Austin Densifying Faster than Portland

COST Comments: The observations below are by Radal O’Toole in the Antiplanner. The sequence of presentation has been slightly modified to highlight Austin instead of Houston. These data indicate that density trend reality is much different than percieved or advertised by many people.

The Antiplanner’s faithful ally, Wendell Cox, presents these data on changes in urban density between 2000 and 2007. The density of the Portland urban area grew by 12.4 percent. Meanwhile, the density of the Austin urban area grew by 16.6 percent.

Other relatively unplanned urban areas also had rapid density growth: Riverside-San Bernardino (the least-planned communities in southern California) by 19.5 percent; Atlanta by 17.7 percent; Las Vegas by 15.6 percent and Houston by 14.3 percent.

It is also interesting to note that Dallas-Ft Worth is densifying at 9.7%, much more slowly than Austin, even with its concentrated focus and spending of billions of dollars on light rail transit and transit oriented development.

Some of the smallest changes in urban density were in San Francisco (minus 0.4 percent), Boston (1.1 percent), San Diego (2.7 percent), and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana (3.2 percent). All of these have professed a commitment to become a more compact urban area, but failed to live up to it.

Cox cautions that “These data relate to the urban footprints (land areas) as determined by the US Bureau of the Census in 2000. No adjustment has been made for geographical expansion of urban areas since that time. Thus, the 2007 density figures do not indicate urban area densities in 2007, but rather the density of the 2000 boundaries in 2007.”

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