Saturday, 3 January 2015

Amsterdam area weighted density

As someone who's interested in the density distribution patterns of cities, and who has frequently compared census tract data of Canadian and American cities, I've often wondered how cities in other parts of the world would compare. The problem is usually finding data at a level comparable to census tracts, rather than just much larger city districts, which smooth out the density highs and lows and lead to lower weighted density numbers.

Well, citypopulation does have some data for certain cities, including the Randstad Region of the Netherlands, a densely populated region of about 6-7 million people that includes the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

Whether or not this can be considered a single agglomeration is somewhat tricky. Land use policies designed to protected limited high quality agricultural lands have prevented many cities from running into one another like they would in other parts of the world, nonetheless I've attempted to approximate an area centered on Amsterdam that would be relatively equivalent to North American urban areas.

The methodology was to define the Amsterdam urban area as all contiguous tracts with densities above 500 people per square mile. This is the density threshold used to define US urban areas, although the US Census Bureau uses block groups (smaller than census tracts) and allows for connecting urbanized clusters that are separated by a sufficiently small stretch of rural densities under certain conditions. I've also included obviously built up areas with few residents such as the port and airport of Amsterdam, and all areas completely surrounded by urbanized tracts.

These are the approximate boundaries of the resulting area, stretching from Lisse through Haarlem to Heiloo in the Western section and to Wormerveer, Weesp and Kuderstaart in the Amsterdam section.


Population: 1,702,825
Weighted Density: 21,990 ppsm (people per square mile)
Population above 50,000 ppsm: 162,330
Population above 20,000 ppsm: 669,760
Population above 10,000 ppsm: 1,330,010

The average tract has a population of 3468, which is sufficiently close to American and Canadian census tracts which average around 4000-5000 people.

And now for the density graphs, with a comparison to Toronto.

Despite having a third of the population, Amsterdam has a comparable number of people living at high densities as Toronto.

The densest parts of Amsterdam appear to be in a ring surrounding the innermost part of the historic centre, especially to the west of it, consisting mostly of rows of buildings about 5 storeys tall. Like most cities, the innermost part is more dominated by commercial uses, so the population density is not as high as the built density would suggest.

The more common densities of about 20,000 ppsm seem to be mostly 2-3 storey rowhouse neighbourhoods that make up much of the outer neighbourhoods of Amsterdams, and the nearby small cities and towns.

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