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Urban Sprawl, Which Large City Defines It?

Urban Srawl, Which City Defines It?  

207 members have voted

  1. 1. Urban Srawl, Which City Defines It?

    • Atlanta
      129
    • Chicago
      14
    • Detroit
      29
    • Other (explain)
      34


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In hanging out on these forums over the years, it would seem to me these three cities define what is wrong in urban planning more than any other cities in the United States. Characterists they share

  • Urban core is growing very slowly or even losing population.

  • Fixed Rail transit is either inadequate or non-existant and not being expanded

  • Suburbs continue to sprawl unchecked away from core.

  • Racial divides are a big problem and impede change

  • Downtown housing is either for very poor or very well off, middle class need not apply.

  • Crime rates

Let's discuss this topic without getting into any city bashing. It is a matter of opinion somewhat so please respect the others.

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Atlanta has more sprawl than Detroit, but Detroit fits all of these categories better than Atlanta does:

The urban core is loosing population. In fact its population is down to 900,000, compared to 950,000 at the 2000 census. The core is also much safer and more gentified than it was just five years ago, however.

Rail transit does not exist. That is unless you count the elevated People Mover train that loops around downtown. That has broken down twice this week because of the cold - it just shows you how reliable the system is.

Sprawl continues unchecked from the core. Detroit sprawls all the way from 8 Mile Road to 32 Mile Road and beyond.

Racial divides are a big problem and impede change. Detroit holds the record for the most segregated metro area in the country. The city is 82% black, while the suburbs are 90%+ white.

Downtown housing is either for very poor or very well off, middle class need not apply. This was true in the past, but it is changing. There are currently hundreds of lofts and apartments under construction.

Crime rates are falling, but are still much too high.

Additionally, Detroit has one of the oldest freeway systems in the nation, with the first freeway opening in 1942, and many others opening prior to 1950.

Finally, suburban Detroit (Southfield) is home to the nation's first shopping mall, Northland Center.

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Chicago has one of the most urban of city centers with one of the biggest public transportation networks in the America's. Its quite funny to see it on the same list as Detroit or Atlanta.

We've had discussions on this monsoon, I think you spent too much time in Schaumburg. You must remember this is 25 miles (35 driving miles) out of Chicago, and Schaumburg is more dense then suburbs inside Atlanta's 285 loop.

I voted Atlanta for the fact that even /w Detroit's sprawl, its gridded with a higher level of average density. And Detroit had an old urban center, even if its mostly been destroyed the fabric is still there between the tears.

Atlanta has a working downtown and midtown district, but its disorganized and outside that its sprawl is an unreal wind of forests, spaghetti bowl road designs, and ultra-low-density housing.

While Atlanta can be more appealing then Detroit because of Detroit's poverty issue, its still the mother of low density. Atlanta is the lowest dense major metro area in the top ten.

Its below Houston, Dallas, AND Detroit.

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True, Chicago obviously does not belong on this list... its fixed rail transit is better than most cities, and the core city is in decent shape.

Atlanta and Detroit are the main contenders, but if I had to nominate a third city it might be LA.

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True, Chicago obviously does not belong on this list... its fixed rail transit is better than most cities, and the core city is in decent shape.

Atlanta and Detroit are the main contenders, but if I had to nominate a third city it might be LA.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Chicago meets the criteria that I gave above. It has suffered from white flight, its fixed rail system is really small for a city its size, it is losing popuation to the suburbs, and in terms of raw numbers, Chicago ha more people living in surburban development than an other city in the USA save LA.

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To list Chicago's bad side is to ignore the reality that its the second biggest urban district outside New York's Manhattan in the USA. Again, we've had discussions on this privately and I know you don't agree. BUT, that's my feeling on the issue. Chicago's outer suburbs and southern industrial burbs really put a bad feel on the city. I think they suck as well, but I also can't deny how wonderful the city is, nor how massive their rail network is. Its second only to New York. LA's not got nearly the rail network and the metro is quite large at 16 million.

Anyway, moving away from Chicago, I doubt St Louis could be put on the same standard as Nashville.

Nashville would certainly rank as one of the most sprawled cities for sure, but its not without its peers. St Louis is an urban tier way above Nashville, especially with their maturing MetroLink system and old urban neighborhoods.

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Atlanta, IMO.

Detroit sprawls and is losing people in the city limits, but even with all the decline, the city of Detroit is twice as dense as the city of Atlanta. Also, Detroit's suburbs are built somewhat on a grid and spoke system, which results in slightly higher density.

Charlotte and Nashville also qualify if you go by per capita.

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I think Raleigh, Charlotte, and Nashville three deserve a dubious distinction for being some of the most horrific, sprawled, most denseless spaghetti infested metros in the nation. However each of the three are considerably different from one another.

Raleigh is just horrifically decentralized. There IS NO CITY in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill. There are small town centers interconnected by super-sprawl. Its saving grace is among the most educated, and generally progressive populations of southeast metros. Too bad they don't value urban lifestyles.

Charlotte has a centralized CBD, even if its only on Tryon, College, and Church St's. The entire downtown is really 3x10 blocks and is like a tiny, itty-bitty, mini Manhattan. And I emphasize tiny, its almost sacreligious to have Manhattan and Charlotte in the same sentence. Generally a super-low-density metro with sploches of development here and there. And the central business district is, well, too business'y. LOL

Nashville has a super dense 8x10 block downtown of traditional urban proportions besting even Atlanta in many respects. Poor Nashville has more traffic jams on 2nd Avenue during Friday and Saturday club nights at 10pm-1am then Atlanta's downtown has during its business rush hour. Its got a West End neighborhood of urban-esque features both old and new, and an East Nashville resurging somewhat. The dropoff outside these areas are amazingly pathetic, it goes to total CRAP. The rest is horrific pockets here and there, each crappy in their own special way. At least in Nashville you can walk down 5th, Union, or any other street downtown and pretend you are in the northeast. That is until you hear someone speak or notice the 15 story Lifeway cross and Southern Baptist Convention headquarters. *I'm gagging already* :rofl:

The south makes spaghetti bowl streets and roads have a bad rap they don't deserve. Urban cities like Boston and London create urban cities with winding roads, but the south just can't do it no matter how hard it tries. (But in all honesty, its never been tried here. New Orleans is on a grid, afterall.)

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Heckles, I should point out that Raleigh, Nashville and Charlotte combined have less people living in their metros combined than what live in the sprawl to the west of Chicago. They are not really a consideration in this thread.

I can't speak for Nashville's case, but neither Raleigh & Charlotte suffer from the sharp racial divisions present in cities in this poll. And both cities will be spending billions of dollars over the next 20 years for rail transit. Again something that doesn't exist in the polled cities.

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Most people really don't think about this but Jacksonville has incredible sprawl. In fact, Jacksonville I believe that it is one of the largest areas for a city in the United States. Southside and the beaches are two areas that are really growing and taking away from downtown, although downtown is booming. There also is no significant mass-transit system.

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In fact, Jacksonville I believe that it is one of the largest areas for a city in the United States.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Actually, Jacksonville is the largest city in the United States, in terms of area.

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Chicago meets the criteria that I gave above. ... its fixed rail system is really small for a city its size

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hold on a second, which Chicago are you talking about? Sure, if you ONLY count the traditional urban heavy rail system, CTA's "L", then you might be right. But you can't ignore Metra and the South Shore line. For one, the Metra Electric IS an urban heavy rail line, which just happens to be operated by Metra instead of CTA. The rest of the system should really be called "regional rail" rather than "commuter rail" since it offers all-day service 7 days a week with weekday rush hour headways of 6-15 minutes.

The CTA blue line connects directly to O'Hare, and provides a one-seat ride straight to the central business district. Both a CTA loop line and a Metra suburban loop are in the planning stages right now, as well as an extension of Metra to Milwaukee.

Chicago's Fixed Rail transit system is second in the nation only to New York. I have no idea how you could even begin to think that such an expansive network is "small."

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The truth of the matter is that the answer is Atlanta. The sprawl is absolutely incredible. This isn't to say that it isn't on the right track though. People here are starting to realize that this is a huge problem, and a redevelopement of downtown is underway. Atlantic Station is the first step in fixing this problem. The city has begun gaining population after years and years of loss. If the people of Atlanta remain on the right track, I think this will soon change and Detroit will become the new answer. But for right now, its definetly Atlanta. The problem with this poll is that the cities listed might meet the criteria, but they haven't reached the level of sprawl that Atlanta has. In my opinion, Chicago and Detroit meet the criteria, Atlanta doesn't meet the criteria as much, but has reached a level where even while on the right track, it still has the worst sprawl. Not that this will change anything, but two cities that are often ignored in this subject are Dallas and Houston. Both of the cities have over 1 million in the city, and most people then dismiss these cities as being major areas of sprawl, when actually they are. Both cities have and are sprawling terribly, but they often annex any suburb that starts to grow. This distorts their actual city population, and I feel they should be considered major areas of sprawl.

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I think Los Angeles is a city that sprawls toooooooo much. It's downtown core is kind of small for a metro area that extends from Oxnard in the west to Palm Springs in the east, over 160km (100miles) long. It also has 1000km of freeways and so it's dominated by the car culture.

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I have only one more thing to say in this thread.

If this is considered a small suburban rail network (this map totally lacks the EL and inner city bus system), then I don't know what else to say. I think the map speaks for itself.

metra-map-01.jpg

To compare this with the likes of places such as Raleigh or Nashville is quite laughable.

Metra is how I got into Chicago on my recent stay there, and its quite a system second only to New York's regional rail.

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The map does speak for itself. It speaks for the number of people living in the suburbs which is the point of this thread. In terms of the area served vs the number of people within the city, its heavy rail system is inadequate. There are wide areas of Chicago not served by its system.

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Which may be true for a good part of Chicago's non-metra suburbia (which is not the majority of the metro). But this compared to the likes of Atlanta? Houston?

Yeah, I thought so. LOL

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As a west coaster, let me please nominate L.A. 16 million people, almost none of whom live in an area that is "urban" to any extent. Freeways, tract houses, strip malls, box stores, forever and ever.

I live in Santa Barbara (up the coast to the west) and to get to Joshua Tree National Park (in the desert, to the east of LA), you basically have to drive through the L.A. area for fully THREE HOURS - and that's if you hit no traffic and go 70 mph the whole time. So that's a lot of sprawl.

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I thought I'd bring some actual data into the Chicago debate, since it keeps going around in circles.

http://www.publicpurpose.com/ut-jtw2000metro.htm

This URL shows the percentage of commuters using transit in the metro areas of the United States.

Chicago is # 2, behind only New York (but by a large margin).

Chicago's 11.49% compares as follows with other metros mentioned in this thread:

Atlanta 3.65%

Charlotte 1.39%

Detroit 1.82%

Nashville 0.96%

Chicago's system may be inadequate, but it is certainly in a class above and beyond these.

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It should be noted that was for 2000. Chicago's share fell 3% from 1990. Agains this would support the idea that Chicago is becoming more suburbanized. 3% of the Chicago Metro population is quite significant.

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I agree that I don't think Chicago should be counted on this list at all. If anything, we should be talking about Pheonix, who has lost all its population in downtown relative to the sprawling suburbs.

Chicago meets the criteria that I gave above.  It has suffered from white flight, its fixed rail system is really small for a city its size, it is losing popuation to the suburbs, and in terms of raw numbers, Chicago ha more people living in surburban development than an other city in the USA save LA.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Actually from 1950 to 1990, almost every urban city lost population to the suburbs and suffered from 'white flight', this is not unique to Chicago.

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I had never really considered Chicago as a sprawlly place, but I suppose it makes sense.

I think Houston wins this one though. This city is heavily reliant on road networks and has is only now beginning to work on rail. Atlanta can't say much, but it has had MARTA rail for years. Even LA has rail, even though nobody uses it.

Detroit seems to be the only unique place here. It is a city that is in a general decline. The other cities discussed so far are growing.

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