Urban Sprawl Study Results Released
Six Anti-Sprawl Steps Suggested
By Sarah L. Gaines, USCM Intern
November 4, 2002
Smart Growth America released the first in a series of reports on its three-year study of urban sprawl and its impact. Measuring Sprawl and its Impact ranks sprawl in 83 metropolitan areas based on four factors: residential density; neighborhood mix of homes, jobs, and services; strength of activity centers and downtowns; and accessibility of the street network. Sprawl is defined as "the process in which the spread of development across the landscape far outpaces population growth."
According to the report, the most sprawling cities are Riverside, CA, Greensboro, Raleigh-Durham, Atlanta, and Greenville-Spartanburg, SC. New York City ranked as the least sprawling of the cities, followed by Jersey City, Providence, San Francisco, and Honolulu.
The report found that metro areas with more sprawl tend to have more fatal traffic accidents and higher rates of pollution. City planners are recommended to provide more housing opportunities, revive neglected and abandoned communities, and encourage new development in already built up areas.
Traffic and transportation-related problems appear to increase in more sprawling areas. According to the report, if a city were only somewhat more compact, thousands more people would walk to work, drive less, and breathe cleaner air. Increased residential density has the potential to diminish the need to own and drive automobiles, which in turn can help protect air quality and reduce traffic fatalities, while increasing the share of commuters who use transit or walk. Even modest increases in average density, from one or two houses per acre to as few as six or seven, can offset the negative impacts examined in the report. The development of compact, walkable neighborhoods is gaining momentum in the real estate market, with growing numbers of baby bThe report makes six policy recommendations:
The report makes six policy recommendations:
1) Reinvest in neglected communities and promote more housing opportunities. Several housing initiatives already exist, such as state and local low-income housing tax credits, the Community Reinvestment Act, and state affordable housing trust funds. If these programs continue making an impact, funding should not be cut, but increased.
2) Rehabilitate abandoned properties. New Jersey's rehabilitation code led to a large increase in rehabilitation investment in New Jersey's cities, and has been adopted by Maryland, Rhode Island, and other states.
3) Encourage new development or redevelopment in already built up areas. Existing properties already have the infrastructure required to support whole new neighborhoods with a mix of homes, shops, offices, and parks linked together by a grid of streets and sidewalks.
4) Create and nurture thriving, mixed-use centers of activity. Strategies include concentration of mixed-income housing, shops, and offices around train stations and bus stops, and rezoning to permit multifamily housing in and around the jobs-rich "edge cities."
5) Support growth management strategies. Two models are establishing a regional growth framework and managing it by an elected regional council together with local governments, and strategic preservation of prime farmland, sensitive environmental lands, forests and other green spaces, as well as careful planning for development in designated areas.
6) Craft transportation policies that complement smarter growth. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) is up for reauthorization and should favor increased funding in lower-income neighborhoods, and maintain funding for historic preservation.
For more information, or to access this report, visit the website: www.SmartGrowth.org.