The Placement of the Automobile in Seattle vs. Phoenix

If Phoenix is loops and lollipops, then what is Seattle? After recently moving from Phoenix to Seattle, it is more apparent to me how sprawl has defined Phoenix’s landscape, with its vast amounts of highways interchanges (loops) and cul-de-sacs (lollipops). Disenchantment with the post-industrial city has consequently spawned debates about what constitutes “good” urban design. And this conversion undoubtedly includes the placement of the automobile in our cities.

The values of the time during each city’s population expansion reflect the urban form we see today. Since Phoenix was built largely after WWII, the city expanded in a pattern of curvilinear streets and cul-de-sacs with several major highways linking suburban development types. The idea of the contemporary automobile city was en vogue post-WWII, and as a result, today Phoenix is an automobile dependent city. Many developments, even close to downtown, are suburban in character, with large building setbacks and surface parking lots facing the street.

Seattle, on the other hand, saw its boom at the turn of the 20th century, due to the Klondike Gold Rush and the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. During this time, the use of the automobile was not as widespread, and streetcars were a popular mode of travel in the city. Historic street patterns survive today, so you see far less sprawling street types in Seattle compared to Phoenix.