Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Infographics: The Decongestion of Manhattan, New York Walking Commutes

Jim Russell pointed me at an interesting article about densification vs. de-densification over at the Urbanization Project at NYU Stern. It contains this very interesting map of the change in census tract densities in Manhattan over the century between 1910 and 2010:

Walking Related Commutes

Streetsblog, in an article covering the annual NYC DOT scorecard, included this graphic of the percentage of commutes that include walking as a core component (e.g, transit) in various parts of New York:

Topics: Demographic Analysis
Cities: New York

8 Responses to “Infographics: The Decongestion of Manhattan, New York Walking Commutes”

  1. 5chw4r7z says:

    Jake Mecklenborg at has some interesting insight on urban densities. He talked about how in the early 1900s one or two families could be jammed into a space that one person occupies today. No way we’re going back to that kind of lifestyle.

  2. This no doubt has lead to de-densification. This trend continues today. In Rittenhouse in Philly, for example, the uber-rich are buying two or three rows and combining them into one giant home. And considering the area has extreme height restrictions to new construction, these two forces kills density and causes rents/home prices to go higher still. Left unfettered, density and thus vitality is diminished. The same thing is happening everywhere – look at what Sarah Jessica Parker just did in Brooklyn – she bought two townhomes in Brooklyn Heights I believe, and combined them into one giant home.

  3. Aaron says:

    It’s stunning to see how dense the Lower East Side really was in the early twentieth century compared to today! Is there anywhere in the US that comes remotely close to that level of density today?

  4. Ed says:

    It wasn’t just dense, it was overcrowded. You had lots of families sharing rooms. You can find those type of living conditions in the third world slums. Dharvi a slum Mumbai has a population density of around 12,000 per acre.

  5. Paul says:

    In considering the map one should keep changing age and income demographics in mind. Nationally singles form more “households” today than in the past and and families have substantially fewer children. That shift should be even more pronounced on Manhattan. I’d guess the change in density is partly attributable to a huge drop in the number of children living on Manhattan, particularly on the lower east side. Our older population should, I would think, reduce the impact of the overall population density decline as adults have greater transportation demands than do young children and would even without adding cars to the mix.

  6. Chris Barnett says:

    “Fixing” the social malfunctions that accompany those Lower East Side 1910 levels of density is exactly what led to mid-century “urban renewal” laws and “towers in parks” (Cabrini Green).

    It is this level of density that feeds the “reductio ad absurdum” argument against re-densifying cities, and those of us who advocate for increased density need to be prepared to counter it reasonably. We should understand what is the “tipping point” where density turns bad in a modern city.

    Last time I was researching statutes, the redevelopment laws still on Indiana’s books list “reduction of density” as an appropriate part of a redevelopment plan. (But the densest census tracts in Indiana are probably no more than 10-20 per acre, which is 25-50/hectare, in the very bottom band of Manhattan densities shown above.)

  7. Eric says:

    “the uber-rich are buying two or three rows and combining them into one giant home”

    1) Very few people can afford this, so the effect on the neighborhood is generally minimal.
    2) Better that they want monster-row-houses in the city than monster-estates outside it.

  8. John says:

    I don’t think residential densities are the full story. Could it be that some residential space has been replaced with commercial space over time? Maybe Manhattan has become more of a commercial hub over the last hundred years? I think you would find this to be true in any American CBD that existed in 1910.

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