December 21, 2018

Davis on Density: Some Comparisons (especially Vancouver and Paris) – 1

Tim Davis, a Portlander and occasional PT commenter, also publishes urbanistically interesting posts – like this one on comparative densities of Paris and other cities.  I’ve included links to some of the original Price Tags (pdf files) that provide additional perspective.

1. The land area of Paris *includes* the gigantic bookend parks whose combined area is *six times* the size of New York’s Central Park. And if Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes were removed from Paris, the city’s density would jump to nearly 66,000 people per square mile.

2. Vancouver’s absolutely dreamy West End has a density that just ekes out that of Paris (by roughly 3.5%).

3. There’s a specific census tract in eastern downtown Toronto whose population density is *four times* that of Paris. And yet, everyone somehow survives and even seems to thrive.

4. There are fully *195* census tracts in New York City alone whose population density exceeds 200/acre. That’s 128,000 people per square mile, or roughly 50,000 people per square kilometer. And 200 people per acre is 2.3 times the density of Paris!  Granted, census tracts can obviously be incredibly small. But it’s just more fun with numbers, and I have *endless* fun with numbers.

5. Vienna has just one fifth the population density of Paris. However, Vienna’s land area is nearly four times that of Paris, and a near-record-for-all-western-cities percentage of Vienna (two thirds!!) has zero people living in it (parks and other vast empty spaces on the city’s perimeter). Thus, Vienna’s “effective density” is well over half that of Paris. In fact, Vienna also has over half as many people living within two miles of City Hall as Paris does. And that’s a MUCH more accurate measure of true urban density.

6. Cities tend to lose a TON of density once you venture more than two miles beyond City Hall. Paris just happens to be a *major* exception. Many of the most densely populated parts of Paris are actually between two and three miles from City Hall. This is incredibly rare for any city on Earth. And it’s the main contributor to the high density of Paris. But when you only look at the parts of the city lying within two miles of City Hall, Paris is less dense than Barcelona and several other European cities. And within one mile of downtown, Paris barely beats Toronto or Vancouver, and it obviously pales compared to Manhattan that close in. But Vancouver’s density is *appallingly low* two miles or more south or west of Granville Island.


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  1. Thanks so much for publishing this, Gordon! It was fun reading some of my research again on cities, overall urban density and density patterns within certain radii of downtown! 🙂

  2. I found this really interesting but I’m not sure what I can add. The only thing I would like to see more is some more images showing Vancouver and Paris with a circle round city hall showing a radius of 2 miles or other measurements. I can’t seem to figure out how to make it with the available free mapping software. Anyone?

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