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View Poll Results: Which city is more urban?
Detroit 12 41.38%
New Orleans 17 58.62%
Voters: 29. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 02-10-2013, 05:43 PM
 
Location: Michigan
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From an urban planning standpoint, Detroit visually lacks many urban qualities because so much of it has decayed (it's called urban decay for a reason). The nicer more stable neighborhoods towards the edges and predominately west side of the city are in fact post-war developments which most people seem to equate with suburban. The cut-off of pre-war development is about 8 miles around the downtown area, plus or minus depending on which corridor you look at.

Similarly, there's a few suburbs that are pre-war but have very small cut-off ranges for pre-war development, coupled with the fact that a few of them have gone through slow gentrification over the decades and is dominated by post-war development.

For example: Royal Oak has a few pockets of pre-war apartments mixed in with newer houses.

Royal Oak, MI - Google Maps

Royal Oak, MI - Google Maps

Grosse Pointe has some pre-war two-family flats but only on a few blocks near Detroit.

Grosse Pointe, MI - Google Maps

Grosse Pointe, MI - Google Maps

^These were most commonly built in Detroit seemingly from the 1900s to the 1920s.

Detroit, MI - Google Maps

Detroit, MI - Google Maps

Housing older than that was typically either cheap vernacular-style homes...

Detroit, MI - Google Maps

Detroit, MI - Google Maps

...or brick Victorian architecture.

Detroit, MI - Google Maps

Detroit, MI - Google Maps

Because of Detroit's well-known circumstances, it lacks the quantity of these urban features but it does indeed have them. Whether it's comparable to New Orleans, I dunno. I'm sort of leaning towards NO because Detroit has nothing like the French Quarter. Downtown areas in Detroit that looked like the French Quarter were mostly demolished during 1960s and 70s urban renewal projects or replaced with skyscrapers and parking lots. It's not unlike what's happened to many Midwestern cities, but to me, that's a very big historical urban element that's very hard to recreate once it's lost.
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Old 02-10-2013, 05:54 PM
 
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Originally Posted by cisco kid View Post
but if a city offers you little or no alternative to getting around without a car then I would not consider it to be very 'urban.'
So Baltimore isn't very urban? To me urban is more about density and built form.
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Old 02-10-2013, 06:01 PM
 
Location: Michigan
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That'd also make NO not very urban since its streetcar system covers a very small area of the city. 80% of NO is served by bus.
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Old 02-10-2013, 06:39 PM
 
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Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
So Baltimore isn't very urban? To me urban is more about density and built form.
huh? baltimore has plenty of public transit, relatively speaking, or at least compared to detroit which it beats hands down for PT access. baltimore has light rail, a subway, they have a robust comprehensive bus service with 80 bus routes. there's a free downtown shuttle service run by the DOT that picks up passengers every 15 minutes in the downtown area, etc.
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Old 02-10-2013, 07:00 PM
 
Location: North Baltimore ----> Seattle
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Originally Posted by cisco kid View Post
huh? baltimore has plenty of public transit, relatively speaking, or at least compared to detroit which it beats hands down for PT access. baltimore has light rail, a subway, they have a robust comprehensive bus service with 80 bus routes. there's a free downtown shuttle service run by the DOT that picks up passengers every 15 minutes in the downtown area, etc.
Baltimore does have a good amount of transit - we are about 7th in ridership, I think - but it's neither robust nor comprehensive. It is horrendously mismanaged and there is a culture of apathy among its employees. But we got some nifty new buses!



most folks I know without cars (including me for a time) were thankful for their bikes. It's possible to use 100% transit here but not without an inordinate number of headaches. From what I understand about Detroit, it's far worse. The rapid expansion of Zipcar has made a difference, though.
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Old 02-10-2013, 09:57 PM
 
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Originally Posted by HandsUpThumbsDown View Post
Baltimore does have a good amount of transit - we are about 7th in ridership, I think - but it's neither robust nor comprehensive. It is horrendously mismanaged and there is a culture of apathy among its employees. But we got some nifty new buses!



most folks I know without cars (including me for a time) were thankful for their bikes. It's possible to use 100% transit here but not without an inordinate number of headaches. From what I understand about Detroit, it's far worse. The rapid expansion of Zipcar has made a difference, though.
that's a sharp looking bus! I like the eye-catching color scheme. very sleek and sporty looking (never thought I would say that about a bus). besides the transit, baltimore looks like a fairly walkable city. together with the transit system and a bicycle it seems like it wouldn't be too hard to get around without a car. its a gorgeous looking city. isn't there supposed to be over 70 historic districts in the city? I gotta go there sometime.


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Old 02-11-2013, 07:26 AM
 
Location: North Baltimore ----> Seattle
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Originally Posted by cisco kid View Post
that's a sharp looking bus! I like the eye-catching color scheme. very sleek and sporty looking (never thought I would say that about a bus). besides the transit, baltimore looks like a fairly walkable city. together with the transit system and a bicycle it seems like it wouldn't be too hard to get around without a car. its a gorgeous looking city. isn't there supposed to be over 70 historic districts in the city? I gotta go there sometime.

It is a very cool and unique city with a lot of history and down to earth people. John Waters is the most quotable about Baltimore (since Mencken, anyway):
I would never want to live anywhere but Baltimore. You can look far and wide, but you'll never discover a stranger city with such extreme style. It's as if every eccentric in the South decided to move north, ran out of gas in Baltimore, and decided to stay.

However, there is both cultural bias and classic Baltimoron lethargy that keep transit in a rather woeful state. The desire to improve is not there.
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Old 02-11-2013, 08:28 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Leaving aside the effect of urban decay, I think that New Orleans has a vernacular style that is a bit more urban.

Here's a fairly intact street of historic housing near Detroit's core. The houses are closely spaced, but the extensive grassy front yards, albeit small, gives it a look which is semi suburban. This reminds me of Levittown. Corktown is the oldest remaining area of Detroit, and is more urban, but still looks streetcar suburban for the most part. There are some attractive rowhouses though.

In contrast, even discounting the French Quarter, (which is a uniquely urban area in the U.S.), New Orleans is still fairly urban. Richer, white areas look like this, while poor black areas look like this. The density is more clear in poor neighborhoods than rich ones, because street trees break up the view. There is a lot less vertical density, with most houses single-story, but the space between the houses is often at most a foot or two, which lends to a more solid streetwall feel. This style of housing is found more or less unbroken in almost all the residential neighborhoods south of 610.
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Old 02-11-2013, 08:53 AM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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The houses really closer together but setback somewhat in the Detroit views. It looks oddly disproportionate to me. Even the rowhouses are rather set back. But looking at the map, they have almost no backyard and an attached garage to the alley sometimes took whatever room there is.
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Old 02-11-2013, 09:30 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
The houses really closer together but setback somewhat in the Detroit views. It looks oddly disproportionate to me. Even the rowhouses are rather set back. But looking at the map, they have almost no backyard and an attached garage to the alley sometimes took whatever room there is.
I do wonder if Detroit had much more extensive street trees which were lost at some point. That green space between the sidewalks and the street is just perfect for street trees, but most of those in Detroit seem to have been comparably recently planted.
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