The Placement of the Automobile in Seattle vs. Phoenix

The following post comes courtesy of Global Site Plans' The Grid. CNU and Global Site Plans recently teamed up to syndicate Grid content, as its contingent of writers presents a view on the opportunities and issues of urbanization all across the world. CNU will carry select posts from the Grid direct on the CNU Salons.


The Placement of the Automobile in Seattle vs. Phoenix

If Phoenix is loops and lollipops, then what is Seattle? After recently moving from Phoenix to Seattle, it is more apparent to me how sprawl has defined Phoenix’s landscape, with its vast amounts of highways interchanges (loops) and cul-de-sacs (lollipops). Disenchantment with the post-industrial city has consequently spawned debates about what constitutes “good” urban design. And this conversion undoubtedly includes the placement of the automobile in our cities.


Suburban Development close to downtown Phoenix

Suburban Development close to Downtown Phoenix

The values of the time during each city’s population expansion reflect the urban form we see today. Since Phoenix was built largely after WWII, the city expanded in a pattern of curvilinear streets and cul-de-sacs with several major highways linking suburban development types. The idea of the contemporary automobile city was en vogue post-WWII, and as a result, today Phoenix is an automobile dependent city. Many developments, even close to downtown, are suburban in character, with large building setbacks and surface parking lots facing the street.

Seattle, on the other hand, saw its boom at the turn of the 20th century, due to the Klondike Gold Rush and the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. During this time, the use of the automobile was not as widespread, and streetcars were a popular mode of travel in the city. Historic street patterns survive today, so you see far less sprawling street types in Seattle compared to Phoenix.


Typical Residential Street in Seattle

Typical Residential Street in Seattle

Personal values drive market real estate, which is shown in the typical residential street in both cities. What size street is comfortable for you to live on? Does your car have to be parked right in front of your place of residence? Should on-street parking be allowed? Previous generations have asked these questions and answered them through their choice in urban design. That’s why in Phoenix, garage doors front many residential streets, while in Seattle, garages are typically accessed from alleys.

Urban lifestyles are a popular trend for Millenials because it offers:

  • More employment opportunities;
  • More social networking;
  • Ability to live without a car.

As demographics shift in the coming years, how do you feel the values of the Millennials determine urban form?

To read the original post, written by Amanda Bosse, visit Global Site Plans.


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