LA free way

NYC vs. LA: two different ways to understand the city

I´ve been living in NYC for 6 months and I visited LA for Thanksgiving. I was very curious about this city because LA is the best example of American urbanism: the urban sprawl. What does that mean?

Cities of the old world

In Europe and other regions of the world like Middle East cities tend to be very dense. That means that most of the dwelling units are apartments in apartments building and not single-families houses. It is very common too that the first floors of those apartment buildings have commercial locals and not houses. This kind of cities are denser than the other ones. Therefore, more people can live in less area: the use of the land can be more efficient. In addition to that, because first floors usually have restaurants, stores and other uses, it is more possible for citizens to find almost whatever they need in a comfortable walking distance around their homes.

American cities

In contrast, American cities like Atlanta, Nashville or LA are made mostly about single-families houses, each one with their own gardens. And those houses are grouped in big neighborhoods without any other type of building except, maybe, a school or high school. Consequently, the only way to access to everything is by car. American cities look like they were made for car instead of people.

I don´t want to judge here these two types of urbanism but I am going to say only one thing. LEED, the American rating system for energy and environmental design advocates for dense cities with a good mix of uses instead of urban sprawl. Want to share with this post is my impressions visiting LA after living all my life in dense cities: it is strange!



In one hand living in one of these houses has a lot of advantages. You have less problems with noisy neighbors and you can have your own garden with open space. In the other hand, you need the car for everything. And that wouldn´t be a problem if the travelling times weren´t big or the traffic load was low, but it is not the case. Because cities are so big, it is more probable that the distance to the point you want to get is bigger. And because everyone is using the car you will find a lot of traffic everywhere. That means that you spend a lot of time in the car! People can say that you spend a lot of time in the public transport in cities like NYC otherwise. And this is true. But using public transport is usually cheaper than using the car, better for the environment and you can do things that you cannot do in your car like studying or reading: I studied for a French exam in the lightweight trains I took every day to get to work when I was living in Paris.

In conclusion, if you are planning to move to one of these American cities better be prepared because you would have to get use to experience the city in a completely different way.

LA free way

Jesus Verastegui


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