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Old 03-12-2014, 06:58 PM
 
Location: Chicago - Logan Square
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I think currently it's just one and two - when the city grew and geographic restrictions. Anything else just comes out of those two. That said, some of the other elements can contribute to increasing a city's density, but none of them will turn a Phoenix into an NYC.

I don't think that the scarcity of water does anything to increase a city's density. While there may be a difference between Phoenix and Las Vegas, it's a minor difference when you compare them to cities like NYC, Boston, Chicago, SF, DC, etc - all cities that grew in the 1800's, and most also have geographical restrictions. Their high cost of land, public transit, and concentrated employment centers were built as they grew. Once the automobile came along, and trucking replaced trains and shipping, both population and employment spread out drastically - regardless of the climate.
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Old 03-12-2014, 07:09 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 20 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,006 posts, read 102,606,536 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Attrill View Post
I think currently it's just one and two - when the city grew and geographic restrictions. Anything else just comes out of those two. That said, some of the other elements can contribute to increasing a city's density, but none of them will turn a Phoenix into an NYC.

I don't think that the scarcity of water does anything to increase a city's density. While there may be a difference between Phoenix and Las Vegas, it's a minor difference when you compare them to cities like NYC, Boston, Chicago, SF, DC, etc - all cities that grew in the 1800's, and most also have geographical restrictions. Their high cost of land, public transit, and concentrated employment centers were built as they grew. Once the automobile came along, and trucking replaced trains and shipping, both population and employment spread out drastically - regardless of the climate.
Oh, no there's not minor differences. The burbs in the first three plus DC are generally large lot areas, while Phoenix, Vegas, Denver and others out west have much smaller yards. SF burbs tend to have small lots, and are denser overall.
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:26 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
Oh, no there's not minor differences. The burbs in the first three plus DC are generally large lot areas, while Phoenix, Vegas, Denver and others out west have much smaller yards. SF burbs tend to have small lots, and are denser overall.
NYC burbs are not generally large lot. I've posted stats on this before. In any case, the differences in suburban densities nationwide, at least ones built in the last 50 years are much smaller than the city densities (or central portion of the metro) differences.
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:43 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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A good test if water is why western burbs are denser is to compare portland and Seattle suburbs, which obviously don't have water restrictions. If I remember correctly, they seem a bit less dense than other western burbs but not to the same extent as many eastern cities. Really, only Californian burbs (and maybe parts of the desert southwest) are outliers for American suburbs.
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:52 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Other than WWII/the beginning of the automobile era, other key periods would be the beginning of the transit era and the gunpowder era.

Gunpowder had a big effect on the way cities were defended, since cannons could easily blast through walls. Prior to gunpowder, the cities were walled up, and since walls were expensive to build (and defend) they tended to limit the size of the cities. Not sure how significant the density difference is compared to the pre-transit post gun-powder era walking cities though.

Transit definitely did have an effect on reducing densities though. Los Angeles was quite low density, despite millions of people before the automobile era really began. It was denser than most of the post-WWII development in the US, but still much less dense than cities that had large populations pre-transit (esp in Europe, but also Philadelphia, Chicago, Montreal, New York, Baltimore).

Size matters too. Big cities are generally denser.

Last edited by memph; 03-12-2014 at 09:04 PM..
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:57 PM
 
Location: Chicago - Logan Square
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
Oh, no there's not minor differences. The burbs in the first three plus DC are generally large lot areas, while Phoenix, Vegas, Denver and others out west have much smaller yards. SF burbs tend to have small lots, and are denser overall.
I don't think that's true at all - do you have any numbers to back that up? I know the density of suburbs of the cities I mentioned (like Cicero, Evanston, Oak Park, Berwyn, Brookline, Silver Springs, etc.) have densities that are 2 to 10 times higher than the densities in the city proper of the ones you mentioned. Phoenix, Vegas, Denver don't have density levels anywhere near NYC, Boston, Chicago, DC or SF. Besides, if your comparing suburbs to cities it's a different thing altogether (unless the city is question is just a big suburb).
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Old 03-12-2014, 09:07 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
Other than WWII/the beginning of the automobile era, other key periods would be the beginning of the transit era and the gunpowder era.

Gunpowder had a big effect on the way cities were defended, since cannons could easily blast through walls. Prior to gunpowder, the cities were walled up, and since walls were expensive to build (and defend) they tended to limit the size of the cities. Not sure how significant the density difference is compared to the pre-transit post gun-powder era walking

Size matters too. Big cities are generally denser.
great point, that's often overlooked. City walls explain why the very oldest parts of European cities are so packed. British in general have less of the old world medieval packed-in look. London in particular never seemed to be as dense as continental European cities. I think London was wall less.

But then why are the older parts of NYC so much denser than not only other old large American cities but London and maybe some other northern European cities at the time. Is it just geography, rapid population growth that the city had trouble expanding outward? A lot the "streetcar era" develepment of NYC was rather high density, suggesting the city had trouble expanding outward to accommodate more people
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Old 03-12-2014, 10:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by nei View Post
great point, that's often overlooked. City walls explain why the very oldest parts of European cities are so packed. British in general have less of the old world medieval packed-in look. London in particular never seemed to be as dense as continental European cities. I think London was wall less.

But then why are the older parts of NYC so much denser than not only other old large American cities but London and maybe some other northern European cities at the time. Is it just geography, rapid population growth that the city had trouble expanding outward? A lot the "streetcar era" develepment of NYC was rather high density, suggesting the city had trouble expanding outward to accommodate more people
Yes. I think NYC is more dense due to being 'molded' by combination of geographic restraints, the subsequent impacts (costs) to transportation typology being used coupled with very high rate of immigration in flows as a gateway city. The economic employment growth - along with need of labor to be close - to what was then a significant manufacturing and labor intensive driven period from post civil war to WW2, led to greater designed density. Complicating NYC is the aggregation principle i.e. the more things 'there' the more it attracts.... cue old blue eyes


Frank Sinatra - New York, New York - YouTube


Memph also has a great point on the fortification of older European cities. If one looks at the old (fortification) walls surrounding the main commercial centers in major cities, they have now become in many instances ring roadways and in the denser cities these inner parts have restricted (or highly cost prohibitive) auto usage.
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Old 03-12-2014, 10:30 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 20 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
87,006 posts, read 102,606,536 times
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Originally Posted by Attrill View Post
I don't think that's true at all - do you have any numbers to back that up? I know the density of suburbs of the cities I mentioned (like Cicero, Evanston, Oak Park, Berwyn, Brookline, Silver Springs, etc.) have densities that are 2 to 10 times higher than the densities in the city proper of the ones you mentioned. Phoenix, Vegas, Denver don't have density levels anywhere near NYC, Boston, Chicago, DC or SF. Besides, if your comparing suburbs to cities it's a different thing altogether (unless the city is question is just a big suburb).
nei posted some average suburban lot sizes one time when this came up before, and someone didn't believe me. The Phoenix area has some of the smallest lots I've seen. You may do a search. Since you are making claims about densities, how about YOU posting some numbers to back up YOUR claim. "Cities" are more than just their incorporated areas.
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Old 03-12-2014, 11:36 PM
 
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I am going to write my remarks, as someone that has been involved in developing. The biggest reasons in many areas that they are reducing the size of the lots and going for higher densities are:

1--Availability of land to expand the city. Example the Silicon Valley. Hemmed in on one side by the bay, and the other side by mountains. There is a limited amount of land for development. To allow further building, they demand more homes per acre. Some cities have gone from possibly 2 per acre in the past, till today they may demand 10 per acre.

If you increase the density to 10 per acre from 2 per acre it reduces the cost to put in streets and utilities a great deal per home. It makes it cheaper for the city to maintain these amenities after the housing track is built out.

2--Cost of the land, and cost to build in the area. To be able to build homes at a price they can sell them, they are reducing the size of the homes and reducing the land cost by the density of homes.

3--In some cities they have strong environmental regulations. The city demands so much of a subdivision be devoted to park land, and other public use. They have increased the demand of more and more vacant land. To make building feasible, they increase the density by having smaller lots.

4--As mentioned by some, water, etc., comes into play. As small lots have a lot less lawn and landscaping than large ones do, increasing the density, reduces the water for outside watering which uses a lot more water than the inside of the home. More of the land taken up with buildings, and streets in high density, can cut the water use by half and sometimes even more.

5--Some cities are surrounded with very high production farm land. Cities are increasing their density in such areas, to keep as much land as possible in food production.

6--In some areas of the country, the city may be making demands of all 5 of the above points.
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