Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a multifaceted concept, which includes the spreading outwards of a city and its suburbs to its outskirts to low-density and auto-dependent development on rural land, high segregation of uses (e.g. stores and residential), and various design features that encourage car dependency.
Discussions and debates about sprawl are often obfuscated by the ambiguity associated with the phrase. For example, some commentators measure sprawl only with the average number of residential units per acre in a given area. But others associate it with decentralization (spread of population without a well-defined centre), discontinuity (leapfrog development, as defined below), segregation of uses, and so forth.
The term urban sprawl generally has negative connotations due to the health, environmental and cultural issues associated with the phrase. Residents of sprawling neighborhoods tend to emit more pollution per person and suffer more traffic fatalities. Sprawl is controversial, with supporters claiming that consumers prefer lower density neighborhoods and that sprawl does not necessarily increase traffic.
Causes of Urban sprawl
List of causes of urban sprawl.
- Cheaper land and housing costs in the suburbs as compared to urban centers has lured many to settle in these areas.
- There has been an increase in public spending for the development of infrastructure like roads, water and electricity in the suburbs than in existing urban centers, thus adding benefits to life in sprawls.
- There has been an increase in commercial lending practices that favor suburban development.
- Increase in family income of an average American has raised his living standard. Owning a car and paying for gas to transit from suburb to the city is affordable for many Americans.
- Sprawls are characterized by low density populations and less traffic congestion. Therefore, even in the absence of any federal policies that would encourage growth of sprawls, these centers have proliferated due to the willingness of a growing number of people to live in sprawls, where they find life more calm and peaceful than in the cities.
- Higher property and business taxes in the cities have pushed businesses to the suburbs where taxes are generally low.
Effects of Urban sprawl
List of effects of urban sprawl.
- Sprawls have been criticized for increasing public costs. Some view sprawls as a venue where public money is being spent on redundant infrastructure outside the urban areas at the cost of neglecting the infrastructure in the cities that is either not utilized or underutilized.
- Populations living in urban sprawls commute to cities in their automobiles. This has resulted in heavier traffic on the roads leading to traffic congestion, increase in air pollution and automobile related accidents.
- Increasing dependence on automobiles has led the sprawl population to use their vehicles even for short distances. Such behavior is believed to have led to increase in obesity and hypertension, in the population living in sprawls than those in the cities.
- Sprawls have triggered concerns over environmental issues. Houses in sprawls are larger than those in urban centers. This is viewed by some, as waste of cultivable land and displacement of wildlife. As large area of land is covered with impervious material, such as concrete, there is lesser percolation of rainwater to reach the groundwater.
- These are believed to cause disintegration of the social capital of America. Houses in the sprawls are big with large backyards that tend to separate neighbors. Hence social interactions among neighbors is much less in these regions than the cities.
- Due to heavy dependence of people residing in sprawls on automobiles, city planners are compelled to spend more money on larger highways and parking spaces. This is considered as an additional burden on the state treasury as this reduces the area of taxable land.
Solutions of Urban sprawl
You’re going to have to mount a grassroots campaign to make urban sprawl solutions acceptable in your community.
Sometimes those of us who seethe at the inefficiency of dispersed development forget what we’re really supporting. The solutions include:
- Attractive, affordable housing choices within the already developed area
- A real sense of place, a sense of being somewhere unique and interesting, everywhere in the existing metropolitan area
- The perception and reality that development decisions are made fairly metropolitan-wide
- A system such that tax incentives given by one suburb do not penalize other suburbs or the central city
- Availability of walking and biking facilities for transportation, and of public transit
- A judicious mixture of land uses that makes active transportation, in the form of walking and cycling, practical for the shortest of trips
- Preservation of pristine open space within a short drive from the central city, without the intrusion of suburban-style developments into that area
- Strengthening the ability to govern and survive financially for existing suburbs
- Eliminating the environmentally wasteful practice of tearing down older buildings and starting over
- Realizing the public sector fiscal dividends of not investing in new infrastructure when the older infrastructure is available and under capacity.