The scene outside the cab window is ominous: six lanes of black sedans, apple-green buses and scooters sit crammed fender-to-fender, their shrill horns and screeching brakes piercing Seoul’s hazy, exhaust-choked air. Talk about traffic! I haven’t even arrived in Songdo yet, but watching this, I can already understand its appeal.
Over the past decade, the South Korean city of Songdo has sprung up on 1,500 acres of reclaimed land on the Yellow Sea, 40 miles south of Seoul. Linked by a 7.4-mile bridge to Incheon International Airport, the city is regularly hailed as an experimental prototype of the aerotropolis, an urban development concept with the potential to significantly affect the way we travel. I’m heading to Songdo from Seoul to have an up-close look at this cutting-edge new milestone in the future of travel.
My cab crawls out of the South Korean capital at a sloth-like pace, modern skyscrapers gradually giving way to concrete and barracks-style high-rises, then finally to open highway. Forty-five minutes later, we’re approaching Songdo, where cranes and partially constructed glass skyscrapers clutter the skyline. Once in town, we drive past a Starbucks and a North Face store before the cab drops me at the Sheraton.