Urban Sprawl in the US: The 10 Worst Offenders

Route 60 in Phoenix, AZ. Image © Wikimedia CC user Greg O’Beirne

A report released earlier this month by Smart Growth America investigates the topic of urban sprawl in cities in the USA. Analysing 221 US Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and Metropolitan Divisions with a of at least 200,000, they have ranked cities from most dense to most sprawling.

They also used this data to find a number of correlations between sprawl and poor quality of life, finding that people living in sprawling cities have higher living costs, shorter life expectancies, increased risk of obesity and diabetes, and lower economic mobility than those in dense cities.

Read on after the break to see the list of the 10 most dense and 10 most sprawling US cities

Is There a ‘Perfect’ Density for Cities?

Places such as Manhattan are seeing an increase in ever-taller residential buildings. Image Courtesy of SHoP Architects

In a compelling opinion piece on the Guardian, Lloyd Alter argues that our current obsession with increasing the density of our cities – mostly by building ever-taller skyscrapers - might be severely misguided. Alter believes that, without tall buildings, cities can achieve a “Goldilocks ” – just dense enough to support lively streets, but not so dense that they become inhabitable. You can read the full article here.

Our Ideal City? Seen through the eyes of the Pacific West Coast.

View of via Flickr user Shootyoureyeout

As most New Yorkers know, people are willing to shell out a hefty sum to live in a place where work and play are right around the corner from each other.  But as the article by Ken Layne in The Awl points out, the west coast is a somewhat different place.  UNLIKE New York City, which is crowded with restaurants, bars, and entertainment, as well as offices, design firms and businesses; Silicon Valley, which caters to programmers and tech companies that hire at $100k a year, offers few of the amenities that a nearby town like does.  So, Layne concludes, residents are willing to spend hours of their day  making their way into the fortressed office parks of Silicon Valley, flanked by parking lots and boulevards, just to have a cultural reprieve to call home.

Video: Urban Density Benefits


David Baker of DB+P Architects recently produced a short on the benefits of urban density and the repercussions of the current suburban sprawl trend in the US.  It provides an insightful look into the resources required to maintain current cities and why density, if properly planned can provide the healthy atmosphere that great cities are known for. One of the most interesting points brought up is how population density is inversely related to – one example illustrates how Oklahoma City with a population density of 872 per square mile produces almost double the carbon that New York does with a population density of 70,595 per square mile. With land still relatively inexpensive, especially in the heartland of the US, the question becomes how to convey the benefits of urban living to those that cherish suburbia.

World Population Concentrated

© www.persquaremile.com

What would the world’s landscape look like if it were concentrated into one megalopolis?  This graphic analysis illustrates the amount of land required to accommodate all 6.9 billion people based on the densities of across the globe.  The differences illuminate the adverse affects of suburban sprawl.

References: www.persquaremile.com
Photographs: www.persquaremile.com