There’s a war going on in Austin, and it’s not over who serves the best breakfast taco or which music festival has or hasn’t gone mainstream. It may in fact be the fiercest fight going on in Austin right now, with the outcome deciding the future of this growing city in ways that eclipse virtually every other issue.
It’s a war waged over a single word. A word that has become a dirty word in some circles and a mantra in others.
It’s the ‘D’ word, for density.
Austin is growing fast. With an average of 157 people moving to Austin every day, those people need to go somewhere
That’s where the battle begins. Pro-density urbanists want to direct that growth into Austin’s core, densifying neighborhoods that are more suburban in character, creating walkable environments based around vertical construction and public transportation. They argue that density is more sustainable than car-oriented suburban sprawl. They also argue that it reflects the current demand for urban lifestyles, a demand which has pushed the price of centralized housing out of the reach of many Austinites.
Those against increased density, on the other hand, argue that packing more people into central Austin neighborhoods will decrease the quality of life in these areas and ruin the character that’s existed there for decades. They cite conflicts over parking, noise, crowding, and a lack of investment in infrastructure as examples of how more density leads to more problems.
With the City of Austin currently undertaking a major rewrite of its land development code, the fight has reached a fever pitch. While both sides clearly have legitimate arguments, their disagreements often revolve around a lack of clear communication.
One question that neither side seems to have expressed is their vision of how dense Austin should be.
In order to give some more context around this question, SpareFoot looked at how Austin’s density compares to other cities in the US and around the world, mapping out how much of Austin the population would occupy if they lived as densely as these other cities.
Via SpareFoot Austin
Brian Shreckengast is a researcher at SpareFoot.