Document Type



The Law and Economics of Street Layouts: How a Grid Pattern Benefits a Downtown, 64 Alabama Law Review 463 (2013)


People congregate in cities to improve their prospects for social and

economic interactions. As Jane Jacobs recognized, the layout ofstreets in a

city's central business district can significantly affect individuals' ability to

obtain the agglomeration benefits that they seek. The costs and benefits of

alternative street designs are capitalized into the value of abutting lots. A

planner of a street layout, as a rule of thumb, should seek to maximize the

market value of the private lots within the layout. By this criterion, the

street grid characteristic of the downtowns of most U.S. cities is largely

successful. Although a grid layout has aesthetic shortcomings, it helps

those who frequent a downtown to orient themselves and move about. A

grid also is conducive to the creation of rectangular lots, which are ideal

for siting structures and minimizing disputes between abutting landowners.

Major changes in street layouts, such as those accomplished by Baron

Haussmann in Paris and Robert Moses in New York City, are unusual and

typically occur in bursts. Surprisingly, the aftermath of a disaster that has

destroyed much of a city is not a propitious occasion for the revamping of

street locations.

Date of Authorship for this Version


Included in

Law Commons