Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sprawl from Above

Some time ago on Reddit someone posted google maps links to a variety of suburban developments all over the world.  Although the post has gotten buried by now, it was great for getting a feeling of how suburban communities feel depending on minor changes to setbacks, road widths, and sidewalks.  It is fascinating that you can now "click" down a street in Copenhagen, Johannesburg, or Tokyo without leaving your desk (and it definitely helps that google cameras seem to be taking much higher quality pictures).  Another way to experience a bit of the world is through Geo Guessr, which shows you random google maps shots from which you have to guess the location.  The maps and pictures below are sort of a combination of those two ideas.  Try this: Go to google maps, and pick your favorite city in the US.  Then, zoom in a bit and look for the curviest streets.  Then call someone nearby and see if they can identify what you are looking at.  Or try to guess from the below:
Google Maps

Street view:

Google Maps

 This is Highlands Ranch, south of Denver, CO, the type of development that often shows up in pictures of any article about sprawl.  How does it look as a community--inviting?

Google Maps
Here's somewhere a bit further East:
Google Maps

This is outside of Atlanta.  What would it be like to walk around in this place?

Now zoom out and try any city on another continent.  What looks different? What's the most noticeable change?

Google Maps

Google Maps
This is outside of Glasgow, Scotland.

Last one:

Google Maps

Google Maps
This last one is Matamoros, Mexico, Mexico, right over the border from Brownsville, Texas:

Google Maps

Google Maps

Special thanks to the Old Urbanist for a post that inspired the Matamoros/Brownsville comparison.

One of our classmates commented that any of the examples of sprawl above, when compared to slums of the world, are really not that bad.  That's true, there is plenty of space, the roads are maintained, and houses are in a normal state.  However, comparing these places to the most dire living areas in the world is a bit like comparing apples to oranges--this, in general, is not slum development, but rather the development of choice for most Americans--with many long lasting effects not only on the land and the environment, but on society as well. (Finally, admittedly these comparisons are based on a naked-eye assessment, and not any demographic or economic data)