Monday, February 10, 2014

Is SLC especially sprawly compared to other cities?

One thing that hasn’t come up much (from the politicians at least) in the talk of SLC air quality is the urban (or un-urban) design of the city and surrounding communities. Upgrades to vehicle mileage may help little if residents are compelled to push to the outskirts of the city to find affordable housing. While there are a several issues involved here that we’ll unpack over time, today we’ll simply look at the density of Salt Lake City proper compared to other western cities. This will at least give us an idea of whether our notable winter air quality issues are mainly due to the surrounding mountains or if we are more sprawly (and thus probably more spew-y) than other cities. The data are from wikipedia.

I was actually pretty surprised by these. Who knew that SLC proper made Boise look downright metropolitan? Boise proper has about 60% more people per square mile than SLC proper. And who knew Las Vegas and Tucson were such comparatively dense cities? I’ll let the data here mainly speak for itself, but perhaps Salt Lake isn't just suffering from unlucky geography when it comes to air quality.

** Note: the data obviously aren’t a perfect proxy of metro density, as SLC proper is smaller (area-wise) compared to its metro area than are these other cities.

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