blockitecture leaderboard

Do Commute Times Create an Inherent Limit to Sprawl?

Charlie Gardner parses the data on mean commuting times recently released as part of the 2010 ACS estimates for metropolitan statistical areas, and wonders what the maximum mean travel time suggests for the urban form of America's cities.

When comparing the mean commuting times among America's large metro areas, something funny appears. "Although population is strongly correlated with commuting time, particularly when all metro areas over population one million are included in the sample, the differences are surprisingly small," notes Gardner. For example, "Orlando, with an urbanized area of only 600 square miles, has a mean commute just twelve seconds shorter than Dallas, which covers 1,780 square miles, although both cities have comparable densities, employment centralization and highway miles per capita."

So is there an inherent limit to the potential extent to which development will sprawl into the fringes of a metropolitan area based on a maximum mean commute time of around 30 minutes? Gardner seems to think so and describes how development in, and around Houston, might be shaped by such forces. 

"This theory doesn't imply that outwards expansion will come to a screeching halt once some magical distance from the center is reached," writes Gardner, "but that the balance of new construction will attempt to shift to the core as commutes from fringe areas begin to significantly exceed 30 minutes."

 

Thanks to Daniel Lippman

Full Story: Commutes, Tradeoffs and the Limits of Urban Growth

Comments

building block set

NEW! Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.
$25
Red necktie with map of Boston

For dads and grads: tie one on to celebrate your city!

Choose from over 20 styles imprinted with detailed city or transit maps.
$44.95
Women's t-shirt with map of Los Angeles

City T-Shirts for the ladies!

Women's Supersoft CityFabric© Fashion Fit Tees. Now available in six different cities.
$24.00
Book cover of Insider's Guide to Careers in Urban Planning

So you want to be a planner...

Check out our behind the scenes look at 25 careers in the Urban Planning field
Starting at $14.95