Here are all the city parks attempting to copy New York's High Line

Your very own High Line, also known as your back garden. Image: Fluteflute at Wikimedia Commons.

New York has an elevated park, and everyone else is jealous. In 2014, the final section of the city's High Line opened to the public: 1.45 miles worth of disused train track, transformed into a park and dotted with cafes and other fun outdoorsy things.

The High Line has been a success. Such a success, in fact, that scores of plans from all over the world have been proposed under the tag “the next High Line” – even those that are, basically, just a park that happens to be located somewhere vaguely near a train line. 

To track the spread of this trend, we’ve taken on the gargantuan task of logging these projects in full. You're welcome. We'll keep this post updated as more, inevitably, emerge.

And if you spot any that we've missed? Drop us a line

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Click for a larger image. Credit: Fletcher Priest Architects.

The plan: Loathe to be outdone by our friends across the Atlantic, London’s city government held a competition to design “London’s High Line”. This design won, with its idyllic vision of, er, a "mushroom-strewn subterranean walkway" through disused Royal Mail tunnels.

Will it actually happen? Nope. The competitions organisers said they just wanted to generate debate.

Any similarity to the actual High Line? Not really. Walking through a dimly-lit row of mushrooms is definitely not the same as to strolling through a lovely park.

London’s High Line

Click for a larger image. Credit: What if: projects.

The plan: Yes, another one. This one's a nature walk atop the Limehouse Curve viaduct in Tower Hamlets.

Will it actually happen? The project’s architects haven’t found any funding yet, though Tower Hamlets council have said they support the idea (not with cash, mind).

Any similarities to the original High Line? The concept’s the same, but at only 120m this version would be much shorter. More of a High Dot.

The Peckham Coal Line

Click for a larger image. Credit: Peckham Coal Line.

The plan: A High Line for London. Because no one’s thought of that already. This one's on a stretch of disused track, which lies alongside a stretch of very much used track.

Will it actually happen? Again, enthusiasm but no money. The architect, who designed the project at university, plans to ask National Rail for a lease later this year and then find sponsors.

Any similarities to the original High Line? Probably the only London-based proposal deserving of the comparison  – it’s a 1km long park on a train line.

The Underline

Click for a larger image. Credit: Gensler.

The plan: Turn abandoned tube tunnels into bike lanes, pedesrian walkways, and areas for cafes and businesses. 

Will it actually happen? The plan won Best Conceptual Project at the London Planning Awards, but there's no costed plan as yet. 

Any similarity to the actual High Line? Like the High Line, it would put a large, unused rail network to good use - but it's underground, so overall not that similar.

The Garden Bridge


Click for a larger image. Credit: Heatherwick Studio.

The planA foliage-covered bridge over the Thames betwen Temple and the South Bank. It will be closed to cyclists, closed at night, and closed whenever the Garden Bridge trust fancies holding a fundraising event.

Will it actually happen? The project's currently making its way through the upper echelons of City Hall, but it seems likely. 

Any similarities to the original High Line? It's a long, thin park, but it misses out the best aspect of the High Line: reuse of existing, abandoned infrastructure. Instead, they're building a brand new £175m bridge. 

The Manchester Maze

Click for a larger image. Credit: Barton Willmore.

The plan: A park with cafés,  public art and a community garden atop a run of bridges and embankments between Manchester and Salford.

Will it actually happen? The Manchester Evening News quotes loads of experts who say it's a good idea, but then asked City Hall, who said they "don't have the money" unless private investment steps in. 

Any similarities to the original High Line?  Yep – it's a multi-use park on disused industrial infrastructure. Good work, Manchester.

The Flyover Liverpool 


Click for a larger image. Credit: Friends of the Flyover.

The plan: Turn a concrete flyover network in central Liverpool into a walkway, park and .

Will it actually happen? The city already has plans to remove traffic from the flyover roads, and Friends of the Flyover, the proposers, have raised their goal of £40,000 through crowdfunding website Spacehive. The flyover project would be much cheaper than demolishing the roads, so there's a good chance the city council will agree. 

Any similarities to the original High Line?  It's elevated, but not on train infrastructure. Halfway there.

h/t Andrew Foulkes. 

The Holbeck Highline

Click for a larger image. Credit: Holbeck Highline.

The plan: To turn a Leeds viaduct into a walking and cycle path. This was actually proposed back in the 90s, but plans were dropped due to lack of funding. Now, a group of locals are hoping to do it themselves.

Will it actually happen? The group are waiting to hear back from the planners behind HS2 on whether the viaduct line will be needed for the new line. If not, they'll crack on with negotiations with Network Rail. 

Any similarities to the original High Line?  It's a very close fit - a walking and cycle path on elevated ex-train infrastructure. 

h/t Peter Skalski.

Leith Walk


Click for a larger image. Credit: Biomorphis.

The plan: A half kilometre of bike paths and gardens to connect up cycle routes in the Edinburgh district of Leith. The path would be built using reclaimed railway sleepers.  

Will it actually happen? A cost analysis in December 2014 showed that the project would cost around £4.8 m - the jury's out on whether local government will ever cough up the money. 

Any similarities to the original High Line?  It's much shorter, but is elevated and would create a new route through the city. 

The Lowline

Click for a larger image. Credit: Lowline.

The plan: Greedy New Yorkers now want another high-concept park, this time in an empty streetcar terminal under the Lower East Side. 

Will it actually happen? It has some high-profile fans, including Spike Jonze and Lena Dunham, but it still needs funding. The plan also relies on “solar collectors”, which funnel sunlight underground and sound both complicated and expensive. 

Any similarities to the original High Line?  No. It is literally the opposite of the High Line. 

The QueensWay

Click for a larger image. Credit: QueensWay.

The plan: A park on an abandoned 3.5 mile stretch of the Long Island Railroad in Queens.

Will it actually happen? Er, probably not. According to NBC, the park’s organisers have only raised one per cent of the money needed, and Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t so far stepped forward in support of the project.

Any similarities to the original High Line? Its supporters call it “the High Line on steroids” – it’s twice as long, and seven times as large. So if it went ahead, this would basically be High Line 2: The Outer Boroughs' Revenge.

The Harlem Promenade

Click for a larger image. Credit: Harlem Promenade group.

The plan: Affordable housing and green space on abandoned Amtrak rail lines in Harlem.

Will it actually happen? Organisers want to raise the cash by selling the City-owned "air rights” alongside the tracks to developers hoping to build tall buildings.  Which does sound like it could actually work.

Any similarities to the original High Line? Yes, it's a park on an abandoned – oh, you know the drill by now. The affordable housing bit is a nice addition, though. 

A garden on the roof of JFK Airport

Click for a larger image. Credit: JetBlue.

The plan: A garden on the roof of the airport’s $200m Terminal 5 extension.

Will it actually happen? It’s allegedly opening in early 2015.  

Any similarities to the original High Line? The architect said the roof would be “a lot like the High Line, but not so industrial”. Mostly, though it sounds an awful lot like a normal roof garden.  

The 11th Street Bridge

Click for a larger image. Credit: OLIN/OMA.

The plan: A park on an abandoned highway bridge in Washington D.C. including a public plaza, amphitheatre, rain gardens (?) and waterfalls (!).  

Will it actually happen? Yes – the project will be funded by the district government and a local nonprofit,   

Any similarities to the original High Line? It’s a park on a bridge. Please, can we just leave it at that.  

The Underline

Click for a larger image. Credit: The Underline/Anna Baez.

The Plan: A park under a ten-mile stretch of elevated metro track in Miami.

Will it actually happen? The city government is consulting with developers, and so it seems likely that it will get built.

Any similarities to the original High Line? Granted, it follows a transport route, but in the end this is just a normal park on the ground.

The Edmonton Freezeway 


Click for a larger image. Credit: Matt Gibbs.

The PlanA seven mile ice skating path in the Canadian city of Edmonton, built on disused rail tracks. 

Will it actually happen?  One city councillor called it the stupidest idea they'd heard in 30 years, so it seems unlikely. As plans go, though, this one would be pretty cheap and could double up as cycle paths in summer. 

Any similarities to the original High Line? It's a cross between an ice rink and a cycle lane. So no. 

The Goods Line

Click for a larger image. Credit: Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority.

The PlanTo convert unused goods rail lines in Sydney, Australia into public spaces.

Will it actually happen? Construction on the project began in March 2014, and it was actually meant to complete at the same time as Frank Gehry's paper bag-esque Dr Chau Chak Wing at Sydney's University of Technology (just visible to the left in the image above). The city's also looking into extending the scheme further 

Any similarities to the original High Line? As a public space atop unused elevated rail infrastructure, it's probably the closest of the lot - especially as it is actually being built.

h/t Robbie Moore.


Minhocão on a car-free day. Click for a larger image. Credit: Yvone Delpoio at Flickr.

The Plan: To turn a stretch of Sao Paolo’s elevated motorway (known as the Minhocão, or “Big Worm”) into an elevated park. It’s already closed on Sundays and at night, and locals use it for exercise and cultural events while it’s shut.

Will it actually happen? The plan first surfaced in 1987, but the success of New York’s version has brought it back onto the agenda. Politicians are currently divided between demolishing the highway altogether or turning it into a public space.

Any similarities to the original High Line? It was proposed long before the High Line and, to be honest, it actually sounds way better – it’s accessible from many densely-packed neighbourhoods and could act as a kind of Central Park for the city.

Seoul’s elevated pedestrian park

Click for a larger image. Credit: Seoul Metropolitan Government.

The plan: The South Korean city is planning to turn a major road in the business district into a 1km long park.

Will it actually happen? Yep – the city government’s already drawn up the plans, and have an excellent record on getting rid of noisy elevated highways (they’ve demolished around 15 since 2002).

Any similarities to the original High Line? It’s pretty similar, but has the added benefit that they’re closing a fully operational road to do it, rather than waiting for it to be closed for other reasons. Good on you, Seoul.

Rome's High Line

The plan: An elevated park and walkway on a mile of unfinished elevated tram track about 45 minutes drive from Rome's centre. 

Will it actually happen? It's already underway. Under the eye of starchitect Renzo Piano, junior architects have cleared rubbish out of the abandoned tram station and transformed it into a community space. Now, they're hoping for around $600,000 from City Hall to spruce up the track itself. 

Any similarities to the original High Line? It's a park on unfinished infrastructure, rather than old and disused track, but in Rome this is particularly apt: the city, especially at its edges, is littered with unfinished public projects. 

Santiago's Origami High Line

Click for a larger image. Credit: Architects of Invention.

The plan: This is a proposal for a new public plaza in Santiago, capital of Chile. It's basically a big red zigzag which would be used as a raised walkway over a park.

Will it actually happen? It was submitted as part of a design competition for the plaza, so its fate is in the city government's hands. 

Any similarities to the original High Line? It will be purpose built, for a start, which goes against one of the High Line's main purposes: to re-use old infrastructure. Also, call us harsh, but this design seems largely pointless: why do you need a walkway bridge over some other walkways? 


Spotted any others? Drop us a line


To build its emerging “megaregions”, the USA should turn to trains

Under construction: high speed rail in California. Image: Getty.

An extract from “Designing the Megaregion: Meeting Urban Challenges at a New Scale”, out now from Island Press.

A regional transportation system does not become balanced until all its parts are operating effectively. Highways, arterial streets, and local streets are essential, and every megaregion has them, although there is often a big backlog of needed repairs, especially for bridges. Airports for long-distance travel are also recognized as essential, and there are major airports in all the evolving megaregions. Both highways and airports are overloaded at peak periods in the megaregions because of gaps in the rest of the transportation system. Predictions for 2040, when the megaregions will be far more developed than they are today, show that there will be much worse traffic congestion and more airport delays.

What is needed to create a better balance? Passenger rail service that is fast enough to be competitive with driving and with some short airplane trips, commuter rail to major employment centers to take some travelers off highways, and improved local transit systems, especially those that make use of exclusive transit rights-of-way, again to reduce the number of cars on highways and arterial roads. Bicycle paths, sidewalks, and pedestrian paths are also important for reducing car trips in neighborhoods and business centers.

Implementing “fast enough” passenger rail

Long-distance Amtrak trains and commuter rail on conventional, unelectrified tracks are powered by diesel locomotives that can attain a maximum permitted speed of 79 miles per hour, which works out to average operating speeds of 30 to 50 miles per hour. At these speeds, trains are not competitive with driving or even short airline flights.

Trains that can attain 110 miles per hour and can operate at average speeds of 70 miles per hour are fast enough to help balance transportation in megaregions. A trip that takes two to three hours by rail can be competitive with a one-hour flight because of the need to allow an hour and a half or more to get to the boarding area through security, plus the time needed to pick up checked baggage. A two-to-three-hour train trip can be competitive with driving when the distance between destinations is more than two hundred miles – particularly for business travelers who want to sit and work on the train. Of course, the trains also have to be frequent enough, and the traveler’s destination needs to be easily reachable from a train station.

An important factor in reaching higher railway speeds is the recent federal law requiring all trains to have a positive train control safety system, where automated devices manage train separation to avoid collisions, as well as to prevent excessive speeds and deal with track repairs and other temporary situations. What are called high-speed trains in the United States, averaging 70 miles per hour, need gate controls at grade crossings, upgraded tracks, and trains with tilt technology – as on the Acela trains – to permit faster speeds around curves. The Virgin Trains in Florida have diesel-electric locomotives with an electrical generator on board that drives the train but is powered by a diesel engine. 

The faster the train needs to operate, the larger, and heavier, these diesel-electric locomotives have to be, setting an effective speed limit on this technology. The faster speeds possible on the portion of Amtrak’s Acela service north of New Haven, Connecticut, came after the entire line was electrified, as engines that get their power from lines along the track can be smaller and much lighter, and thus go faster. Catenary or third-rail electric trains, like Amtrak’s Acela, can attain speeds of 150 miles per hour, but only a few portions of the tracks now permit this, and average operating speeds are much lower.

Possible alternatives to fast enough trains

True electric high-speed rail can attain maximum operating speeds of 150 to 220 miles per hour, with average operating speeds from 120 to 200 miles per hour. These trains need their own grade-separated track structure, which means new alignments, which are expensive to build. In some places the property-acquisition problem may make a new alignment impossible, unless tunnels are used. True high speeds may be attained by the proposed Texas Central train from Dallas to Houston, and on some portions of the California High-Speed Rail line, should it ever be completed. All of the California line is to be electrified, but some sections will be conventional tracks so that average operating speeds will be lower.

Maglev technology is sometimes mentioned as the ultimate solution to attaining high-speed rail travel. A maglev train travels just above a guideway using magnetic levitation and is propelled by electromagnetic energy. There is an operating maglev train connecting the center of Shanghai to its Pudong International Airport. It can reach a top speed of 267 miles per hour, although its average speed is much lower, as the distance is short and most of the trip is spent getting up to speed or decelerating. The Chinese government has not, so far, used this technology in any other application while building a national system of long-distance, high-speed electric trains. However, there has been a recent announcement of a proposed Chinese maglev train that can attain speeds of 375 miles per hour.

The Hyperloop is a proposed technology that would, in theory, permit passenger trains to travel through large tubes from which all air has been evacuated, and would be even faster than today’s highest-speed trains. Elon Musk has formed a company to develop this virtually frictionless mode of travel, which would have speeds to make it competitive with medium- and even long-distance airplane travel. However, the Hyperloop technology is not yet ready to be applied to real travel situations, and the infrastructure to support it, whether an elevated system or a tunnel, will have all the problems of building conventional high-speed rail on separate guideways, and will also be even more expensive, as a tube has to be constructed as well as the train.

Megaregions need fast enough trains now

Even if new technology someday creates long-distance passenger trains with travel times competitive with airplanes, passenger traffic will still benefit from upgrading rail service to fast-enough trains for many of the trips within a megaregion, now and in the future. States already have the responsibility of financing passenger trains in megaregion rail corridors. Section 209 of the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 requires states to pay 85 percent of operating costs for all Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles (the legislation exempts the Northeast Corridor) as well as capital maintenance costs of the Amtrak equipment they use, plus support costs for such programs as safety and marketing. 

California’s Caltrans and Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Maine’s Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin all have agreements with Amtrak to operate their state corridor services. Amtrak has agreements with the freight railroads that own the tracks, and by law, its operations have priority over freight trains.

At present it appears that upgrading these corridor services to fast-enough trains will also be primarily the responsibility of the states, although they may be able to receive federal grants and loans. The track improvements being financed by the State of Michigan are an example of the way a state can take control over rail service. These tracks will eventually be part of 110-mile-per-hour service between Chicago and Detroit, with commitments from not just Michigan but also Illinois and Indiana. Fast-enough service between Chicago and Detroit could become a major organizer in an evolving megaregion, with stops at key cities along the way, including Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and Ann Arbor. 

Cooperation among states for faster train service requires formal agreements, in this case, the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact. The participants are Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. There is also an advocacy organization to support the objectives of the compact, the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission.

States could, in future, reach operating agreements with a private company such as Virgin Trains USA, but the private company would have to negotiate its own agreement with the freight railroads, and also negotiate its own dispatching priorities. Virgin Trains says in its prospectus that it can finance track improvements itself. If the Virgin Trains service in Florida proves to be profitable, it could lead to other private investments in fast-enough trains.

Jonathan Barnett is an emeritus Professor of Practice in City and Regional Planning, and former director of the Urban Design Program, at the University of Pennsylvania. 

This is an extract from “Designing the Megaregion: Meeting Urban Challenges at a New Scale”, published now by Island Press. You can find out more here.