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  #541  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 2:19 PM
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Originally Posted by craigs View Post
Atlanta's sprawl was intentional. It was purpose-built to be the low-density, car-centric suburban sprawl that we see today.

That is not generally true of Boston's sprawl. First settled in the 1600s and 1700s, most of the area we now consider metropolitan Boston was already settled. Farms, villages, towns, cities, institutions--they were everywhere, and they operated independently of Boston's commuter shed for, in many cases, over three centuries. For example, the town where my parents met was first settled in 1651 and multiple industries (textiles, shoes, baseballs) came and went in the three centuries before it became part of suburban Boston. It was not built to be, nor did it function as, a suburb of Boston until the big land developers began constructing modern tract homes between the historic areas in the 1960s. It is an accidental suburb, as is so much of today's "sprawl" outside Boston.

How and where Boston could expand its commuter shed in recent decades was dictated by that historic quilt consisting of patches of towns, villages, cities, conservation land, colleges, hospitals and other institutions and stitched together by a colonial road network and 19th century rail system. The regional commuter shed eventually grew with white-collar employment and swallowed up those independent communities, filling the interstices with suburban housing tracts and modern highways.

Today's sprawl outside of Boston was not intended to be what it has become. Atlanta's surely was.
I'm pretty sure this: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Bo...!4d-71.0588801 or this: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Bo...!4d-71.0588801 or this: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Bo...!4d-71.0588801 or this: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Bo...!4d-71.0588801 or this: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Bo...!4d-71.0588801 didn't exist three centuries ago.

Boston does have old towns that are now part of its urban area but it also has modern ultra-low sprawl. I don't understand this urge to make looking Boston perfect while bashing Atlanta over the same sins. Georgia is also an old state and I'm pretty sure Atlanta sprawls also has engulfed old villages, old farms as well.


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Originally Posted by iheartthed View Post
Boston's isn't... real "sprawl". The towns were already there. They were settled 100s of years ago. Atlanta's suburbs didn't exist 70 years ago.

We need better language to differentiate what Boston is from what Atlanta is.
All those old towns were already all built up by 17th century? They are linked together precisely by modern ultra-low density sprawl.

If Boston were located anywhere in the world aside the US east of Mississippi, its urbanized footprint would 1/3 of the current size.
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  #542  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 2:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Yuri View Post
All those old towns were already all built up by 17th century? They are linked together precisely by modern ultra-low density sprawl.

If Boston were located anywhere in the world aside the US east of Mississippi, its urbanized footprint would 1/3 of the current size.
I'm not sure why you think that. Boston basically has England's development patterns. It looks nothing like the Midwest or Southern U.S. And it is much less sprawly than almost anything west of the Mississippi River.
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  #543  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 3:43 PM
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Most of the density surrounding Boston is near the coast. To focus on the lack of density inland while ignoring the main population areas is completely disingenuous. Most of those towns were small farming communities until people decided they wanted more space and/or were priced out of the coastal areas. The coast remains dense all the way up to Portland Maine except for a couple towns on the northern end of Cape Ann.

There's also a lot of mill cities that grew up as cities and not just "Boston suburbs" like Lowell, Lawrence, and Brockton. Eventually there is suburbia filling in the gaps but there's tons of dense pockets and those cities originally stood on their own.

Most of the city inside of the 95 belt is among the best urbanity in the entire country. There are small pockets of super rich areas full of mansions, especially in ritzy Brookline, but there is much more density in the surrounding neighborhoods.

From an urban perspective, Atlanta is not on par with Boston. The single family housing neighborhoods begin directly adjacent to downtown. Buckhead is like a less dense version of Waltham, except they made a few of the buildings 5-6 times taller. The majority of Atlanta is among the worst urban experiences in the country. It's no contest. Southern cities cannot compete with their northeast brethren in this arena.
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  #544  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 3:46 PM
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Even if we just focus on the main downtown areas, where's Atlanta's equivalent to this? Oh yeah it doesn't have one whatsoever. Goodbye.

DJI_0998-HDR by Phil, on Flickr

IMG_7940 by Phil, on Flickr

DJI_0044-HDR by Phil, on Flickr

This is denser than Atlanta's innermost neighborhoods (ie 200 meters from their downtown).

DJI_0947-HDR by Phil, on Flickr
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  #545  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 4:16 PM
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Originally Posted by iheartthed View Post
Boston is very green compared to just about every major city. This is 15 miles from the center of Boston: https://www.google.com/maps/@42.4131.../data=!3m1!1e3
You will not find that 15 miles from the center of Atlanta lol. The Boston region developed more like England than a typical U.S. metro.
The urban form of Boston still deviates widely from urban areas in England due to the 1940’s restrictions on urban sprawl. It’s why there is a far clearer separation between urban and rural area.
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  #546  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 4:28 PM
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Originally Posted by iheartthed View Post
I'm not sure why you think that. Boston basically has England's development patterns. It looks nothing like the Midwest or Southern U.S. And it is much less sprawly than almost anything west of the Mississippi River.
There is no urban area in England whose urbanized footprint has a 850 inh./km2 density as Boston does: https://www.citypopulation.de/en/uk/agglo/

London is at 2,800 inh./km2, Birmingham 2,600 inh./km2, Manchester 2,300 inh./km2.


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Originally Posted by nito View Post
The urban form of Boston still deviates widely from urban areas in England due to the 1940’s restrictions on urban sprawl. It’s why there is a far clearer separation between urban and rural area.
Boston is completely different from anything England did since their green belt legislations. Turn famrlands into urban areas is virtually impossible in England whereas Massachusetts is the exurban dreamland: all farms became ultra-low density exurbs.


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Originally Posted by DZH22 View Post
Even if we just focus on the main downtown areas, where's Atlanta's equivalent to this? Oh yeah it doesn't have one whatsoever. Goodbye.
As we're not discussing urban Boston nor urban Atlanta, but exurban Boston, I don't see how your pic bombing is relevant to this discussion.
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  #547  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 4:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Yuri View Post
As we're not discussing urban Boston nor urban Atlanta, but exurban Boston, I don't see how your pic bombing is relevant to this discussion.
You could throw a baseball from downtown and hit exurban Atlanta.
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  #548  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 4:44 PM
iheartthed iheartthed is offline
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Originally Posted by Yuri View Post
There is no urban area in England whose urbanized footprint has a 850 inh./km2 density as Boston does: https://www.citypopulation.de/en/uk/agglo/

London is at 2,800 inh./km2, Birmingham 2,600 inh./km2, Manchester 2,300 inh./km2.
This isn't an apples to apples comparison. This is a comparison of "Boston" using the definition of the U.S. census bureau to "London", "Manchester", or "Birmingham" using the U.K.'s definition of urban area. But on the ground, the development patterns in the Boston region clearly look more like the U.K. than it does to Atlanta.
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  #549  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 4:47 PM
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Originally Posted by nito View Post
The urban form of Boston still deviates widely from urban areas in England due to the 1940’s restrictions on urban sprawl. It’s why there is a far clearer separation between urban and rural area.
I'm talking about Boston from the perspective of America. Not Boston from the perspective of the U.K.

This is the spectrum:

U.K. cities ------------ Boston -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Atlanta
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  #550  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 5:42 PM
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Originally Posted by DZH22 View Post
You could throw a baseball from downtown and hit exurban Atlanta.
Which has nothing to do with Boston's own sprawl issues. We're all aware the central parts of Boston urban area are much denser than Atlanta's and that's a good thing. I even posted figures about it on the last page.

The thing is, a very high number of people in Boston metro area live in very low density environments. Almost 2/3 of them. And that comes with problems: massive freeways, car dependency, lots of woodland/farmland wasted under urban development, etc.
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  #551  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 5:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Yuri View Post

Boston does have old towns that are now part of its urban area but it also has modern ultra-low sprawl. I don't understand this urge to make looking Boston perfect while bashing Atlanta over the same sins. Georgia is also an old state and I'm pretty sure Atlanta sprawls also has engulfed old villages, old farms as well.
Not sure why you're not getting this, but they're not the same sins. Metro Atlanta's sprawl is just that- sprawl away from the core. These suburban and exurban places would not exist if not for Atlanta. They have a core city that is overall pretty low density (with some pockets of impressive density, yes), surrounded by suburbs and exurbs of even lower densities. Yes, there are some small older towns that became absorbed into the metro landscape (Marietta, Duluth, etc), but for the most part, Metro Atlanta is a modern creation, designed to be low density sprawl.

Boston has a dense, old core consisting of not just Boston, but also places like Cambridge, Somerville, etc. Surrounding that dense core are scores of little historic towns that have existed for centuries. There are also lots of land preserves and institutional holdings that keep land undeveloped and quasi rural. Yes, there is modern sprawl between many of these historic towns. You can find lots of big box retail and commercial strips that probably look similar to suburban environments across the country. But these areas are not the reason for Boston having a comparable metro density to Atlanta. Full stop.

A look at weighted density, which has already been suggested here, would dispel this notion that Boston and Atlanta suffer from the 'same sins'.
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  #552  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 6:21 PM
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It also hasn't been pointed out yet that to compare a coastal city to a landlocked city, you have to go much further out from the city center to capture the same amount of land area.

Massachusetts has a ton of wetlands and salt marshes that can't be built on, as well as plenty of defined park space. Look at the area in this link. I am pretty sure it counts as land, but obviously is completely unbuildable. It's super dense surrounding these marshes. The coast is absolutely littered with them, and the wetlands extend well inland. So if this is affecting density but left out of weighted density, the numbers start to become a lot clearer.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ru...!4d-70.9938262
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  #553  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 6:57 PM
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Originally Posted by DZH22 View Post
It also hasn't been pointed out yet that to compare a coastal city to a landlocked city, you have to go much further out from the city center to capture the same amount of land area.

Massachusetts has a ton of wetlands and salt marshes that can't be built on, as well as plenty of defined park space. Look at the area in this link. I am pretty sure it counts as land, but obviously is completely unbuildable. It's super dense surrounding these marshes. The coast is absolutely littered with them, and the wetlands extend well inland. So if this is affecting density but left out of weighted density, the numbers start to become a lot clearer.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ru...!4d-70.9938262
That's smaller than Central Park or Hyde/Kensington Park and both are integral parts of New York and London urban areas and they are obviously counted as such.

Boston has all those characteristics, old towns, marshs, woodlands, but it also sprawls. If you like sprawl, it's fine. If you don't like, Boston certainly is an offender.
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  #554  
Old Posted May 13, 2022, 8:55 PM
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Strictly speaking, every city on the planet sprawls from historical centers to their current urban footprints. Yes, Boston and Atlanta both sprawl but Atlanta has eaten up a lot more of Georgia than Boston has with Massachusetts. Boston packs more people in tighter spaces (whereas Atlanta spreads them out) which allows for a lot more green open spaces within the metro area despite some low density developments here and there. There are suburbs in the Boston area that are quasi-rural-ish that you won't find in Atlanta unless you go waaaay out.
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  #555  
Old Posted May 14, 2022, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by JManc View Post
Strictly speaking, every city on the planet sprawls from historical centers to their current urban footprints. Yes, Boston and Atlanta both sprawl but Atlanta has eaten up a lot more of Georgia than Boston has with Massachusetts. Boston packs more people in tighter spaces (whereas Atlanta spreads them out) which allows for a lot more green open spaces within the metro area despite some low density developments here and there. There are suburbs in the Boston area that are quasi-rural-ish that you won't find in Atlanta unless you go waaaay out.
Every city in the planet sprawls as it grows, of course. What makes the US different is that their sprawl has an incredibly low-density, be it in Boston or Atlanta.

And I don't even think they look their sprawl look that different. If we were talking Boston vs Dallas, of course their sprawls are very different. In Atlanta, however, you can easily find places that could be in Boston sprawl and vice-versa.
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  #556  
Old Posted May 14, 2022, 2:15 PM
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I don't know that it's necessarily true that every city "sprawls". The term sprawl is not used in the same way as "spreads" or "extends". Sprawl tends to refer to spreading in an excessive or inelegant way. It's spillover that takes a different, more car oriented form from the original city that tends to use land inefficiently. It would be true to say "every city on the planet spreads or extends from historical centers to their current urban footprints" however.
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  #557  
Old Posted May 14, 2022, 5:31 PM
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Boston≄Atlanta

These city comparison discussions always lead down strange rabbit holes. I lived in Boston and Cambridge in the early 1960s as a student and then working in the Science Museum. I enjoyed the city and at one point lived in an apartment (next to Back Bay Station), which is now part of the M Pike extension. I have lived in Atlanta for @ 30 years, but visited Atlanta in the mid -60s several times. When I go back on occasion to Boston it strikes me as more or less, mostly more, as the same place as it was in the 60s. (one can hear the Bostonians shouting about how much it has changed, but essentially the city was well cooked by the 1960s). On the other hand Atlanta has profoundly changed since that time; in fact it has greatly changed even in the past 30 years and is still in the oven cooking. The growth (and sprawl patterns) of these two cities chiefly reflects the period(s) of their major development and the transportation modes available to get from work to residence.
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  #558  
Old Posted May 14, 2022, 6:13 PM
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Lawrence , Lowell , Worcester , Cambridge , Somerville , Alston , etc are not sprawl

Boston is incredibly polycentric like San Francisco / Bay Area .

This polycentrism is more relevant in differentiating it from Atlanta then a small slice of the population living on large lot wooded exurbs in between higher density nodes
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  #559  
Old Posted May 14, 2022, 6:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Yuri View Post
Every city in the planet sprawls as it grows, of course. What makes the US different is that their sprawl has an incredibly low-density, be it in Boston or Atlanta.

And I don't even think they look their sprawl look that different. If we were talking Boston vs Dallas, of course their sprawls are very different. In Atlanta, however, you can easily find places that could be in Boston sprawl and vice-versa.

I can easily though; I grew up in the northeast and now live in the Sunbelt. Development, aesthetics and histories differ greatly which plays a huge part in how they look and feel. Boston's suburbs are green and airy while Atlanta's are not.

My hometown has neighborhoods that resemble the lower density areas outside of Boston but they did not originate as suburbs but their own rural-ish communities 100+ years ago even though newer houses were built since then. Suburban Atlanta likely did not even exist at all before WW2 were developed as massive master planned communities that were later incorporated as cities, like where I live...which in 1970 was all forest land.
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  #560  
Old Posted May 14, 2022, 7:00 PM
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Originally Posted by DZH22 View Post
You could throw a baseball from downtown and hit exurban Atlanta.
this kind of extreme hyperbole does everyone a disservice, but in my 20 years on this forum (holy shit) is completely par for the course
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