LA is less dense than NYC

Yesterday’s post was prompted by my recent reading of Robert Bruegmann‘s very interesting Sprawl: A Compact History. He uses the LA is more dense than NYC figure a few times, mainly to say LA isn’t as “sprawling” (by some definitions) as is often made out and I wanted to see if it was possible to reproduce his results.

Then, thanks to the wonders of This Modern Age, someone who knows a great deal more than me about urban density discovered my post and responded. (I have a feeling that someone emailed it to him, probably with a “here’s another one” type of message.)

Robert McDonald is a “landscape ecologist who is broadly interested in the effects of land-use change and
urbanization on the maintenance of ecological and social function, at regional, global, and
international scales”.

He very graciously takes issue with my reproduction of the “myth” that LA is denser than NYC and shows some more interesting ways to consider density, particularly the “distribution of density”. He goes on to show that

The “average” house in LA is in a neighborhood of 10-15 homes/ha; 20% of houses fall in this category. The “average” housing unit in NY is in a neighborhood with more than 80 homes/ha; 27% of homes fall in this category. This kind of statistic becomes extremely important when considering the feasibility of mass transit, which (for light rail) works well above 40 homes/ha. Only 8% of houses are in such a neighborhood in LA, versus 32.6% of houses for NY.

And there you go. Is LA more dense than NYC? Yes, if you take raw numbers for the entire region, but it seems that the scale of either city is too large for that measure to be meaningful if you’re talking about things like mass transit.

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2 comments on “LA is less dense than NYC”

  1. very stubborn rumor, yes. I even heard Ed Soja claim LA is denser than NYC in a lecture… i guess perception is a bit too hard to quantify though, because indeed nobody will say LA is denser than NYC.

  2. [...] LA is less dense than NYC « making the ordinary 2.6.08 / 2pm [...]

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