Stress and the city, part 2

<p class="EC_MsoNormal"> Not long ago, I posted on what makes some cities more stressful than others.<span> </span>(See <a href="/40441" target="_blank"></a> ).<span> </span>In that post, I remarked that the ideal objective indicia of stress (resident surveys on crime, illness, etc.) often do not exist for most cities. </p>

Read Time: 3 minutes

September 14, 2009, 11:53 AM PDT

By Michael Lewyn @mlewyn

Not long ago, I posted on what makes some cities more stressful
than others. (See
). In that post, I remarked that the
ideal objective indicia of stress (resident surveys on crime, illness, etc.)
often do not exist for most cities.

It occurred to me that it might be useful to talk about more
subjective indicators- if only to see if other people think about the same
things that I think about. I have lived
in ten cities since graduating from law school 23 years ago (not counting Toronto,
where I have lived for a grand total of two weeks). By far, Miami
was the most stressful of those cities, with Atlanta
a distant second; the two small towns I have lived in (Carbondale,
Illinois and Fort
Smith, Arkansas) the least. The other cities I have lived in (St.
Louis, Buffalo,
Cleveland, Jacksonville,
Washington, and Philadelphia)
have been somewhere in between.

made Miami so awful for me?

*The combination of traffic congestion and car
dependence. I find nasty traffic to be
stressful, and I find having to drive in such nasty traffic to be even more
so. To a much greater extent than any
other city I have lived in, Miami combined
rough traffic with public transit that was inadequate to my needs. Atlanta
has even more extensive traffic; however, for most of my time in Atlanta,
I did not have to drive every day. Washington,
by contrast, has traffic even worse than Miami
or Atlanta- but since I did not own
a car I was insulated from this problem.
At the other end of the spectrum, in Carbondale
I could walk from one end of town to the other in two hours- truly a commuter's

*Crime, or more precisely the perception of crime. In Miami,
I lived a few blocks from the Brickell subway stop. But rightly or wrongly, I did not feel safe
walking from that subway to my apartment after dark – which in turn meant that when I worked late, I had
to drive through the heavy traffic mentioned above. By contrast, in Carbondale
and Fort Smith I worried very
little about crime. In the "in between"
big cities, crime was obviously higher than in Carbondale or Fort Smith- but I
thought that most of the areas that I walked through on a regular basis were
safer than downtown Miami seemed to be in the early 1990s. Having said that, I emphasize that my stress
came from the perception of crime: I have no idea whether, statistically
speaking, the area around the Brickell subway stop was really more dangerous than
my neighborhoods in other cities.

Of course, my experience teaches me that congestion, crime, and car dependence are important. But also, it teaches me that it is impossible to generalize about a city being stressful for everyone. For example, if I had lived in a distant Washington suburb and had to drive to the city (or even to a Metro stop) I would have experienced Washington as a very stressful place. Conversely, if my Miami job had been closer to my apartment, I might have viewed Miami a bit more positively.

Michael Lewyn

Michael Lewyn is an associate professor at Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, in Long Island. His scholarship can be found at


The Hyperloop’s Prospects Dim

The media is coming around to the idea that the hyperloop is not a near-term solution for the country’s transportation woes. It’s too little, too obvious, too late.

September 27, 2022 - James Brasuell

Suburban Homes

Where Housing Costs Are Falling Fastest

Although median home prices remain close to record highs in many cities, some of the country’s priciest metro areas are seeing home prices plummet.

September 23, 2022 - Bloomberg

Miami and Key Biscayne

The Great American Exodus: A Conservative's Perspective

During his keynote speech on September 11 at the National Conservatism Conference in Miami, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis describes the demographic shifts in America since he became governor in 2019 in what he calls the 'Great American Exodus.'

September 27, 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Quarry House nestled among trees in Park City, Utah

Winners of the 2022 American Society of Landscape Architects

The Society’s annual awards highlight projects focused on reconnecting communities to the landscape and creating healthy community spaces.

55 minutes ago - American Society Of Landscape Architects

Woman in wheelchair working at a home office desk

How Remote Work is Changing the Playing Field for Workers With Disabilities

The more widespread acceptance of working from home is helping millions of Americans with disabilities get back into the workforce and find better job opportunities.

1 hour ago - Bloomberg

Aerial view of East Boston shoreline

Study To Assess Climate Mitigation Options for East Boston

A grant-funded research team will evaluate solutions for shoring up the area’s flood protection strategies and improving access and service on the Blue Line for local residents.

2 hours ago - Streetsblog Massachusetts

New Case Study Posted on HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

The World’s Leading Event for Cities

Smart City Expo World Congress

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.