Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Density, Vibrancy, and Opportunity Zones by Tory Gattis

[ Here’s the second part of Tory Gattis’ take on vibrancy and car based urbanism. – Aaron. ]

Last week I tried taking Jane Jacobs’ four tenants of vibrancy and applying them to the car-based city, describing the concept of the mobility/draw zone. It can be roughly summarized in this excerpt:

So the four tenets of vibrancy transformed for the car-based city get reduced to two:
  1. Loose zoning/permitting constraints to enable both a wide diversity of businesses as well as population density where there is consumer demand (apartments, condos, townhomes)
  2. Maximized mobility with a well-designed, high-capacity arterial and freeway network

These two principles maximize the population within the largest possible mobility/draw zone, which gives vibrancy its best chance of reaching critical mass and flourishing.

The next day, I promised these two topics (among others) in a future post. This is that post.

  • Rename “mobility/draw-zones” to “opportunity zones”, since they represent the opportunity region for a consumer, explorer, job seeker, or business owner – and the larger it is and the more people it has, the larger the opportunity and the resulting vibrancy.
  • How Manhattan and Houston have very similar opportunity zones despite dramatic differences in urban form, and have the potential for similar levels of vibrancy in some respects.

Density is a big focus of debate in today’s urban planning. Again, if your assumed mobility mode is 3mph walking, or walking plus mass transit, you need a lot of people in a small area to create vibrancy within the mobility zone. In Jacob’s world, mobility is basically fixed and density is variable. In the car-based world, density is relatively fixed (well below Jacob’s standard of >100 dwellings/acre because of the need to accommodate cars and parking plus the majority desire for single-family residential living or mid-density apartments), but mobility is variable depending on the road network and traffic congestion – which can substantially affect the size of the mobility zone. Since what really counts is the population within the 10-20 minute mobility zone – as a proxy for easily accessible diversity and vibrancy – lets take a look at some estimated mobility zones in Manhattan and Houston:

Population Sq miles Pop/sq.Mile
Manhattan 1,487,536 22.6 65,820
Houston 2,000,000 570 3,509

15 min off-peak trip in 5 min intervals, speed in mph 1st 5m 2nd 5m 3rd 5m Dist (mi) Area (pi*r^2) Population in zone
Manhattan scenarios
All walking 3 3 3 0.75 1.8 116,255
Walk/wait + subway + walk 3 30 3 3.00 28.3 1,860,078
Walk/wait + taxi* 3 12 12 2.25 15.9 1,046,294
All taxi* 12 12 12 3.00 28.3 1,860,078
Houston scenarios
Arterial drive 30 30 30 7.50 176.6 619,737
Artery, freeway, artery 30 65 30 10.42 340.7 1,195,480
Artery, then all freeway 30 65 65 13.33 558.2 1,958,674

* Average Manhattan taxi covers 1.9 miles in 10 minutes, ~12 mph (source)
(note that some Manhattan scenarios actually show a mobility zone population larger than the actual population of Manhattan, due to the circular nature of the model vs. Manhattan’s actual long, thin-island geography – but it still serves its illustrative purpose)

Several interesting observations come out of this table:

  • A car-based city with a strong freeway network has the potential to match the vibrancy and diversity of a high-density city like Manhattan. This is not to say that Houston and New York are equivalent. This is an analysis of the diversity available in a typical, everyday 15-minute trip. Special occasion trips (museums, sporting events, concerts, theater, etc.) have a much higher acceptable commute time, and therefore draw on a larger area. New York is a much older and larger city that can draw on a regional metro population of 21 million, substantially more than Houston’s 5 million.
  • The classic “monotony of the suburban edge cities” phenomenon is explained by looking at the all-arterial drive scenario, which is common on the fringes. The fringes also drop population density rapidly as they get farther out, further reducing the mobility zone population and therefore diversity/vibrancy (ex: the mobility zone of interest for suburban Sugar Land in southwest Houston is to the north and east, not south or west).
  • Los Angeles was the first large-scale car-based city, and it is often not held in high regard. Why? LA has many arterials with overloaded, slow freeways and no frontage roads (although they do have higher density to somewhat make up for it). That drives LA towards the “all-arterial” scenario, or the middle scenario at best. Houston has a strong frontage-road network with substantial retail, office, and other commercial services – the car-based city equivalent of “vibrant street retail.” Even commercial/retail space not on the frontage roads is often within a couple minutes of a frontage road. This allows Houston to make the third scenario a relatively common one, with it’s attendant high access to diversity within the mobility zone.
  • Jacobs describes a “density dead zone” of greater than 12 dwellings per acre but less than 100 dwellings per acre – too dense to be suburban but too sparse to be really urban. These areas almost never achieve vibrancy or diversity. Arterial-driven car-based cities with weak freeway networks seem to be the car-based equivalent of this “dead zone” with low density and relatively low-to-moderate mobility.

Comments welcome and encouraged.

This post originally appeared in Houston Strategies on May 11, 2006.

Topics: Economic Development, Public Policy
Cities: Houston, New York

93 Responses to “Density, Vibrancy, and Opportunity Zones by Tory Gattis”

  1. John Morris says:

    The purpose of the little spreadsheet was to show that Houston had just as solid a business “model” as Manhattan with similar “draw zones” for shopping.

    Logically, one should be able to show similar retail sales statistics to back up the claim that the results are anything comparable.

  2. Tory says:

    Who said they’re supporting equally? I’m just saying travel time matters no matter what your mobility mode. You might be willing to take a 15 min trip to a restaurant, but not a 30 min trip to get to the same restaurant. Vibrancy is related to the size of the populations within those travel time circles, whether they’re small/slow and high-density, or large/fast and low-density. And people link together trips no matter what mobility mode they’re using or density they’re dealing with.

  3. John Morris says:

    The post very much implies this was a model for a “vital city”, which of course suggests a pretty wide distribution of active shopping, nightlife etc…

    The whole comparison to NY is beyond absurd. If I take a 25 minute subway ride to many areas of Manhattan, I might have 50 restaurant choices in reasonable walking distance plus retail, entertainment choices. If I hear about a good place in a typical area of Houston and I drive to it and don’t like it, how many choices are there? I get in the car and drive another 10 minutes.

  4. F says:

    “What if I’m elderly or disabled, so I don’t want stairs in my house? I need a large, flat floorplate, rather than an elevated apt or townhouse.”

    Eh, I think the ADA already mandates that newly constructed apartments at least somewhat accommodate such people. You could argue about whether this is economically more sound than providing paratransit. I suspect it is, but I don’t know. The claim that kids can’t play in a city park without supervision is… an modern American phenomenon. I could address the other things too, but you’re right that this wasn’t really the point of the post.

    On the other hand it does seem to me that places like Houston actively discourage people who want to live in dense communities by building them so as to accommodate droves of suburban cars on wide streets and lots of parking lots. I believe Houston also has some of the worst smog in the country despite being on a plain where it should blow away…

    So I want to get off my hobby-horse and comment on a couple of other things that have come up.

    “Unincorporated areas of counties in Texas… most of what they build is car-oriented single-family homes.”

    Well duh! Those areas, just by being where they are, are attracting a section of the population that cares a lot about having lots of land and a big house and doesn’t mind driving everywhere. On the other hand, Houston itself _does_ have plenty of anti-density regulations:

    Of course some people will always prioritize living in a single-family home on a big lot. But there are a lot of people whose preferences are somewhere in between and what sort of living situation they choose is influenced by relative prices and the relative convenience of urban vs. suburban living. If most of the space in an urban location is taken up by pavement accommodating the cars of suburbanites, that location will be relatively unpleasant, so fewer people will choose to live there — that is one factor.

    “The densification of the bars along lower Westheimer has lead to backside neighborhoods complaining about street parking, thus the consideration of new parking minimums.”

    Or you could make, you know, people pay for parking their own damn cars, rather than the businesses they patronize.

  5. Tory says:

    I’d say, generally speaking, whatever options you have within X minutes in Manhattan (walking, transit, taxi, whatever), you’ll have a similar number of options within X minutes driving in central Houston, with the exception of very highest-end things that NYC supports as the largest city in the country (Broadway, highest-tier world class museums, etc.). But in terms of everyday restaurants, shopping, bars, etc. – definitely.

    In fact, I’d say Houston is much better in some cases because of the more affordable space. I’ve seen grocery stores in Manhattan, and they’re not even in same ballpark as Houston. Similar difference as I described for Specs above vs. a corner liquor store. In 10-15 minutes I can be at any of a dozen gigantic, very nice grocery stores with massive selections and low prices because they are hyper-competitive with each other. Better yet, I don’t have to struggle to tote them home – just toss ’em in the car.

  6. Tory says:

    We are building many more dense, mixed-use, walkable areas with narrow streets, because there’s a market for it and the developers are responding. In fact, I live in one. But these neighborhoods are still woven into a wider network of fair size arterials and freeways to go longer distances.

    Smog: curse of geography, climate (hot humid stale air in the summers), and a huge concentration of the nation’s refineries. Still lessening every year. Plenty of other car-based cities don’t have smog issues.

    Unincorporated counties and MPCs: just saying the free market doesn’t seem to be supporting Brooklyn-equivalents on unregulated land, although they’re perfectly welcome to build it.

    “But there are a lot of people whose preferences are somewhere in between and what sort of living situation they choose is influenced by relative prices and the relative convenience of urban vs. suburban living.”

    And in unzoned Houston, the market is responding by building thousands of apartments, high-rises, and townhomes, densifying rapidly in the core. In fact, one of the biggest trends in central Houston is replacing a single-family home (or a cluster of them) with a group of 3 narrow, tall townhomes – similar to NY’s brownstones. Zoned cities simply won’t allow that.

  7. John Morris says:

    How many mixed use areas and densification can you really have with the parking minimums I linked to, which of course, the market actually demands even though it’s the law.

    So, Tory after you drive the ten to 15 minutes and have a few drinks–you don’t drive home?

  8. F says:

    These all sound like good things — and having grown up in the Bay Area, I definitely appreciate the relatively low barriers to development in Houston. And I suspect that when energy prices go through the roof, places like Houston will be better able to respond.

    “Plenty of other car-based cities don’t have smog issues.”
    Sure, smaller ones.

    Ah, but also I remembered the other thing I wanted to say. Even if there are walkable dense neighborhoods, the vibrancy you’re talking about is still only available to people who drive — for example because transit will never be as fast as driving on a freeway. And that, for example, leaves out and isolates the people who are living in those dense neighborhoods. Or they still have to shell out the money for a car…

  9. Tory says:

    Drinking and driving is certainly an issue here. It’s why they have designated driver campaigns, and most people try to be smart about tapering off their drinking as it gets closer to closing/leaving time. We do have a privately-run shuttle bus service called the Washington Wave that serves one of the main nightlife districts (Washington Ave), so you can barhop with a buzz, and then it serves the higher density apt areas nearby, or you need to lose your buzz before you get in your remotely parked car (and the police are hard-core serious about it around here too). Of course plenty of people call taxis too, or have taxis called for them.

    Smog: I was thinking of Atlanta, DFW, Phoenix – similar size, not a serious smog problem. And this is less of an issue every year as new fuel and car standards phase in.

    Of course you will be at a travel time disadvantage if you don’t have a car in a car-based city, just as a walking-disabled person would be at a severe disadvantage in Manhattan. I can’t imagine trying to get around there in a wheelchair, with the packed sidewalks and virtually inaccessible subways and cabs, plus tiny aisles in most stores. Those people are honestly better off with a hand-controlled car that can accommodate their wheelchair.

  10. John Morris says:

    I agree that the subway system is not good for wheelchairs in spite of massive and seemingly totally wastful investments that seem to be for show. Only now do a lot of stations have elevators to the platforms and even the new stations have narrow space walkways around obstacles that would make it insanely dangerous to get around.

    The bus system seems to work pretty well for the disabled and one sees wheelchairs pretty often.

    As for the insanely crowded streets, a core problem is that car trafic which accounts for a small percent of Manhattan users takes up 70% or more of the street space.

  11. John Morris says:

    Surprise! From 2009


    Harris County tops DWI fatalities for large U.S. counties.

    “Experts agree the county’s high DWI fatality rate is partly a byproduct of limited public transportation for the region’s 3.9 million residents and an urban sprawl leading them to drive many miles.”

    I’m sure raising the minimum parking reqirements near bars will help a lot.

  12. Tory says:

    Yes, cities should clearly be designed around minimizing DWIs. Or maybe they should be designed around minimizing pedestrian street crime, like muggings?

  13. Tory says:

    Sorry, my sarcasm was uncalled for. But the point still stands – certain crimes are more common in car vs. walking cities, and neither should dictate city design. Which is still getting way, way, way off the point of the original post.

  14. John Morris says:

    Actually, the crime data indicates Houston doesn’t do that well there either.


    “Crime statistics are listed for U.S. cities with a population of 250,000 or greater. Rates are based on cases per 100,000 people for all of calendar year 2010”

    Houston ———————————New York

    Violent Crime——–986.1 —————581.7

    Murder/Manslaughter—11.8 —————6.4

    Rape —————–31.2 —————12.4

    Robbery ————–414.3 ————–235.2

    Aggravated Assault—-528.8 ————–327.6

    Property Crime ——-5,056.1 ————1,674.8

    Burglary ————-1,224.3 ————215.0

    Larceny/Theft———3,269.9 ————1,336.0

    Motor Vehicle theft —561.9 ————-123.8

    Arson —————–37.9 ————– NA

  15. John Morris says:

    In this case Houston with 414.3 comes close to doubling NY’s robbery/ mugging rate of 235.2.

    Many of New York’s highest crime areas more closely resemble Houston in design.

  16. Tory says:

    Houston and NYC have dramatically different populations, poverty rates, and geographies – crime is based on a wide range of variables far beyond city form. Try comparing NY crime stats to car-based cities like Greenwich, Ct or Santa Barbara, CA and see how they stack up. Or compare Washington DC crime stats with Houston? See what I mean? The simple fact is that you are far less likely to be a victim of crime while driving a car than walking on the street. But that fact shouldn’t dictate city design either.

  17. John Morris says:

    What I see is someone who made a comparison to NYC and now is trying to weasel out of any comparison at all.

    BTW, the crime stats are for areas of 250,000 or greater.
    Are you seriously saying that cherry picking a wealthy area like Greenwich, CT to compare to a huge city like NYC is reasonable?

  18. Tory says:

    I still think this is an irrelevant thread, but OK, how about DC vs. Houston? (city, not metro).

  19. Tory says:

    Or Baltimore vs. Houston?

  20. Alon Levy says:

    Baltimore is urban renewal hell. I don’t know enough, but for all I know the same could be true of DC.

    It’s not just a density issue. It’s more urban renewal. Providence does better on crime than the other second-tier New England cities; it’s denser, but still below Jacobsian levels. The difference is that it’s intact, whereas New Haven, and from what little I’ve seen also Worcester, is full of the renewal projects that Jacobs railed against independently of any transportation mode war. Yale student housing is often project-style; Brown student housing is your standard medium-density urban housing stock, and from my admittedly limited acquaintance with Hope and Olneyville, the same is true elsewhere in Providence too.

    If you want low crime, you need a city that’s reasonably intact. Greenwich and other greenfield suburbs work fine; what doesn’t work is urban renewal. You should also have a police department that the residents trust, which means that Phoenix and San Francisco are out, for very different reasons. (New York and Los Angeles both do okay on this.) I’m honestly not sure where Houston falls into any of this though.

  21. John Morris says:

    Right,I think Baltimore has all kinds of deep flaws in terms of how neighborhoods mix together, how land uses are mixed and all kinds of problems related to “root shock”.


    The crime stats came up here because…

    A) Tory uses the term, “vitality” over and over again which implies a pretty large degree of street life and street safety.

    B) Tory has explicitly implied that driving everywhere radically reduces the chances of becoming a crime victim and that lower density, car oriented areas are always lower in crime. The data does not seem to support this.

  22. Mike says:

    John, I suggest taking your critique of Tory’s theories to a long form rebuttal, because I’m not sure how productive the needling back and forth is. Furthermore I’m also not sure you’ve made a successful point that directly rebuts his theory about Houston vs. NYC.

    If I’m reading his post correctly the basic idea is that to achieve a diversity of different uses necessary for vibrancy, in Houston accessibility–specifically auto accessibility–is prized over population density. In NYC to achieve the same results density and a good transit network is valued most. I’m reading a lot about future gas prices, crime and the psychological benefits of transit and walking vs. cars. While they are all valid critiques they don’t really address the heart of his theory.

    If his metric is to be believed then you can access the same population size in the same amount of time in Houston and New York. This is a compelling case. Basically you have two different ways of doing the same thing. Both models require different forms of transportation to be successful. But both can be very successful if those transportation methods are maximized. Which one is better, is largely based on which lifestyle you value. It is not a virtue to be a part of one and a sin to be a part of the other. Both cities function very differently but both seem to be pretty good and being vibrant in their own way.

    Personally I prefer the dense walk-able version. This is a lifestyle choice that offers certain advantages over Houston but I don’t begrudge people from Houston choosing a different path. Personally I’ve never been to Houston, but it does fascinate me as the sort of anti-urban, urban city. Even living in Chicago I think it is silly to hate Houston or the Houston model. There is undeniable value there and many people, many more than Chicago and New York, are moving there to take advantage of it.

    Tory, what I’d like to see more of is a critique of the Houston model and when you think it begins to break down. You mention LA as similar but inferior model. Is there a point where Houston becomes too dense and the road network too congested? I’m thinking of Chicago, a city both dense and sprawling. Our freeway and arterial networks are overloaded with cars and it’s often very difficult to get around. At some point Houston will reach the limit of outward expansion. Even if it continues to sprawl each successive ring of suburbia will inevitably put pressure on the central core. This should increase congestion at the center, challenging the mobility of city residents and decreasing their area of accessibility. How then can Houston preserve is accessibility so it can maintain its vibrancy?

  23. John Morris says:

    Where does Tory use anything close to hard numbers to show the results are anything close to the same?

    If one asks for avg square ft. retail comparisons–he says it’s off the subject.

    If one questions his absurdly low 15 minute “opportunity zone” for Manhattan–it’s not relevant.

    If you try to look for all the hidden infrastructure costs, healthcare costs, paratransit costs, school busing costs it’s not relevant.

    If you bring up drunk driving–he makes a counter claim about crime which isn’t true.

    It’s not really up to me to rebut Tory’s assertions, it’s up to Tory to prove them.

  24. Tory says:

    The point I was making is that you can find high crime and low crime versions of both types of cities.

    “A) Tory uses the term, “vitality” over and over again which implies a pretty large degree of street life and street safety.”

    Vibrancy was the word, and if you go back and check the posts, I say nothing about street life or street safety. The definition I’m using is at the beginning of the first post.

    “B) Tory has explicitly implied that driving everywhere radically reduces the chances of becoming a crime victim and that lower density, car oriented areas are always lower in crime. The data does not seem to support this.”

    This is not at all what I said. I said you’re very unlikely to be a victim of crime while you’re driving a car. That’s not the same as saying low density areas have low crime. There are still plenty of property and other types of crimes in all sorts of cities.

  25. John Morris says:

    “If his metric is to be believed.”

    Well, isn’t that the real question here? We also have to try to look at relative costs–even though this system socialises them in a way that makes them harder to quantify.

    BTW, for the record I think the way Houston is allowing mixed land uses in a way few cities will allow for a lot of If his metric is to be believed and fix quite a lot of the problems this model causes.

  26. John Morris says:


    For the record I think the way Houston is allowing mixed land uses in a way few cities will, fixes quite a lot of the problems this model causes.

    Densification and transit would fix the rest, but then we wouldn’t have the city he outlines here.

  27. John Morris says:

    “This is not at all what I said. I said you’re very unlikely to be a victim of crime while you’re driving a car. That’s not the same as saying low density areas have low crime. There are still plenty of property and other types of crimes in all sorts of cities.”

    Houston has significantly higher rates of crime across the board than NYC as a whole, including all kinds of violent person on person crime.

    If the comparison was just to Manhattan, it would look much worse.

  28. Tory says:

    Thanks, Mike. I really appreciate your thoughtful comment.

    I am concerned that the future of Houston = LA. That is a very real and legitimate concern, and I’m not sure what the answer is. In fact, I can’t think of any car-based metros in the world larger than Houston or DFW that don’t have substantial mobility problems.

    What is happening in Houston is what is happening to many cities: employers slowly shift from the core to a beltway freeway. Their family employees move farther out to newer areas with good school districts. Their younger, single or coupled employees live in a denser core and reverse commute. The problem then is that it can be difficult for outer suburb family employees to switch employers without moving if they are not in roughly the same “pie slice” of the metro area – the commute is simply too far. But it does enable dramatic and substantial growth. Consider that the area of a circle is pi*r^2, so every additional mile of radius adds exponentially more land area – and therefore population capacity – to the metro. So it actually doesn’t take much more radius sprawl to hold substantially more population growth. More here:

    Another thought, which is pure theory at this point. If you think about each household having a declining trip density with travel time (i.e. short trips are more common, longer trips are rarer – think of an expanding but fading circle of trip probabilities as you get farther from the household), then in theory there should be some freeway+arterial grid that can be near infinitely expandable as the metro grows. Put another way, once somebody is living far enough out, they’re not really adding almost any congestion in the core, because they don’t travel there very often (probably mostly for special occasions). In Houston’s case, new residents in The Woodlands (far north) not only don’t add much traffic to the core, they add almost zero to traffic in Sugar Land (SW) or Clear Lake (SE). In LA, new residents to Riverside don’t add much congestion in the Valley, LA, or Orange County. Historical studies have shown that people almost universally limit themselves to a half-hour commute each way. If an employers is much beyond that, they’ll move, or they’ll hunt for a new employer inside that range. What this implies is that at some point you can keep expanding the metro area without adding congestion in the core, because those people are so far out they rarely go there. The question is what this steady state looks like, in terms of density and the required freeway lanes to provide reasonable mobility. Clearly LA got way too much density without nearly enough freeway lane miles. Orange County learned from that mistake and is much, much better. Hopefully the future of Houston can be more like Orange County, and less like LA.

  29. Tory says:

    “Houston has significantly higher rates of crime across the board than NYC as a whole, including all kinds of violent person on person crime.

    If the comparison was just to Manhattan, it would look much worse.”

    And I’m saying that’s based on demographic factors other than city form. I can pick urban cities that have much more crime than suburban Houston, like DC, Baltimore, New Orleans and Philly (and look at some of the crazy violent crime stories that were coming out of urban south Chicago last year). And I can pick suburban cities that have much more crime than most urban ones, like Detroit or St. Louis. You can pick any two cities of either form to get the comparison you want. It’s meaningless.

  30. John Morris says:


    Your quote brought crime into the discussion. (Although, one person rased the issue before)

    “Yes, cities should clearly be designed around minimizing DWIs. Or maybe they should be designed around minimizing pedestrian street crime, like muggings?”

    It sure looks like you said that so we be left with the impression that Houston had a lower than average crime rate.
    Houston has a higher rate of muggings than NYC.

    From what we can tell your advice to people in Houston is to stay off the streets and run to your car as fast as you can.

  31. John Morris says:

    I agree that Tory’s model is of a city where most people don’t commute into the core.

  32. Tory says:

    “Yes, cities should clearly be designed around minimizing DWIs. Or maybe they should be designed around minimizing pedestrian street crime, like muggings?”

    “It sure looks like you said that so we be left with the impression that Houston had a lower than average crime rate.
    Houston has a higher rate of muggings than NYC.”

    Again, a misinterpretation. You brought up DWIs as a factor in city design, and I was just pointing out the flip side that driving in a car virtually eliminates the chance of getting street mugged. Crime stats are irrelevant. Houston may have more muggings, but by definition those are people walking in the street (walking still does happen here). If you’re in a car, it won’t happen. I’m pointing out the absurdity of designing cities to minimize one type of crime or another.

    “From what we can tell your advice to people in Houston is to stay off the streets and run to your car as fast as you can.”

    Again, a gross mischaracterization. Houston has good and bad neighborhoods, just as NYC does. NYC has driven up the cost of living so I that poorer – and more crime-ridden – populations have been driven out. Houston is a very affordable city, and so we certainly still have our share of poorer and more crime-ridden neighborhoods, just as every city in the country does. But they don’t define the city any more than Harlem or the Bronx define NYC or Watts defines LA.

  33. Tory says:

    Or the south side defines Chicago.

  34. Tory says:

    I certainly noticed you weren’t so quick to pull the crime stats for other urban cities I suggested, like DC or Baltimore…

  35. John Morris says:

    Did I ever say Houston had the worst crime stats in the country? What I did say is they are worse than New York’s–which is the place you compared Houston to.

    Do people live in their cars? Sooner or later, you come out so the total crime stats are very relevant.

    You could get raped or abducted in the parking garage like this.


    Or car jacked while sitting in a fitness center parking lot like this.


    Or hit on the head outside a gas station


  36. John Morris says:


    You do know that Harlem is in Manhattan?– A large chunk of upper Manhattan is known to most people as Harlem. The bottom line is that the crime stats there are all that bad and have shown huge improvement.

  37. John Morris says:

    Are not all that bad.

  38. Tory says:

    Great. Now we’re pulling anecdotal crimes stories. You win, John. I did a Google News search and was unable to find any crime stories of any kind for New York. Clearly it is paradise on earth.

    We’re so far off topic there’s no point anymore. While crime stats can certainly be relevant for choosing a place to live, linking them to urban form (the original point of the post) does not make sense, as I’ve argued above and will not repeat here.

  39. John Morris says:

    This a drive you took.

    Yes, I do tend to link urban form to street safety and so did Jane Jacobs.

    Chapter one:

    Death and Life of Great American Cities:

    The uses of sidewalks: safety

  40. John Morris says:


    This is in no way a very strange theory and it would be widely known to anyone who read Death & Life.


    The third comment in your first post was from Travis:

    “Did you read the entire book? Did you read the first few chapters? What about the safety that pedestrian vibrancy produces?”

    What do you think all the “eyes on the street” focus in her book was mostly about?

  41. Alon Levy says:

    For the record, as of the 2000 census (sorry, Wikipedia’s numbers go to 2000), Houston’s poverty rate is 20%, vs. 29% in Providence and 21% in New York. New York’s pushed poor people out in the last 10-15 years and that’s led to a drop in in-city poverty, but the drop in crime happened mostly in the 1990s. And this assumes you believe that the cost of living (at least for the poor) is the same in New York and Houston, which I more or less do but others may think New York’s real poverty rate is much worse.

    By the way, I’m surprised nobody’s yet mentioned El Paso, Austin, and San Diego.

  42. John Morris says:

    That’s my reading. I want to pull up some easy to understand crime borough wide crime stats for just Queens and Brooklyn.

    Even Joel Kotkin, has I think been a pretty big fan of their ability to absorb massive dense waves of poor immigrants and create “opportunity”.

    For the most part, neighborhoods that fit with the general “Jane Jacobs” model-mixed use-density-walkability etc… are not having big crime problems.

  43. Tory says:

    Kotkin and opportunity:

    Note the author, project coordinator, and the featured/model city. You may also find the policy framework of interest.

The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City is the first Urbanophile e-book, featuring provocative essays on the key issues facing our cities, including innovation, talent attraction and brain drain, global soft power, sustainability, economic development, and localism. Included are 28 carefully curated essays out of nearly 1,200 posts in the first seven years of the Urbanophile, plus 9 original pieces. It's great for anyone who cares about our cities.

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Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker, and writer on a mission to help America’s cities thrive and find sustainable success in the 21st century.

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