The Friction Of Distance

The Friction Of Distance

Let’s suppose it’s a rainy, boring Sunday afternoon and we want to give our day some fun. What better option than going to see that movie that we have been watching sideways on the cinema’s billboard. After the fervor of the brilliant idea that has just occurred to us, we began to make calculations: How many blocks is my nearest movie theater? Sunday and rainy, how long should I wait for the taxi, the collective, I should go walking? And finally, how long does it take me all the way? Am I really willing to spend more time traveling than watching the movie? Surely many bet to stay at home watching a classic movie on Netflix.

The concept of friction of distance is based on the notion that distance usually requires a certain amount of effort, energy, time and other resources to overcome. Because of this “friction”, spatial interactions, especially transport (human and merchandise), tend to occur more often over shorter distances; the amount and intensity of the interaction will decay with distance.

Let us then include the previous concept, the friction of distance formula:

Distance + Friction = Time


Time – Friction = Distance

The Friction variable
The friction depends on the type of transport available, the type of road and its layout, the number of traffic lights, traffic congestion, among others. Basically everything that expresses the difficulty of going from point A to point B. But better, we explain it on the map from the VirtualModeler tool.

In the following example we compared a distance of 70 km between Córdoba Capital and two points, the localities of Oncativo and San Gerónimo where reaching the last one takes 3 times more time. The main cause here is the presence of the Córdoba-Rosario highway.

We measure from 4 different points the city how long it takes for the vehicle to make 5 km to Av. Vélez Sarsfield and Illia Boulevard. We can see how the difference between them reaches almost twice as long.

What implications does Friction of Distance have on urban planning?
In the order of urban planning we can operate both on distance (the availability and distribution of public facilities) and on friction (traffic direction, traffic lights, transport services, etc.) not only to ensure equity in the Access to public services for each citizen but as explained below directly affects the distribution of population growth.

In the introduction of this article we gave an example where we evaluate the possibility of going or not to the cinema in which after the analysis of rigor we decided to stay at home. In that way we act, there is a point at which distance (or time) is uneconomic or, in other words, “not worth it”.

And this is how a new inhabitant who can only manage the variable distance evaluates where to live according to the location and easy access of their points of interest such as education, health, work, leisure, etc. transforming little by little the demographic morphology of the city which is in constant dynamism and where those responsible for urban planning must anticipate to avoid foci of overpopulation that lead to collapses in services and transport flows guaranteeing a better quality of life for the present and future inhabitants of the city.

In this sense it is important that each municipality knows the land use and distribution: green space, trade, residence, industry, vacant site, etc. and the current demographic distribution of the city to be able to act accordingly.

Through our Virtual Modeler tool, you can analyze the distribution of land use according to the analysis of the demographic distribution through heat maps and compare it with external information sources such as the National Census and all the information that the municipality has at its disposal through its different systems.