Feb 14, 2016

Crowded, good or bad?

Seattle often occurs on lists. Of different kind. I am sure the one the city takes most pride in is Most Livable City in the U.S. according to Forbes. 2015 Seattle was ranked nr. 6, but has had higher numbers earlier on. The list of Worst Traffic might leave the city in shame though, nr. 7.

Now, for the first time, Seattle ranks in the Top Ten for population density. With 7,962 people per square mile in 2014, Seattle leapfrogged Baltimore into the No. 10 spot among the 50 most populous cities in the country. Seattle’s population density has increased by nearly 10 percent since the 2010 Census. And if current growth rates continue, Seattle will bypass No. 9 Los Angeles within five years. Here is the list:
  • Nr 1  New York City 28,056 (per square mile)
  • Nr 2  San Fransisco          18,187
  • Nr 3  Boston                     13,586
  • Nr 4  Miami                      11,997
  • Nr 5  Chicago                   11,959
  • Nr 6  Philadelphia            11,635
  • Nr 7 Washington DC       10,793
  • Nr 8  Long Beach, Calif.   9,416
  • Nr 9  Los Angeles              8,383
  • Nr 10 Seattle                      7,962

Now, is this a good thing? Well, it depends on who you ask. Worst Traffic, bad, that’s something nobody is arguing against. Most Livable, yes, that’s a nice thing. Population Density, somewhat unclear.

Looking at the Seattle map, Capitol Hill is the most populated. Still, the area is mostly true to it’s modern origin. Old beautiful brick walk-ups, may be four stories, garden apartments at the lowest level, the neighborhood fabric is wonderful. You can walk to the grocery store, there are parks nearby. That’s some of the densest part in the city, yet  it doesn’t feel overwhelming. It’s very human-scale. The densest part of Capitol Hill packs in about 55,000 people per square mile — actually comparable to Greenwich Village in New York.

The fastest growing area in Seattle is South Lake Union, and we all know who to blame. Amazon. Invading a sleepy warehouse and small business area transforming it to a crowded glass and steel construction. That’s the general opinion, which makes it ok to to say density is a bad thing. 

Then again, we have neighborhoods like Madrona which needs people to make it’s little center going. That’s where I stayed my second visit in Seattle summer 1995, and I loved the cafés, the barber shop and the cute restaurants on 34th Avenue, all in walking distance. But of course you need a loyal crowd for the business to work.

There is something though, everyone can agree on. Something drastic needs to be done about housing and traffic. Or else the ranking on the Most Livable City- and Worst Traffic lists will be numbers no one wants and nothing to be proud of.

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