Just as an exercise, I've calculated what SLC's size would be if it had the population density of various other cities (and kept the same SLC population). So, if SLC kept the same number of residents and were built up like NYC, what would it look like? A map of this is shown below (click on it to zoom), as is the data for many cities. While all cities certainly shouldn't look the same, this provides a way to think how particular city designs might make life easier or better. In the map below, notice the faint outline around the current city and the bold red line showing what a NYC-like SLC would look like (this is NYC density with all 5 boroughs, so it wouldn't necessarily be all skyscrapers, either). It would run roughly 2.6 mi on a side, so think 900 W to ~700 E and 500 N to ~1300 S. Basically all of the people in Rose Park, Glendale, Poplar Grove, Liberty Wells, Harvard-Yale, and Sugarhouse would fit in the downtown area. (And it wouldn't necessarily be an urban slum, as NYC is a pleasant enough place.)
The data below not only show the physical size of SLC if it had the density of other cities, but also it's length (if square). So, if SLC even had the population density of San Diego (not exactly known for being urban), SLC would require about half the space it currently occupies (ie, 47 sq mi instead of 109).
Thinking about how SLC compares to other cities may help us find ways to make it better. To be clear, I'm not saying any particular setup should be forced on anyone. Certainly, the local market in any one city should decide how to best allocate space. In future posts, I'll discuss how strict local ordinances, laws, and rules have made SLC less dense than what the market would otherwise decide on.