The folks at Shell may not have known a new campaign was about to kick off declaring Houston to be “The City of No Limits,” but a new report from the oil company on the future of cities around the world certainly helps reinforce a just-as-proud image of our 8,778-square-mile Texas spread. “New Lenses on Future Cities,” one of a series of just-released “scenario” studies sponsored by Shell in conjunction with The Centre for Liveable Cities in Singapore, classifies urban areas around the world into 6 distinct categories based on common features.
Houston, according to the researchers, is too large to be considered one of the Prosperous Communities, and hasn’t earned its way into the Developing Mega-Hubs or Urban Powerhouses clubs. (It certainly doesn’t qualify as an Underprivileged Crowded City or Underdeveloped Urban Centre either) Instead, the report says Houston is a seminal example of a Sprawling Metropolis, proudly featuring it on some accompanying infographics illustrating the archetype (see the green square above). (Other members of this distinctive group of 41 cities include Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, and Los Angeles.)
Though the report identifies a number of common characteristics of Sprawling Metropolises (low average densities in extensive suburbs, where most residents live; “high-value, service-based economies with industry largely pushed outside the city limits and mobility built primarily around the car”), the most distinctive feature of the Sprawling Metropolis is high energy use, which, the report says, is “driven by high per capita incomes, larger homes and sprawling suburban areas, and is concentrated in housing and transport.”
That energy consumption is the standout feature of Sprawling Metropolises — and Houston in particular — is punctuated by a graph included in the oil company report that compares urban density to energy use for private transportation per resident (see below). Unfortunately, the graphic comes from a 2001 study, and likely relies on even older data. But more than a dozen years later, Houston’s appearance as the almost-King of the Hill in the graph’s upper left quadrant remains impressive. In the low-density, using-lots-o’-gas segment, Houston is bested only by Atlanta:
Here’s a video summarizing the classifications developed in the report:
- Shell Scenarios and New Lenses on Future Cities; Report (PDF) [Shell]
- Previously on Swamplot: Animated Growth Maps Help Show Off Houston as ‘The City with No Limits’; New ‘City with No Limits’ Slogan Will Be a Catchy, Fun Way To Promote Houston’s Legendary Sprawl
Images and video: Shell