Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday Stats: San Jose is the #8 Most Compact/Connected Large Metro in the US

San Jose gets a lot of flack for being sprawled out; however, based on two large scale studies of urban sprawl in the US it turns out we are not doing too shabby. In the Smart Growth America study, we were the 8th most compact and connect metro in the US with a population greater than 1 million people. In fact, we got higher index scores than Oakland and Chicago metros.

In another study entitled Urban Sprawl in the United States: 1970-2010, San Jose had a "sprawl score" of 21.04 in 1970, 16.5 in 1980, 16.33 in 1990, 15.25 in 2000, and 14.13 in 2010. Without really going into how the numbers were calculated, the conclusion is that sprawl decreased by a third over the past 40 years in San Jose. So the reality is that like LA, we are a lot more dense than the general perception.

Source: Smart Growth America, Hat tip to Russ Lopez fro sending this in!


  1. Except that the (incomplete, it would appear) chart shows SJ as 24th, not 8th.

    1. Correct, it is 24th among all cities in the US... large, medium, and small. Among large cities it is 8th.

  2. Pockets of San Jose are connected and compact - downtown (obviously), the Alameda, Santana Row area and North San Jose with all the new infill developments. These areas (and I've missed some) hold their own against any other city on the list. The problem with San Jose is that it did most of it growing since the 1950's which coincided with the "age of the automobile". We are stuck with the seemingly endless suburban element forever. I'm not saying that's bad, it's just part of us. I have to say I'm surprised to see Chicago so low!

  3. I agree the ranking seems incorrect. San Jose has a few islands that are decent in this regard, but getting between the islands is difficult. The islands are separated by expressways and freeways that are difficult to cross if you are not in car, often requiring complicated out of the way routes, or in many cases no real option.

    If they were just looking at a map, they might conclude SJ is not so bad, but the devil is in the details at the street level. Dangerous pork chop island intersections, lack of bike detection at lights, difficult to access VTA stations. Its the details that matter, as shown by SJ's record pedestrian fatalities. The basic infrastructure is just not there to connect the small navigable islands.

    The 'general perception' for most people comes from actually using the system and comparing to other cities they have lived in or visited. This will always be more accurate than a cooked up study of maps. I think the general perception that SJ needs a lot of work on connectivity is accurate. I would say worse than 24th in this regard.