I reflect back a decade to something I read from a Federal land survey that claimed every person in the contiguous United States – including the forest hermit and mountain lurker – is no more than 17.6 miles from a road.

Let’s consider that idea of magnitudinal urban sprawl for a moment.
The history of the development of America has been one of extreme Westward movement: We want to get away from each other; we want land of our own; we need private space.
Suburbia is a perfect example of this sort of “lazying out” from the city core – but what happens when suburban areas become tighter and paved and they transmogrify into “Megalopolises” as geographer Jean Gottmann suggested in 1961 or the ever-infringing “Edge City” as Joel Garreau described in his 1991 monograph of the same name.

As the ability to sprawl subsides and we all have the ability to touch a road in all directions without moving a step, we will begin moving on top of each other.
Soon the only way to build new infrastructure will be skyward atop existing superstructures as the paths and the woodlands and the empty spaces become memories and parking lots and superhighways and the final means of transit for storing people.


  1. It will take a while.
    I know that if you are among those people stuck in endless traffic jams from Boston to Richmond and from San Diego to Santa Barbara, you may find this hard to believe, but only 4 percent of all the land in the contiguous United States is urbanized, and only 5.5 percent is developed. (More than half the American population lives within coastal counties of the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico or Great Lakes.)

  2. Joel!
    Welcome to Urban Semiotic and I thank you for your fine comment.
    Your book, EDGE CITY, is one of the greatest books I have ever read.
    You are a tremendous and valuable talent in the world and I am thrilled you took a moment to hail us here.

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