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The 27 Typical Patterns of Urban and Suburban Development

Most cities around the world can be broken down into 27 typical patterns of development, according to the work of a researcher at UC Davis.
October 14, 2015, 8am PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Josh Williams

A close study of the street patterns in cities around the world has shown that most cities are comprised of a combination of 27 development categories—from the urban grid typical of downtown cores to superblocks, new urbanist neighborhoods and the "loops & lollipops" suburban style cul-de-sac development. Emily Badger reports in the The Washington Post’s Wonkblog on the work of University of California at Davis professor Stephen Wheeler, who combed over satellite imagery of multiple metropolitan areas around the world to produce striking maps showing the distribution of the varied development patterns.

What's interesting about these 27 categories that Wheeler has defined, covering the full range of development patterns in two dozen metropolitan regions he has studied worldwide, is that most of them are new. Relatively speaking.

"We have had an explosion of different types of built landscapes in the last century," says Wheeler, who is working on a book about these patterns.

Wheeler's work has shown that the most common type of development is primarily associated with suburbs and exurbs—the patterns of development commonly associated with the car. Wheeler believes his work will help people to understand the role that varied development patterns affect "how we travel, how much time we commute, whether we walk, how healthy we are as a result, how our communities affect the climate and how much pollution we generate."

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Published on Thursday, October 8, 2015 in The Washington Post - Wonkblog
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