Monday, July 11, 2011

Population Density and a Shrinking City

I have thought often about population density and the St. Louis area. I have NO expertise regarding these matters but as I think about my work in sustainability and construction the issue comes up, if only tangentially, regarding site selection, amenities and the walkability of a particular place.

I've read that Manhattan residents have very low carbon footprints. This is due to population density - at least in part. High rise apartments, smaller living spaces, fewer cars, highly walkable neighborhoods require less energy to maintain. Per the 2000 census New York City had a density of over 26,000 people/square mile. Manhattan's population per square mile was over 66,000.

There is a Wikipedia Article on Optimum Population. From the article: "The optimum population is the size of a population that is optimal. There are, however, various opinions on what "optimal" means in this usage, resulting in various end-targets for it,[1] but estimations usually take ecological sustainability and carrying capacity more or less into account. Also, optimum population can refer to a specific area, such as a region or country, but can also refer to the entire world or universe."

According to the 2010 census St. Louis has a density of just over 5,000 people per square mile.
Here is a chart of our region:
I have lived in the City of St. Louis for almost 30 years. The shrinking city has meant ample parking in front of my house, most of the stores and neighborhoods I travel to for business and pleasure. Density-wise it is not a stressful place to live. The mortgage is not painful either. We have not experienced much in crime either, though we know some who have not been so lucky. In Tower Grove South, where I live, my particular house rates pretty well on - it is 13 points above average.

Having seen films like The Pruitt-Igoe Myth in which the plight of high density developments in shrinking cities is shown to be problematic I wonder: How do we find an equilibrium? What is our equilibrium? How would a region keep this dynamic thing balanced over the course of time?

More later...