Uninhibited urban, or more commonly, suburban growth outward from the city center. Causes massive transportation problems including resultant pollution as well as making cities less liveable and less attractive by the use of the subdivision and the strip mall as standard units of growth and the near-elimination of green spaces and wildlife habitat. Part fo Al Gore's presidential campaign is reform for this problem.

The environmentalist cliche of the late 1990's. It is a real problem, and it's the particular problem that's getting a lot of press. Probably, because the mainstream can really see it (as opposed to the rain forests). This problem is worsened by the exclusive use of roads in city design, ignoring other forms of transportation (railroads, subways, or sidewalks). If you can't get lunch without getting in a car, you know this problem.

In the 60s and the 70s this was referred to as "growth." The babyboomers who raced away from the cities of America to create suburbs were considered part of the "new America."

This was seen as a good thing.

Now that those same people are grandparents, and their grandchildren are moving the same distance away from them (to the outer suburbs, exurbs or semirural America)
this is bad thing.

The term "urban sprawl" is negative, almost by definition. It implies unecessary waste and pollution. It is associated with urban decay, although I am not sure which came first. (If the decay came first doesn't that explain the sprawl leaving to get away from the decay?).

If you live in a very clean, safe (see expensive) part of a city or an exclusive suburb you would think: "Why move?"

So, if you live in Hoffman Estates, IL or Reston, VA. etc. I can understand why you do not think that moving out to the country makes much sense.

For the rest of us who want to have a place to live that matches their income and also want the freedom to pick where we want to live maybe we would like the same freedom the previous generations have had.

If urban sprawl was renamed:

"forcing young people to live in older, decaying, lower income suburbs because it's near my nice neighborhood"

I imagine it would be a less popular political topic.

The question is why the decay in the center? And I think it is inextricably connected with why "growth", so-called.

It is easier, cheaper, and therefore more profitable for private developers to carve out single unit properties from virgin farmland, lay down utilities, and build, than in city centers. In places like Southern California, the land is perfect for this.

To redevelop city centers, is much more difficult, more expensive, and, of course, less profitable. Infill, a technique of building inbetween the spaces in the already built, is not convenient to typical developers.

The other problem, is utilities and services. Denser housing makes electricity lines, water and sewer mains, public transit system, schools, hospitals, etc, etc, more economic, and more convenient.

But it's obvious, utilities and services are mostly public sector, especially in Canada. The current political fashion is to starve the public sector of money, and pour it into the private sector.

This is the formula for the continuing doughnutization, of Los Angelesation of all cities.


"The unalterable course of events in most American cities."

"Sprawling cities have little need for public transportation."

I have to take issue with these statements. Is there some rule of god that declares some things "the unalterable course of events"? Excuse me, day and night--maybe--but all else is what some people make for the good of themselves.

As Bob Dylan once said "Money doesn't talk--it screams." We hear the protests of so many developers that the only way to grow a city is to grow out. Or as DMan says up. But cities can also grow in. But all of this is too hard, too expensive, not profitable enough for private developers. (Where is "rugged individualism" when we really need it?)

So they strand workers in out of the way 'islands' of housing for those who can afford it, but not, say cars. Maybe we should let these people walk? I'm one of those people. Why should there be so many cars? Is this another one of these rules of god?

Again, it is the nexus of companies that make vast profit from cars, ashphalt, building suburbs, and exurbs, that have pushed this agenda for 50 years. And dismantled functioning transit systems, both public and private, in most American cities.

Profit perverts.

The unalterable course of events in most American cities. Unless the city is landlocked or short on usable land, the natural flow of expansion is out, not up. In several Asian cities, most notably Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Taipei, lack of land has forced city developers to go up instead of out, resulting in pollution that is many times worse than any American city.

Jungles of air conditioners turn summer into living hell, and despite the lack of cars, the air is chokingly dirty. Why? Tall apartment buildings cover the city like a canopy, preventing the circulation of air. Public transport in Asia has been all but privatized, resulting in superior services for lower costs, an integral part of a dense urban jungle. In Hong Kong, many utilities have been sold to the private sector, making it by far the most efficient concrete jungle in the world, and to a degree the most comfortable one as well. Private sector is always better than public sector.

Since America and Canada actually has the land to expand, they have to use it. Both countries have too many vehicles, and if development goes up instead of out, expect pollution to skyrocket, not to mention traffic deadlocks and riots. Lack of open space causes a lot of anger to build up in most people, I've noticed. Urban renewal, no matter how much of it is done on any city, can only stall the urban sprawl.

It's not a question of profit. It is a question of practicality. Urban sprawl sucks, and I hate Los Angeles, but to city developers, there is no other choice. Sprawling cities have little need for public transportation. In any case, better doughnut than Lego. Trust me, you would absolutely hate living in Hong Kong even if you're used to cities.


Actually, Saige, sprawl cities have much better services than stacked cities. And cheaper too, I might add. Chances are you don't find water and electricity plants inside the city, and underground wiring and piping gets very costly. Roads? They're cheap compared to the requirements for the maintanence of an urban city, being public transit. Sprawled cities don't need to spend a lot on public transportation. And no, Boston and Toronto are not sprawled. LA is sprawl.

Better car culture than wearing a gauze mask to work like I have to do right now in Shanghai.

The problem of urban sprawl is best seen in cities where there is little or no population growth. For example, Rochester, New York. The population there has had very little increase. However, due to the migration of people out of the city and into suburbs, the amount of roads, and maintenance cost of those roads, has nearly doubled. It's tougher for utilities to provide service to everyone, and there's an increased likelihood of failure.

It means more driving is necessary, and commute times are longer. Distances in general are worse, so walking is less of an option. It's urbanization of more land, reducing the land usable for other purposes. Public transportation is tougher to set up, and more expensive to maintain.

Studies conducted over the last 30 years have concluded that when development is spread out at low densities, the per-unit cost of constructing and maintaining public facilities increases. The reason for this is that low- density development requires more miles of roads, curbs, sewers, and water lines; and municipal services must be delivered over a greater geographic area.

The Urban Land Institute
The Case for Multifamily Housing, 1991

It means the local governments have to spend more money maintaining infrastructure, so either taxes have to go up, or various programs have to be cut or reduced.

By updating and standardizing the studies [James E.] Frank found that streets, utilities, and schools for a suburban single family development with 3 dwelling units per acre built 5 miles from sewage and water treatment plants in a leapfrog pattern would cost $43,381 per dwelling in 1987 dollars. Building the same development adjacent to existing development and near central facilities would reduce costs by $11,597 per dwelling unit, a 27 percent reduction.

Center for Urban Studies (PSU) and Regional Financial Advisors, Inc. DLCD's Local Government Infrastructure Funding in Oregon, 1990

It may be due in some ways to the car culture of America, since some people don't really comprehend any way to get along without having a vehicle, and in the city it's often tougher to deal with one, with parking and the like.

Examples? Between 1970 and 1990, the population of Chicago grew by only 4%, but developed area increased by 46%. Los Angeles is even worse, as the population increased by 45%, but the developed land by 300%! The average commute grew by 36%, the total number of trips people take grew by 10%, leading to total miles driven increasing by 40%. (And a corresponding increase in gasoline usage, automobile wear and repair, and road wear)

"From 1983 to 1987, the population of the United States increased by 9.2 million-people -- and the number of cars and trucks increased by 20. 1 million." - Source: Statistical Abstract of United States, 1989

There are some theories that sprawl may be a direct effect of the transportation systems being set up. If you compare American cities with European cities, you'll see that American ones are more spread out - especially the ones further out west (Los Angeles is a prime example). The key is that American cities were built with the automobile in mind, while the cities in Europe were around for a long time beforehand. Sprawl is even starting to grow in Europe.

Evidence seems to suggest that roads dictate the use the land around them gets, with some influence from business owners. When a pair of really busy roads meets in an intersection, no matter what the land use, there will be a push for the land to be zoned commercial, and the big businesses with their huge parking lots move in. The traffic increases, and any housing along those streets watches its value and desirability go down, due to the heavy traffic, and people move into neighborhoods. (Think about it - would YOU want to live along a 4/5/6 lane street with cars doing 55 all hours of the day?)

From http://user.gru.net/domz/drives.htm:

Here is an excerpt from Kulash: "The packaging of 50,000 daily vehicles (and therefore, a total daily population of 60,000 to 70,000 drivers plus passengers) into a single arterial street leads inevitably to the irresistible urge to sell things to this population, and creates a sellscape along the street. Containing this type of use of 50/50 [50 mph and 50,000 car trip] streets is far beyond the will and ability of the typical local government. The 50/50 arterial is a gift-wrapped, gold-plated, gift to strip development. Once in place, almost no power on earth will stop its march toward strip commercial. Time spent berating local governments (counties and cities) for not doing better with these monstrosities (and I've done my share of this) is satisfying to the critic, but is unproductive. Once in place, it is too late to do much about the 50/50 arterial.

It is bad enough that we inevitably get a sellscape on our 50/50 roads. What is even worse is that we get a miserable looking sellscape. Because of the inherent design feature of the road -- the 50- to 60-mph design speed -- we evolve a sellscape that is geared largely to the motorist passing by at 45 to 50 mph.

Visually, the sellscape is focused on a narrow cone, ranging several hundred feet from the driver. This full sellscape is enjoyed only by those drivers in the outer lane; things get worse as you get into the interior lanes. This 50-mph sellscape can be interesting and can entertain, particularly at first viewing. Some superior design and behavioral science talents have gone into making sure that this scene attracts your attention.

The 50-mph sellscape is the highway equivalent of newspaper headlines: they catch your first attention, but don't impart anything more with closer inspection or repeated exposure.

At slower speeds, the driver's field of vision broadens out to a wider angle. And what does the sellscape offer as you look at it more closely? Does the 50-mph feature now reveal a 20-mph texture, a finer grain, a deeper level of stimulation? No, it doesn't. It's hollow, empty. It has nothing further to offer. And at the stopped condition (where we spend a good portion of our travel time) how does the sellscape look? Even worse than at 20 mph, of course.

To follow the newspaper analogy, there are no bylines and no news story. No richness of information. No inverted narrative. If you're not moving, the sellscape doesn't want you, and can't use you. The street sellscape, like its television counterpart in the 30-second and 15-second commercials, has to go for the quick hard-sell. You do this by being strident, out-shouting the next seller, demanding attention or raising the decibels.

The individual land uses on the 50/50 strip may be attractive in other settings. The blight comes from how these are assembled into a 50/50 environment. For example, offices can have great driver eye appeal or zero appeal. Fast food restaurants that we like to criticize as auto-dominated can be part of the ordinary sellscape or contribute substantially to driver eye appeal. Commercial tourist attractions, a mainstay of our Florida growth, can also range from terrific driver eye appeal to absolute zero.

The idea that you can keep local access off the arterial streets is simply preposterous ... Think about it -- we bundle together 50,000 vehicles with 60,000-70,000 occupants into a captive market. We make sure we don't give them any other route. We ruin the roadscape, by the size of it, for anything else. And then we, in theory, expect strip commercial to stay off? Get serious.

The presence of 70,000 persons daily passing along a road sets off a strong, almost unstoppable series of development actions ("sell them something") that greatly change the intended operation of the arterial street."

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