clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Finding Los Angeles's Dense, Urban, Transit-Riding Core

New, 37 comments

Contrary to the stereotypes, Los Angeles is actually the least sprawly large metro area in the country, but as transportation planner Michael Rhodes writes at Medium, "astute researchers have also pointed out that 'dense sprawl' is not the same as having a concentrated core—think Manhattan or Chicago—that draws transit riders from its far-flung suburbs." And as Los Angeles has changed in major ways over the past decade, the word "density" has usually gone along most closely with Downtown, where you can actually see streets full of people and 40-story apartment buildings and train stops and buses. There's good reason; Downtown is dense, and continues to densify. But Rhodes proposed a different central core, called Central LA, which he draws himself, with boundaries stretching east-west from Fairfax to the LA River, and north-south from the hills down to Jefferson, and he shows how it stands up to his hometown of roughly the same size, a city often held up as a modern urban jewel: San Francisco.

Working with US Census data, Rhodes finds that San Francisco and Central LA (which, again, is a somewhat-arbitrary square of his own invention) are almost equally dense. San Francisco has an average of 17,867 residents per square mile, while Los Angeles has an average of 17,583; both are 47 square miles. Also of note: Koreatown and Westlake are actually more dense than Downtown, with one precinct along Third Street holding more than 100,00 residents per square mile. This made-up Central LA also has 85 percent as many jobs as San Francisco.

Considering all that, Rhodes says this area should be great for transit riders, but 56 percent of residents there drive alone to work; that's "far lower than the national average," but still much higher than San Francisco, where only 37 percent of residents drive alone. There are probably all the usual reasons for that—they work outside this zone, the transit isn't sufficient, there's free parking anyway, but Rhodes also argues that "LA doesn't treat Central LA as the true city it really is, where urban densities undoubtedly warrant putting pedestrians above space-hogging private automobiles." (And it's not so bad anyway—there are two-thirds as many transit boardings in Central LA as there are in San Francisco, which is not too damn shabby.)

Rhodes's findings are similar to those of a USC geography student a couple years back, who identified Los Angeles's long urban core, running between Downtown and the beach roughly along Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards. Ian Grant
̿ Finding The Dense City Hidden In Los Angeles [Medium]
· Los Angeles is the Least Sprawling Big City in the US [Curbed LA]
· USC Geography Student Finds LA Has a Very Long Urban Center [Curbed LA]