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How Austin’s population density fares when compared to other cities

Frankly, we’re pretty sprawled out, even compared to Houston

aerial photo of a city
Austin from Tarrytown to West Lake Hills
Wikimedia Commons

Like many cities in the flyover states, Austin has a bit of sprawl problem. While major cities on the coasts are often limited geographically by how much they can spread out, we have land, lots of land, and our tendency, as a metro area, is to move out rather than up.

While there’s certainly something to be said for realizing the suburban dream (seriously), not to mention the relatively low costs of buying and living there, city-spread can become a serious problem.

That’s more than apparent in in Austin, especially when we look at our daunting traffic issues; while moving outside a high-priced city core can be the right economic move for an individual or a family, the cost of commuting is strain on an already decrepit infrastructure, the added costs of owning and maintaining a now-necessary vehicle (in the absence of adequate public transportation), and years of one’s life spent sitting in traffic jams.

A seemingly obvious solution to those problems is to allow and foster a higher population density in the urban core. In Austin, as in many cities, changing or eliminating zoning and other regulations to allow more density has been the subject of sustained, highly charged debate.

When those debates reach a stalemate, it can be helpful to look at things from a wider perspective, comparing Austin’s density to that of other cities worldwide, and considering how well higher or lower density works for those particular cities.

To that end, locally based lawn-care site and improbably prodigious fount of city stats Lawnstarter has come up with some handy and interesting graphics depicting the density of Austin compared to that of many other cities in the world. Comparing the just the central city’s density to that of several other major cities, Lawnstarter reveals a pretty low number—even lower than Houston’s—that might surprise (or just frighten) some Austinites.

Whatever the case, we find the charts below fascinating and invite you to explore them.