05 May 2009

Las Vegas Aerials

A listserve associate of mine sent this interesting link at NASA. It is satellite imagery of Las Vegas from Landsat 5. It clearly demonstrates the explosive growth of Las Vegas, just since 1984. The first and last time I was there was in 1986, so I was fascinated at what these images show.

My curiosity was peaked, and I started looking on Google Maps. Below are some current images that demonstrate the state of the city today. Think of all the oil and water resources required to make such an experiment in the desert possible. How many of these are now in foreclosure?:

A new elementary school surrounded by new subdivisions:

A new high school with over 1,000 parking spaces, surrounded by freeway on two sides. The road frontage of this school is about half a mile:

A mile long earthen dam on the left looks like it is protection against rare water in the stream bed in which new houses are now being built:

Sprawling from right to left:

New streets being built:

All built since the 80s:

New desert home:

An "older" part of town. Every home has a pool:

Green Golf course in the desert

Below, each cul-de-sac has 4 houses. Each individual property measures approximately 150' x 150'. A block of 16 of these houses covers exactly 10 acres, thus 1.6 units per acre. But worse than that, these 16 homes require something like 144,000 square feet of publicly owned and maintained right of way (ie: asphalt):

I think these images are fascinating for several reasons. One is that the flat brown landscape makes the aerial photos very clear about what is happening. Of course there is similar development around all American cities, but vegetation and topography make for a less dramatic photo. Also, the development, although totally car dependent and suburban, is actually quite dense compared to midwestern sprawl.

For example, in the aerial below (from a northern Cincinnati suburb), the yellow box is one-mile square (640 acres) The red is a quarter section, and the maroon is the same dimension as many of the Las Vegas blocks above. The small blue square represents the 300' x 300' area used above for 4 houses in the cul-de-sac. In this case, there are about 300 houses per section which is 2.13 acres per house (NOT 2 houses per acre)! A square mile in the furthest exurb of Las Vegas has at least 1,024 houses, compared to 300 in this new midwestern suburb. Las Vegas sprawl is at least 3 times as dense as Cincinnati's:

I guess I would rather see this kind of sprawl in a desert than on prime Ohio farmland.

Lastly, here is a part of Over-the-Rhine, with a square drawn approximately 300' square. In the same space that Las Vegas is building 4 houses, and West Chester is building 1.2, OTR has over 50 apartments or condos*, half a dozen businesses, and all with no buildings over 4 stories high.:

* Note, the 50 apartment number varies greatly block to block now and has varied greatly over time too. A full block in Cincinnati's OTR is just under 400' square, and many of these blocks at one time had over 200 apartments, and maybe 30-40 storefront establishments. But all blocks now have either vacant buildings or vacant lots on them.

BTW, here is a good drawing showing the standard survey dimensions for townships, sections, quarter sections etc...


Anonymous said...

Many of the aerials at the beginning look like computer chip boards (if that is the right name for them). The post is interesting - Thanks.

Randy Simes said...

Dense sprawl is a bad scenario as it further strains infrastructure systems...it's even worse when you're building it in the middle of a desert.

hellogerard said...

This is a great analysis! The top pictures remind me of playing SimCity. All that's missing is my nuclear power plant.