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Cool Video Shows How L.A. Has Grown Since 1877

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There's no doubt that L.A. is spread out, so much so that Angelenos tend to warn out-of-towners that it's hard to get around the city without a car. NYU's Stern Urbanization Project is giving us a chance to visualize just what type of urban expansion has taken over our city of angels from 1877 to 2000—and it's pretty cool to watch.

As part of a project that covers a total of 30 global cities, the team released three videos today of urban sprawl maps, including Paris and São Paulo. (They'll be releasing a total of 30 city visualizations later this week at the World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia.) It's exciting metropolitan L.A., which now covers 4,900 square miles, according to The Atlantic Cities, is part of the first batch.

The video shows L.A. as just a mere speck of dust in 1877 that spreads out especially after World War II and even more so in the 1990s. The team used information from the book "The Atlas of Urban Expansion" to create the maps.

Even though L.A. grew drastically in the 20th century, a new Smart Growth report called, "Measuring Sprawl and Its Impact," took a look at 221 metropolitan areas and 994 counties around the nation as of 2010—and found that L.A. is now doing the opposite of expanding. L.A. has actually become so dense that it snagged the second-highest density score in the report, just trailing behind New York's metropolitan area.

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“The biggest success story is surprisingly Los Angeles,” Reid Ewing, a University of Utah professor and lead researcher told The Atlantic Cities.

You might ask, "Why is dense and crowded a good thing?" According to the report:

In peer-reviewed research, sprawl has been linked to physical inactivity, obesity, traffic fatalities, poor air quality, residential energy use, emergency response times, teenage driving, lack of social capital and private-vehicle commute distances and times.


Individuals in compact, connected metro areas have greater economic mobility. Individuals in these areas spend less on the combined cost of housing and transportation, and have greater options for the type of transportation to take. In addition, individuals in compact, connected metro areas tend to live longer, safer, healthier lives than their peers in metro areas with sprawl.

The report partly attributes L.A.'s density to a 2012 initiative for development plans around public transit and the Affordable Housing Incentives Ordinance.

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