Atlantic City Is One of the Densest Urban Centers in the US

The New Jersey gambling mecca scored high on the sprawl index.

Shot of Atlantic City casinos from 2009 by Brian G. Wilson

Shot of Atlantic City casinos from 2009 by Brian G. Wilson

Atlantic City is the third densest city in America, after just New York City and San Francisco, according to a report released earlier this month by Smart Growth America, a group that advocates against modern suburban sprawl. Also on the densest list is Trenton, which comes in seventh. (The least dense city in America, according to the report, is Hickory, NC.)

ArchDaily explains how for each city a “sprawl index score” was created to make the rankings:




[R]esearchers used four primary factors: development density, a measurement of how dense the built environment is; land use mix, an indication of how well different functions are mixed together; activity centering, a measure of the relative density of the city’s downtown area relative to surrounding areas; and street accessibility, taking into account the size of blocks, number of intersections and density of intersections to measure connectivity.

For the study, researchers analyzed 221 Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Metropolitan Divisions in America, terms which are explained well here.

They also used their data to find a correlation between sprawl and poor quality of life: “people living in sprawling cities have higher living costs, shorter life expectancies, increased risk of obesity and diabetes, and lower economic mobility than those in dense cities.”

Of course, correlation isn’t causation. And there are big exceptions: quality of life isn’t so great, for example, in many of America’s densely built industrial neighborhoods. It’s also not great in much of America’s third densest city.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • kclo3

    It’s the dense vernacular housing that contributes to the high score, because downtown AC is a sea of parking worse than Houston.