors selling food items, or even a flee market.

In the same vein, a public building such as a school might serve as a meeting place for social and cultural organizations in the evening and night or weekends. It also might become a community training center or serve as a sports camp during the summer.

Time zoning provides an efficient use of a given location by spreading activities in it over stretches of time, and even encouraging new activities to take place there when that location is underused. It is an extension of a concept we should be using in our homes such as having the formal reception room (which is very popular in our part of the world) also function as a home library (which unfortunately is less popular in our part of the world). The same room then would accommodate two functions that usually do not take place at the same time.

In Amman, the concept of time zoning is used, whether in staggering working hours for different institutions, or in allowing parking on a given street at certain times. However, there definitely is room to expand on such a system, and even make it an integral part of how Amman is zoned. Of course, time zoning requires diligent follow up since it is much easier to zone a location for specific uses at all times, than to allow different uses to take place in it at different times. Time zoning consequently requires high and efficient levels of monitoring from the authorities.

Obviously, we need to continuously think of new ways to carry out activities in the city and to distribute activities within the city. Time zoning provides one method of increasing the efficiency of land use in the city and increasing the diversity of uses it may accommodate.

Mohammad al-Asad

July 29, 2004