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Sunday, April 30, 2006


Too much up, too little out

Newark, Kennedy, LaGuardia airports comprise one of the most congested airspaces in the world. Surprise enough, though, these airports are only on the periphery of my point of this post.

Last week Prof. Eubanks gave a possible definition of urban sprawl (more or less) as, ‘too much out, too little up,’ but what about the reverse? Could it be possible for a city to grow to much up, and too little out? Obviously New York City (being one of the world’s largest city) it would be hard to claim that from mere size that it isn’t wide enough. Instead, I suggest that we turn our attention to the actions of the one actor that seems to be responsible for most issues of urban sprawl: government. There might be countless ways government (city, state or federal) has distorted the market for land in New York City, but let us focus upon the subway system. You didn’t think I’d stray to far away from travel modes did you?

The New York subway system is certainly one of the (if not the most) intricate system of its kind. To be sure, this subway system could rival many countries entire transportation network. Yet if it is not provided efficiently could it be a cause of overbuilding of some land? Comparing the satellite image of greater New York City at night (above) to a diagram of the city's subway system (see link) there seems to be a correlation to subways and density. More specifically, I believe that the subway riders are not charged for the marginal cost of their trip. It is also my contention that there has been a bias toward building lines on the island of Manhattan. If I am right, both of these facts would lend to greater incentives to living further into New York City. This is just one way in which New York might be a city that has grown ‘too little out, and too much up.’

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