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View Poll Results: Which city is more Urban
Chicago 114 79.17%
Los Angeles 30 20.83%
Voters: 144. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 04-29-2013, 05:20 PM
 
Location: Crooklyn, New York
28,247 posts, read 26,214,003 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Code Lyoko View Post
For example, here are some pictures I took when I first got here. After 6 PM on a regular weekday evening (first few pictures). I have more from different time periods all the way up to about a week ago. Which I'll upload in a bit.

Vibrancy is missing in the supposed "sixth best CBD in America, according to City-Data polling":

http://www.city-data.com/forum/membe...6-img-0962.jpg

http://www.city-data.com/forum/membe...4-img-0947.jpg

Active hours during the day in a residential area:

http://www.city-data.com/forum/membe...6-img-1215.jpg

Where are the people at? Even when you do find corridors with vibrancy, they're literally small neighborhoods, like a vibrant island surrounded by a sea of quietness.
The first link is right by the Treasury Department and the White House. I've posted that stretch of 15th Street many times already as an example of maximum federal government security stifling street life in that part of Downtown. Because the Treasury Building is so ridiculously large, and government buildings don't have retail, 15th Street is one of the most unlively streets in all of Downtown.

But Downtown largely empties out after 6pm as does the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. If you walk around Wall Street, you won't see anybody around after hours either.

You could always start a thread in the DC forum about how dead pedestrian life is there.
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Old 04-29-2013, 05:36 PM
 
940 posts, read 1,737,513 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BajanYankee View Post
My experience is 100% consistent with this description of Los Angeles (which I have posted many times already):
WestsideLife's quote: "What LA lacks is the critical mass and contiguity necessary for a true urban culture to develop. Traveling from node to node (by car no less) makes the experiences in these urban pockets ephemeral at best. What's more, these nodes are more than likely linear commercial strips (i.e. Wilshire through the Miracle Mile or Pasadena's Colorado Blvd). Even if we were to connect these centers through a comprehensive rail network, the experience would be diluted by the long travel times in between."

The only issue I really have with this is the phrase in bold and its containing sentence. And then again, I really only care because this is in the "urban planning" forum, where I think it would be appropriate to have a little more discipline -- to either not use poorly defined normative statements, or to try and define them. (Yes, I know this is not Bajan's statement, but he is quoting it as an example of his experience, and I think it is relevant to the overall discussion to deconstruct the phrase).

What exactly is a "true urban culture?" Aren't we really just talking about pedestrian vs. automobile convenience?

What about saying: "LA's relative dispersion of jobs, signature attractions, cultural and recreational amenities, and walkable districts, as well as its relative high accommodation of automobiles in high-density environments, makes the gap in accessibility to the metro area's offerings larger between drivers and non-drivers than in more centralized and pedestrian-oriented metropolitan areas." Obviously this is is a mouthful... but is it accurate?

On a couple other threads I've offered up "Pedestrian Orientation" as an alternative to "urban," but for some reason I didn't really get much of a response. What is "pedestrian orientation" missing?

The issue with "urban" is that it is simultaneously an "empty" term because of its lack of technical specificity as well as a loaded term because there are so many diverse connotations (regarding class, race, culture, etc.).

Los Angeles is obviously an urban place, with a true culture unique to this urban environment. Does it have arguably less-than-ideal urban form for pedestrians? Of course. Why do we need to conflate the two?

As stated above, I think it's the size of the gap between accessibility by car vs. on foot of a given Metro Area's offerings that might be the best substitute for "urban," especially in this thread. It is still very convenient to have a car in Los Angeles, and provides far wider access to employment opportunities especially. This city is ideal for car-share, and once a truly robust car share system is in place it may prove to have a transformative impact.
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Old 04-29-2013, 05:42 PM
 
Location: Crooklyn, New York
28,247 posts, read 26,214,003 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dweebo2220 View Post
On a couple other threads I've offered up "Pedestrian Orientation" as an alternative to "urban," but for some reason I didn't really get much of a response. What is "pedestrian orientation" missing?
You could have a place that's pedestrian-oriented but not particularly urban. I'm sure there are hamlets in England that are very walkable, pedestrian-scaled and all of that, but few people would ever call them urban.
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Old 04-29-2013, 05:58 PM
 
Location: Pasadena, CA
10,087 posts, read 13,101,497 times
Reputation: 3979
Quote:
Originally Posted by dweebo2220 View Post
WestsideLife's quote: "What LA lacks is the critical mass and contiguity necessary for a true urban culture to develop. Traveling from node to node (by car no less) makes the experiences in these urban pockets ephemeral at best. What's more, these nodes are more than likely linear commercial strips (i.e. Wilshire through the Miracle Mile or Pasadena's Colorado Blvd). Even if we were to connect these centers through a comprehensive rail network, the experience would be diluted by the long travel times in between."

The only issue I really have with this is the phrase in bold and its containing sentence. And then again, I really only care because this is in the "urban planning" forum, where I think it would be appropriate to have a little more discipline -- to either not use poorly defined normative statements, or to try and define them. (Yes, I know this is not Bajan's statement, but he is quoting it as an example of his experience, and I think it is relevant to the overall discussion to deconstruct the phrase).

What exactly is a "true urban culture?" Aren't we really just talking about pedestrian vs. automobile convenience?

What about saying: "LA's relative dispersion of jobs, signature attractions, cultural and recreational amenities, and walkable districts, as well as its relative high accommodation of automobiles in high-density environments, makes the gap in accessibility to the metro area's offerings larger between drivers and non-drivers than in more centralized and pedestrian-oriented metropolitan areas." Obviously this is is a mouthful... but is it accurate?

On a couple other threads I've offered up "Pedestrian Orientation" as an alternative to "urban," but for some reason I didn't really get much of a response. What is "pedestrian orientation" missing?

The issue with "urban" is that it is simultaneously an "empty" term because of its lack of technical specificity as well as a loaded term because there are so many diverse connotations (regarding class, race, culture, etc.).

Los Angeles is obviously an urban place, with a true culture unique to this urban environment. Does it have arguably less-than-ideal urban form for pedestrians? Of course. Why do we need to conflate the two?

As stated above, I think it's the size of the gap between accessibility by car vs. on foot of a given Metro Area's offerings that might be the best substitute for "urban," especially in this thread. It is still very convenient to have a car in Los Angeles, and provides far wider access to employment opportunities especially. This city is ideal for car-share, and once a truly robust car share system is in place it may prove to have a transformative impact.
On its way: City Could Dump ZipCar, Hook Up with Hertz - Car Sharing - Curbed LA

Also of note is LA is set to receive a huge bike-share program this summer.

Bike Nation USA
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Old 04-29-2013, 06:03 PM
 
940 posts, read 1,737,513 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BajanYankee View Post
You could have a place that's pedestrian-oriented but not particularly urban. I'm sure there are hamlets in England that are very walkable, pedestrian-scaled and all of that, but few people would ever call them urban.
True. So then back to my "what is urban?" thread... would the criteria be as follows?:

- density of residents/households
- scale
- intensity of use/activity
- Pedestrian-orientation/convenience/accessibility
- Vibrancy of civic culture ("public life")

What is the relative importance of each variable?

Also, what is the smallest functional unit at which you can judge urbanity? It seems as though neighborhood-level would be too small because there may be very little measurable difference between a given neighborhood in a major metropolis and a given independent/isolated small town.
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Old 04-29-2013, 06:08 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
45,983 posts, read 41,921,149 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BajanYankee View Post
You could have a place that's pedestrian-oriented but not particularly urban. I'm sure there are hamlets in England that are very walkable, pedestrian-scaled and all of that, but few people would ever call them urban.
Judging my their street views, what do you think of these towns:

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=North...=12,51.01,,0,0

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=easth...,355.9,,0,0.97
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Old 04-30-2013, 07:48 AM
 
Location: In the heights
22,102 posts, read 23,627,108 times
Reputation: 11599
Quote:
Originally Posted by RaymondChandlerLives View Post
I asked a simple question--since when do opinion polls trump facts? That had nothing to do with the Shoup discussion and everything to with all these calls to post polls on the L.A. board. Chicago could win every poll 99% to 1%, that doesn't change the facts. If everyone thinks the Earth is flat, and it turns out to be round, are they still right because it's a majority opinion?

Nobody is getting flustered over an oft-repeated argument that completely dances around factual evidence. As I've stated countless times, "urban" can take on many forms. Holding Chicago as some sort of arbitrary standard for "urbanity" and then knocking L.A. because it doesn't look the same doesn't fly with me. L.A., for the most part, crams more people into a smaller area of land than Chicago. Given the facts, it doesn't matter if it looks different.
Opinion polls don't trump fact, but opinion could lead to more thought and consideration of facts and what those facts mean. Besides, a lot of fact is built on an informed consensus of sorts--at one point, the Earth is flat was bandied about as being a fact. It certainly took an informed and detailed look at things and a long shifting of opinions (it took a good long while before it became generally accepted and even longer before it was universally accepted without question) before people were comfortable with calling it fact.

"urban" can take on different forms, sure, but I don't think it makes sense to be in an argument that has a different set of things that's being argued over.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
Looking at OyCrumbler's thread, no one on the LA forum is interested in comparing it with Chicago. Perhaps Los Angelenos don't think much about Chicago?
Yea, maybe I should have made it more inflammatory. People love that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RaymondChandlerLives View Post
Density may not be end-all be-all, but it's pretty good statistic to gauge urbanity. After all, if you had to pick the least urban city between NYC, Paris, and London, which would it be?

And be honest, whenever a poster thinks their city is more densely populated than L.A., they can't run to the computer fast enough to point it out. Happens ALL the time: http://www.city-data.com/forum/21064752-post71.html

"Nobody's still explained why Philly has a density of approximately 11,500 pp sq. mile and L.A. has a density of around 7,500. If L.A. were so much denser (or as dense) than Philadelphia, then it would have a higher population density, no? But the population density is significantly lower than Philadelphia's"


Density may not mean everything, but it means a lot.
Different density measures can be pretty good stats--I wish there were a more reliable way of gauging job and retail density as well (yelp is sort of a decent one for US cities). I think what needs to be considered though is the resolution of that density. If it's over a broad, large areas, then when you're talking about walkable environments, those density stats are just barely of any use. In looking at just that, you end up with South Los Angeles being equivalent to Boston and close to SF in density measures and SF being denser than Hong Kong (and South Los Angeles following close behind). And yea, that quote you're posting isn't useful either, so it doesn't make sense to run into that same problem.
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Old 04-30-2013, 08:04 AM
 
Location: Crooklyn, New York
28,247 posts, read 26,214,003 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
I would say that this is where scale comes into play. It doesn't take very long to get from the street you posted to here. So I'm inclined to say that it's not very urban because of the lack of scale. But looking at those few blocks in isolation, then I'd say yes, it is urban.
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Old 04-30-2013, 08:24 AM
 
Location: Crooklyn, New York
28,247 posts, read 26,214,003 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dweebo2220 View Post
True. So then back to my "what is urban?" thread... would the criteria be as follows?:

- density of residents/households
- scale
- intensity of use/activity
- Pedestrian-orientation/convenience/accessibility
- Vibrancy of civic culture ("public life")
Broadly speaking, I'd agree with most of that. However, I'd flesh a couple of things out. When I think of "intensity of use," I think of land use, and how efficiently land is being used. So for example, I'd say that stores with apartments on top of them is a more intensive use of land than stores with no apartments on top. I think the mixing of different uses plays a role in what I consider "urban," and this dovetails into the "built form" part of the equation.

I also think a city's macro-layout has to be considered. If you have a highly centralized city like New York, then its CBDs will feel more urban than nearly anywhere despite having considerably lower residential densities than other parts of the city (and perhaps neighborhoods in other parts of the country).

Quote:
Originally Posted by dweebo2220 View Post
What is the relative importance of each variable?
That's something that would take a while to figure out. And it might be impossible to assign a fixed-weight to each one. It's kind of like asking the relative importance of each component of an automobile. That really depends on the car. But it's safe to say that a car with a major deficiency in its suspension, transmission or engine will be hard-pressed to outperform a car without the same deficiency.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dweebo2220 View Post
Also, what is the smallest functional unit at which you can judge urbanity? It seems as though neighborhood-level would be too small because there may be very little measurable difference between a given neighborhood in a major metropolis and a given independent/isolated small town.
I guess you mean at what point do you have enough contiguous urbanity where a place starts to feel like a city? For example, Atlanta has Atlantic Station, which does look "urban" in a very contrived sort of way, but the experience is ephemeral because it only lasts a few blocks. It's similar to being on a gigantic urban movie set. I'd personally say that I need to be able to walk several square miles with a consistent built form and good levels of pedestrian activity. I generally use Paris or Lower Manhattan as the standard and then compare everything else to those two places.
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Old 04-30-2013, 11:40 AM
 
Location: In the heights
22,102 posts, read 23,627,108 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BajanYankee View Post
Broadly speaking, I'd agree with most of that. However, I'd flesh a couple of things out. When I think of "intensity of use," I think of land use, and how efficiently land is being used. So for example, I'd say that stores with apartments on top of them is a more intensive use of land than stores with no apartments on top. I think the mixing of different uses plays a role in what I consider "urban," and this dovetails into the "built form" part of the equation.
In LA's case, you might have stretches where retail is sometimes stacked on top of each other with apartment complexes on the side streets coming off from that retail corridor. It is both retail and population density within easy walking distances from each other, but it's not the exactly right on top of each other.
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