The word city described a town that has reached certain parameters, thus making it eligible for certain treatment by the overarching government. This is an old tool to categorize groups of people but in the long history of cities, how we think about these large groupings of people has changed dramatically. When most people think of cities today, they think of large, concrete installations surrounded by skyscrapers. This is not inherently necessary for a settlement, but most modern cities do follow this trend.
This list will countdown the Concrete Jungles: 20 Cities With More Cars Than Actual Trees. The only requirements for a city to make this list are 1) that they experience significant traffic and 2) there have been no attempts to cultivate trees within the city or the attempts have moved at a significantly slower pace than the cities development.
Many of these cities are found in the United States but I have attempted to give an international flair to this list. If you can think of any true concrete jungles that did not make our least, either in the United States or abroad, feel free to mention them in our comments.
20 Los Angeles - The City of Angels but No Trees
There might not be a city that is more synonymous with the evils of human development than Los Angeles. The city has vastly outgrown the limits that were set for it in 1835 and city leaders in the present-day struggle with just getting the necessary resources in to the cities inhabitants. The pictures of palm trees along the road is a famous representation of LA but there are significantly more cars than there are trees in the city of angels. For California being so progressive, they sure do house a lot of entries on this list.
19 Minneapolis/St Paul - Two Cities, Two Problems
As more and more people move into cities, these cities will continue to become clogged with traffic. Our next entry makes this list because it is not only one city growing, it is two. The twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis used to be two distinct entities. As both cities have grown into one another, however, they have become less distinct. In this type of environment there will obviously be more cars than trees. The two cities are constantly battling for space and construction is a major industry in Minnesota. This does not leave very much room for plant life.
18 San Francisco - Too Much Smog
When people think of San Francisco they think of an artsy little city on the bay. What they do not remember is that San Francisco once reached a point where the pollution was so bad that it literally touched off the environmental movement. San Fran has come a long way since then but they have still not achieved the balance between nature and city life that most residents would prefer. For each tree that gets planted within the city's boundaries the cities residents buy several cars This has stunted San Francisco's ability to escape the label of concrete jungle.
17 Hong Kong - Cars By The Bay
As a nation, China might have the most troubling disparity between amounts of cars and the number of trees. It does not compare to places like England, who has a finite amount of space and only so much land to lose to construction, but China seen the largest growth rate of any developing nation. Hong Kong is one of the largest cities in China, so it has experienced a similar growth rate. The city has been an important hub for centuries and as the amount of cars in Hong Kong has grown, the amount of vegetation has shrunk.
16 New York City - The First Concrete Jungle
New York City is the city for which the "concrete jungle" analogy was made, so obviously it has a spot on this list. Despite recent efforts to make the city more aesthetically pleasing and eco-friendly, there is surely more cars in NYC than there are trees. New York has grown so large, in fact, that it is now several miles from the outlying suburbs to the center of the city. Thousands of people continue to migrate to New York every year, so this imbalance between nature and cars in the city will only get worse.
15 Detroit - Ford's Home
Most of the cities on this list are still experiencing significant population growth. This influx of people creates additional problems for city planners so they are unable to devote time and energy to reversing the trend of a concrete jungle. Some cities, however, have seen their populations decline but aren't making efforts to rectify the mistakes of earlier generations. Detroit, Michigan, once one of the most important manufacturing hubs in the entire world, is a good example of this. Detroit's was also the home of Ford’s industrial hub, so it makes sense that the city would be flooded with cars.
14 Tulsa - Cars and Not Much Else
Have you ever gone to a place and wondered how it became a city? This was how I felt upon my visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma. From the airport, to downtown, to the places we visited, it seemed like the whole city was just one, giant slab of concrete. To make matters worse, the Tulsa city government is very conservative. This means that very little money has ever been allocated to public transportation or beautifying the city. In this kind of political climate, it is unsurprising that Tulsa would have more cars than trees. This certainly doesn’t add to the cities aesthetic value.
13 Columbus - More Cars In Middle America
Columbus is not your normal town. This small city in Ohio is considered quintessential "middle America". Because of this, national franchises like to build huge stores in Columbus where they can test their products. This has led the leaders of Columbus to spread out the city. Since things are so far away from each other, public transportation is minimally available and almost everyone drives. Therefore, even though there are a fair number of trees in Ohio, there are certainly more cars. As the city grows, hopefully public transportation will become more prevalent. This is the only way that Columbus will outgrow its label as a concrete jungle.
12 Denver - Rocky Mountains, Smooth Highways
There was a time when Denver Colorado could have rightfully been considered the Wild West. Just east of the Rocky Mountains, Denver was one of the last stops before the gold mines of California. Many people decided to stay in Colorado, kick starting a migration that had continued into the present day. More people means more development and Denver has quickly transformed into a concrete jungle. All the money from legal Mary-Jane sales has been flooding into the state, so do not be surprised if they use some of that revenue to revitalize the city. Hopefully it does not all go to building new roads.
11 Pittsburgh - Three Rivers And A Million Cars
I am very fascinated in how a cities culture and history determine how its citizens view themselves. An interesting case study in this phenomenon is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh was your standard rust belt city, until the downfall of manufacturing in America led to a serious depression in Pennsylvania’s second biggest city.
Instead of reliving their golden era in the 1950s, city officials have been very proactive in trying to make Pittsburgh as livable as possible. If they are going to fully accomplish this, they will have to do something about the city's traffic problem. The rivers complicate the roadway system and it is up to the city planners to solve this puzzle.
10 Salt Lake City- Does the Salt Cause Rust?
If you have lived your entire life in cities on the coasts of the United States then you are probably under the mistaken impression that every city has a well-developed public transportation system. In the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions, however, the people in major cities are almost entirely dependent on cars for transportation.
I remember that there were some difficulties in 2002 when the Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City because there was not enough public transportation to accommodate the throngs of tourists that were in the city for the games. There is no way that there are more trees than cars in this type of city.
9 London - The Sun Never Sets On British Car Pollution
The city of London, England has a long, troubling history with air pollution. At the turn of the 20th century this pollution was caused by large factories but in the 21st century the major cause of London’s infamous smog has been car pollution. A major contributor to this problem is that there are not very many trees in England.
As a small island nation, the U.K. cut down on their lumber to use for shipbuilding and other enterprises of the empire. As Londoners continue to buy more and more cars, the discrepancy between drivers and number of trees in the city will continue to grow.
8 Jackson - A Telling Legacy
Writing for The Travel has given me the opportunity to study several cities within the United States. Something interesting that I have noticed is how many cities are named for famous politicians or statesmen. Even more interesting is comparing how these respective cities live up to their namesake.
A perfect example of this is Jackson, Mississippi, a city that has failed to live up to the future envisioned by former President Andrew Jackson. Jackson is famous for his agrarian view of society. His hatred of big government has been adopted by the modern Republican party but it is their policies that have allowed Jackson to become a concrete wasteland.
7 Beijing - Who Can Forget The Olympics?
It is a big deal for any country to host the Olympics. It is an especially big deal for a country like China who was ostracized by the rest of the world for most of the 20th century. Knowing that so many eyes were on their country, you would have thought that the Chinese government would have been more concerned about the status of Beijing when it hosted the games in 2008. The smog in the city was absolutely atrocious and several athletes were reasonably concerned about the impact that it would have on their performance and their health.
More people in China are getting cars than ever before, so this problem will only get worse.
6 Toronto - Not Enough Trees Eh?
Before I begin this entry, I should admit that I love Toronto. I went there a few years ago for my spring break and the largest city in Canada did not disappoint. I enjoyed the food and tourist attractions, while Toronto gets a lot of praise internationally for being a model, liberal, city.
One detraction that I would place on Toronto, however, is its traffic problem. Despite a well-developed public transportation system, there are too many people driving around the streets. Therefore, even though city officials have tried to make Toronto greener, there are still more cars within the city than there are trees.
5 Chicago - No Trees To Blow In This Windy City
When people think of large cities in the United States, they probably think of the old country cities on the east coast (Boston, New York, etc.). This is mostly accurate, but there are a few cities that break this rule. Chicago, for example, might be the most famous U.S. city not named New York, and it is several hundred miles from either coast. But with the grandeur of being a world city comes some noticeable issues. One issue for Chicago is how oppressive the city has become for its residents. This includes the disparity between the number of cars and number of trees in the city.
4 Paris - The City of Lights, Love and Cars
There are countless representations of Paris in movies, novels, and TV shows. In none of these representations do the authors accurately portray how loud Paris is. The capital of France is also called the city of love, but I could barely hear myself think there, much less meet anyone else. One major contributor of noise (and other) pollution is the traffic.
Paris has a major problem with the amount of people on the road, a problem that has been expounded by the lack of trees within the city limits, despite boasting some beautiful gardens. France is becoming increasingly urbanized and its largest city will feel the brunt of this migration.
3 Rome - It Isn’t Just the Pope Mobile
I doubt that very many of our readers have ever watched a full, official proclamation by the Pope but those who have may have noticed how long it takes for him to get from the Papal Residence to the staging area. One reason for this is how awful traffic is in Rome. If things are this bad for the Pope-Mobile, imagine how bad they are for regular Roman citizens.
This problem is compounded by Rome's long history of deforestation. Ancient Romans had to clear the three hills of trees to create their city and very few trees have been planted within Rome ever since.
2 Miami - Hopefully These Cars Have Air Conditioning
I completely understand why people in Miami would prefer driving to public transportation. The city is very spread out and Florida is so ungodly hot for most of the year that only a maniac would forego using a car if they could afford one. This has created a serious problem for Miami. Not only has the climate ensured that the city's public transportation is underutilized, the fact that the city was built on a swamp prevents significant natural tree growth. All of these ingredients have combined into a recipe for disaster in Miami. My guess is that it will be a dish served warm.
1 Washington D.C. - Leading by example, unfortunately
If any of the entries on this list should trouble Americans, it is this one. If our nation's capital cannot escape this cycle of cars outpacing the growth of trees then what hope is there for the rest of us. If it makes you feel any better, Washington DC often faces problems that are much greater than what is being experienced in the rest of the country. Health epidemics of the 1980s come to mind. But even with keeping those things in mind, something must be done to reduce the numbers of cars in DC and increase the number of trees being planted.