88% of the US urban population is in NYC

The greatest concentration of the highest densities is in New York, which has 88 percent of the national population living at more than 25,000 per square mile (approximately 10,000 per square kilometer). Los Angeles ranked second at 3.5 percent and San Francisco ranks third at 3.2 percent (Figure 4).

This explains why everyplace in the US other than New York City feels a bit like a rural outpost.

No one, however, rationally believes that densities approximating anything 25,000 per square mile or above will occur, no matter how radical urban plans become.

The writer, Wendell Cox, must mean in the US, as far higher densities are being built elsewhere.

But why shouldn’t there be at least one other real city in the US? Before discarding as an irrational thought, consider how it could happen:

  1. Massive densification of an existing near-city. This does seem rather unlikely. As I’ve noted before, the population of San Francisco and Oakland would have to quadruple to be as dense as Manhattan and Brooklyn. Even with likely continued semi-dense infill development, and plausible recovery of lots of space for people via freeway demolition and robot cars, they would continue to be semi-urban.
  2. Massively dense near-greenfield (probably in an existing metro area) development. I gather this is happening all over China, but to happen in the US costs would have to go way down or demand unexpectedly go way up. The first could well occur through robot and other construction technology improvements, the second is not likely but ought to occur through the destruction of international apartheid.
  3. Mix of the first two: increased demand and decreased construction costs and space dedicated to cars allow at least one US city that isn’t NYC to do a huge amount of really dense infill development.

If there were to be a dense new city within an existing US metro area, where is most likely?

Which US city is the best candidate for achieving the third, mixed scenario?

(I very selectively quoted from the Cox post, which mostly focuses on 10,000 per square mile density. There are lots of comments on the post at Urbanophile, including those stating the obvious that 10k is not very dense at all.)

3 Responses

  1. Gordon Mohr says:

    There’s been talk of ‘charter cities’ in Latin America or other places craving more high-value urbanization… maybe the US itself could host one, constitutionally dedicated to density and a proper weighting of potential-residents’ needs (rather than just incumbents).

    Perhaps rather than the controversy of nationwide ‘immigration reform’, one or more such dedicated zones could welcome immigrants under a much-more-liberal regional policy – any non-criminal who has proof of income/job and purchases a home or signs a long-term rental contract. They’d only be able to visit the rest of the US in a temporary manner, as if on short-term visits from their original country… but after a few years of upstanding productive residence in ‘the Zone’ they could be fast-tracked to green card or citizenship. (“Neither amnesty nor a handout, but an audition.”)

    What region of the US might find this urbanization helpful? It sometimes seems Alaska wants more people. The someday-maybe Free State of New Hampshire? Detroit? The Republic of Lakotah?

  2. Dedicated zones with policies favoring increased demand and supply of people and dense infrastructure could indeed increase probability of an additional City in the US. But I’m not sure going as far as something that’d be thought of as “constitutionally dedicated” would be less controversial and more likely than general migration liberalization and allowance for dense and cheap construction in various places, with one or some pulling ahead.

    Other diffuse discussion at https://identi.ca/conversation/100298473 with one suggestion of Chicago.

    One obvious take on the near-greenfield scenario would be a massive aerotropolis, which from what I can tell is a theoretical concept, except at very small scale. Lots of US metros (but mostly not on the coasts) have airports surrounded by largely undeveloped land. (Ought to go without saying, but in case not: skyscrapers not required for very high density.)

    For anything growing within an existing city, I’d guess a large empty downtown (population wise) would be a place to start. If skyscrapers become cheap, put a whole lot more of them in existing downtowns, next to offices, replacing parking and other low intensity uses. Almost all US cities have population empty downtowns, but few are large. My bet is probably LA, or maybe just NYC doubling to 17m.

  3. […] a serious part of me is serious about this, I know that only small progress is possible for now, perhaps until the em […]

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