Density & Transportation in Los Angeles

The subject of density in Los Angeles has been garnering a significant amount of attention in recent weeks. The Census Bureau recently released new population figures that showed the Los Angeles area (not city) is the densest region in the United States. The figures, which showed the Los Angeles region (#1) ahead of New York (#5) in terms of density, brought a slew of media attention to the issue. The issues of density vs. sprawl, Manhattanization, and city character in Los Angeles were all the subject of speculation in light of the newest density figures.

While the figures perhaps signal some sort of tipping point for LA, it’s important to remember that these are regional comparisons and not comparisons of the cities. The City of New York can still boast as being the densest big city in America. In fact, it is 3 times as dense as the City of Los Angeles. But comparisons aside, one thing is clear: Los Angeles is a decidedly urban city. A city to city comparison is an interesting exercise, but for the purposes of the Mobility Element we are interested in the varying densities within the City.

This map depicts the City’s population density in terms of numbers of persons per acre for each of the City’s Census blocks.

Click to view

Often mischaracterized as sprawling and lower-density, Los Angeles as a whole has a population density of 12.64 persons per acre (over 8,000 per square mile), which makes the City one of the densest in the United States. By comparison, Chicago houses 18 inhabitants per acre, San Francisco 27, and famously dense New York City boasts 42 persons per acre. However, density in Los Angeles is not uniform across the City. Westlake (75 per/acre), Koreatown (67), East Hollywood (55) are a few of the densest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, while Pacific Palisades (2), Bel-Air (2.5), and Chatsworth (7 per/acre) are examples of neighborhoods with lower densities.

An interesting point of comparison with the density data is the location of the City’s concentration of job clusters.

Click to view

This map shows the major employment clusters found throughout the City. Compared to other major U.S. cities with a single dominant downtown such as New York, San Francisco, or Chicago, Los Angeles has a collection of smaller employment, education, retail, and entertainment centers spread throughout the City. The map shows significant clusters in Downtown, Westwood, Century City, Warner Center and around LAX and USC. An interesting pattern of linear mixed-use centers also emerge on the map, particularly along Wilshire, Ventura Boulevard, and along the two rail corridors in the Valley. What the map does not show are the other major regional clusters found in Glendale, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Long Beach, all of which significantly impact the City’s transportation system.

Together these maps illustrate the polycentric nature of Los Angeles and help explain why traffic congestion in Los Angeles is some of the worst in the nation. Providing adequate transit for the City’s residents to, from, and between all of the many centers in and around the City of Los Angeles is a significant and costly challenge.

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8 Responses to Density & Transportation in Los Angeles

  1. Tom Williams says:

    Why are we doing this??? SCAG has an approved and soon to be federally approved their population for “NOW” (2008 vs 2010 census) and 2035 which in turn sets the transits and highways systems and with a traffic model which has not been made available and only with some numbers being given out to support their East-West Truck/Freight Way to Colton rather than MTA’s North-South Freight Way to M.Antonovich’s legacy “Hi Desert Logistics Corridor”.

    LADoT and Planning conducted current/future traffic modeling for the Cornfields Arroyo Seco Specific Plan without either MTA, SCAG, or reliable traffic counts for current levels of commuter traffic. Also without inputs of the 2010 Census/MTA traffic networks/SCAGs traffic networks.


  2. The problem is density itself. If there was no concentration of population then no mitigations would be needed. The city should prohibit any increase of density in Los Angeles. The ability to maintain individual automobile transportation on our streets is the most important concern.

    • Tom Williams says:

      The individual car – wow – I thought we were passed that one – OBTW remember the individual car means that LACity requires 3.9M cars (doesn’t everyone get a car or just some, and then we need parking and streets for such with the most mobile layout on the city – grid iron streets – EVERYWHERE – Mulholland Hills and the various canyons on the north and south side.

      But lets look at it – can’t we have both Remember we are a big city – although I think in NELA we have 26 villages looking for a town and LACity 26 towns looking for a City – let’s grow up atleast to Chicago/Philly if not approach NYC…yeah I grew up in Kansas but had several work trips to NYC in Aprils and Octobers…only time to be there…

      I recommend that all existing 4lane arterials’ corridors (500ft either side) be allowed to go to an FAR3 and within 500ft of any major intersection be allowed to go to FAR5 – we can make the arterials more efficient…

      OBTW in NELA we are looking at ParkNRides at the City boundaries with buses at 5minute headways and $25/car-day for congestion pricing and destination pricing of $25/car space-day but ALL street parking FREE for 2hr…

      • We are never going to be past the individual car because we are never going to be past the individual. The fault with all utopian schemes is that they do not accommodate human nature but rather they try to shape it. Man will not change. We are at the root of existence autonomous beings. We want to go where we want, how we want, when we want. That will never change. So get used to it. Furthermore, the truth is that travel time is lower in uncongested areas than in high density areas where people are forced to use public transportation.

      • Tom Williams says:

        Even in my brief experience in California and the rest of the world, things have and do change. And when you see the things that have changed in the last 4 years WOW – even Bush had to recognize that we were 90 days from the Second and even GREATER DEPRESSION so he threw lots of money at it…even now $4+ gal gas…maybe those that have remained/grew rich can afford it. Man and even LA will change as we have changed before and as we work together to keep what we consider good and make things work better than they have in City Hall and LADoT…Plan.Dpt has changed, and we no longer have CRA…so change does occur.

      • $4 gas is the result of a president who halted oil exploration and defied court orders to resume it, and from placed people in his administration who want to “crucify” oil producers. He implemented carbon limit rules designed to bankrupt coal based electricity and said that under his policies “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” He has gone in with the intention to destroy our energy supply. It is not much of a surprise that gas prices have doubled since he was inaugurated. If all in favor of government change such as getting rid of failed economic policies like the CRA. However, no one can change man’s nature.

      • Tom Williams says:

        We now have gotten away from Mobility
        Yes – I want to get rid of all government interference – no laws about marriage, abortion, copyrights, patents, no taxes, no government and no way
        Lst reply

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