Sprawl Madness Redux: Driving 17 Miles to Go 500 Feet in Phoenix

These two houses in Phoenix are 500 feet or 17 miles apart depending on your mode of transportation. Image: Google Maps

Last year, Angie posted an unfortunate map of two houses in Orlando that share a backyard but are seven miles apart if you take the disconnected local street system. That’s quite a distance to ask your neighbor for a cup of sugar.

Well, reader Sean Horan just sent this mind-blowing sequel: two houses in Phoenix, Arizona — yes, inside the city limits — that are about 500 feet apart as the crow flies but an amazing 17 miles apart if you drive on streets.

The street network also allows you to take this amazing route, which is half a mile shorter, Google Maps helpfully tells me:

The shortest distance between two points is not this. Image: Google Maps
The shortest distance between two points is not this. Image: Google Maps

You may have noticed in the first map that to drive between those two addresses, you have to go around around a big, mountainous, roadless area. Just to be clear: The point is not that we should build a nice, connected street network across the Sonoran wilderness. The point is that there wouldn’t be crazy disconnected streets encroaching on the desert foothills if Phoenix didn’t have so much spread-out, low-slung development like this everywhere else:

Just to clarify: The mountainous, roadless area isn't the problem. Design like this is the problem. Image: Google Maps
Just to clarify: The mountainous, roadless area isn’t the problem. Development like this is the problem. Image: Google Maps

If you’ve got a sprawl contestant that can top this, please send it. Until then: Congratulations, Phoenix, the champion of sprawl.


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