D.C. Can Hold A Lot More People

Around 800,000 more. It appears D.C. developers want to build more housing–that is, denser housing–in the wealthier parts of Northwest D.C. (aka ‘west of the park’). Needless to say, the remnants of the District’s Republican Party attempted to go full Braveheart, but the developers are correct, if also self-serving: we do need a lot more housing, and D.C. doesn’t have that many open, abandoned places left to put it. Recently, I mentioned in passing, in response to a clueless Washington Post editorial, how it is possible for the District (not the ‘DMV’, which is apparently what the kewl kidz call the D.C. Metro area, despite sounding like the place you go to get your drivers license) to house an additional 800,000 people.

If we assume every census tract should have at least 25,000 people per square mile, then this really isn’t hard to do. To put 25,000/sq. mile in context, Logan Circle north of the circle has a density of over 26,000 people per square mile. If that neighborhood is too crowded for you, then maybe you need to consider the suburbs. By contrast, the three census tracts that cover most of Dupont Circle* have range among 31,000 to 47,000 people per sq. mile. To look at other cities, Boston’s Back Bay has four census tracts ranging between 21,000 to nearly 66,000 people per sq. mile. So 25,000 isn’t a burb, but it’s not midtown Manhattan either (most tracts in Manhattan are well above 60,000 people/sq. mile).

So if we were to increase the population density of every census tract in D.C. (excluding the mall) to 25,000/sq. mile, we would get around 834,000 more people. Not a total of 834,000 residents, but an additional 834,000 people. I realize some places won’t be able to reach this density (a tract that is mostly parkland will have a hard time), so let’s just call it 800,000. If we look at ‘west of the park’ in Northwest–not all of Northwest–we would fit over 260,000 more people at 25,000/sq. mile. A few census tracts are probably underestimated (e.g., the tract containing Georgetown east of Wisconsin also includes the Potomac River and Roosevelt Island, so its ‘realized’ area should be cut in half). And this ignores areas like 16th Street Heights or Takoma.

What’s worse is that a fair number of these tracts are near public transit. D.C. needs more density, and it needs it now. The problem is that many residents want to live in the burbs while in the city. That’s not going to work out.

*Confusingly, the Dupont Circle neighborhood’s southwest corner is the actual circle; most of the Dupont Circle neighborhood is to the north and east.

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1 Response to D.C. Can Hold A Lot More People

  1. Sideshow Bill says:

    And maybe update Metro? Anyway here’s a cartoon over at the nib on public transit in the US. Lots of sources for the claims at the end. https://thenib.com/why-is-u-s-public-transit-crumbling?utm_campaign=newsletter-links&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter

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