Urban sprawl (suburban sprawl)

• It is the spreading of a city and its suburbs over rural land at the fringe of an urban area. Residents of sprawling neighborhoods tend to live in single-family homes and commute by automobile to work. Low population density is an indicator of sprawl. Urban planners emphasize the qualitative aspects of sprawl such as the lack of transportation options and pedestrian friendly neighborhoods.


• Residents of sprawling neighborhoods tend to emit more pollution per person and suffer more traffic fatalities.
• Sprawl is also linked with increased obesity since walking and bicycling are not viable commuting options.
• Sprawl negatively impacts land and water quantity and quality, and may be linked to a decline in social capital.


Single-use zoning: This refers to a situation where commercial, residential, and industrial areas are separated from one another. Consequently, large tracts of land are devoted to a single use and are segregated from one another by open space, infrastructure, or other barriers.
o As a result, the places where people live, work, shop, and recreate are far from one another, usually to the extent that walking is not practical, so all these activities generally require an automobile (though a bicycle may also be feasible).
Low-density land use: More land, less people in that land. Example: single family homes, as opposed to apartments. Buildings usually have fewer stories and are spaced farther apart by lawns, landscaping, roads or parking lots. Lot sizes are larger, and because more automobiles are used much more land is designated for parking.
o The impact of low density development in many communities is that developed or "urbanized" land is increasing at a faster rate than the population.
Car-dependent communities (automobile dependency): Highly dependent on automobiles for transportation. Activities: shopping and commuting to work, require the use of a car because they are far away from the housing subdivisions Walking and other methods of transit are not practical because they have few or no sidewalks.
Housing subdivisions (villages, towns, and neighborhoods, developments): Large tracts of land consisting of newly-built residences. Incorporate curved roads, cul-de-sacs. Offer few places to enter and exit, causing high traffic.
Strip malls (power centers, retail parks (UK)): Collections of buildings, share a parking lot, built on a high-capacity roadway w/ commercial functions. Wide variety of retail and non-retail functions: daily use (e.g. video rental, takeout food, laundry services, hairdresser). Low-density, single-story buildings, ample space for parking.
Shopping malls: single building, parking lot, multiple shops. Recreational shopping. Serve a wider (regional) public. Require higher-order infrastructure such as highway access. Have floorspaces in excess of a million square feet.
Fast food chains: Fast food chains are common in suburban areas. Built early in areas with low property values where the population is about to boom and where large traffic is predicted.
Office parks that sprawl out


Arguments opposing urban sprawl run the gamut from the more concrete effects such as health and environmental issues to more abstract consequences involving neighborhood vitality.

Health and environmental impact
Urban sprawl is associated with a number of negative environmental and public health outcomes, with the primary result being increased dependence on automobiles.

However, this is mitigated significantly with nearby development of shopping and recreation areas. Also, many people prefer to live close to their place of business which is increasingly centered less around urban areas.

Increased pollution and reliance on fossil fuel
In the years following World War II, when vehicle ownership was becoming widespread, public health officials recommended the health benefits of suburbs due to soot and industrial fumes in the city center. However, air in modern suburbs is not necessarily cleaner than air in urban neighborhoods. In fact, the most polluted air is on crowded highways, where people in suburbs tend to spend more time. On average, suburban residents generate more per capita pollution and carbon emissions than their urban counterparts because of their increased driving.

Increase in traffic and traffic-related fatalities
A heavy reliance on automobiles increases traffic throughout the city as well as automobile crashes, pedestrian injuries, and air pollution. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of five and twenty-four and is the leading accident-related cause for all age groups. Residents of more sprawling areas are at greater risk of dying in a car crash.

Increased obesity
The American Journal of Public Health and the American Journal of Health Promotion, have both stated that there is a significant connection between sprawl, obesity, and hypertension. Many urbanists argue that this is due to less walking in sprawl-type developments. Living in a car centered culture forces inhabitants to drive everywhere, thus walking far less than their urban (and generally healthier) counterparts.

Decrease in social capital
Urban sprawl may be partly responsible for the decline in social capital in the United States. Compact neighborhoods can foster casual social interactions among neighbors, while sprawl creates barriers. Sprawl tends to replace public spaces with private spaces such as fenced-in backyards.

Decrease in land and water quantity and quality
Due to the larger area consumed by sprawling suburbs compared to urban neighborhoods, more farmland and wildlife habitats are displaced per resident. As forest cover is cleared and covered with impervious surfaces (concrete and asphalt) in the suburbs, rainfall is less effectively absorbed into the ground water aquifers. This threatens both the quality and quantity of water supplies. Sprawl increases water pollution as rain water picks up gasoline, motor oil, heavy metals, and other pollutants in runoff from parking lots and roads. Sprawl fragments the land which increases the risk of invasive species spreading into the remaining forest.

Increased infrastructure costs
Living in larger, more spread out spaces generally makes public services more expensive. Since car usage becomes endemic and public transport often becomes significantly more expensive, city planners are forced to build large highway and parking infrastructure, which in turn decreases taxable land and revenue, and decreases the desirability of the area adjacent to such structures. Providing services such as water, sewers, and electricity is also more expensive per household in less dense areas.

Increased personal transportation costs
Residents of low-density areas spend a higher proportion of their income on transportation than residents of high density areas. The RAC estimates that the average cost of operating a car in the UK is £5,000 a year. In comparison, a yearly underground ticket for a suburban commuter in London (where wages are higher than the national average) costs £1,000-1,500.
Major cities - per capita petrol use vs. population density

Neighborhood quality
Critics of sprawl maintain that quality of life is eroded by lifestyles promoted by sprawl promotes. Duany and Plater-Zyberk? believe that in traditional neighborhoods the nearness of the workplace to retail and restaurant space that provides cafes and convenience stores with daytime customers is an essential component to the successful balance of urban life. Furthermore, they state that the closeness of the workplace to homes also gives people the option of walking or riding a bicycle to work or school and that without this kind of interaction between the different components of life the urban pattern quickly falls apart. (Duany Plater-Zyberk? 6, 28). James Howard Kunstler has argued that poor aesthetics in suburban environments make them "places not worth caring about", and that they lack a sense of history and identity.

White flight
Some blame suburbs for what they see as a homogeneity of society and culture, leading to sprawling suburban developments of people with similar race, background and socioeconomic status.26 They claim that segregated and stratified development was institutionalized in the early 1950s and 1960s with the financial industries' then-legal process of redlining neighborhoods to prevent certain people from entering and residing in affluent districts. Sprawl may have a negative impact on public schools as finances have been pulled out of city cores and diverted to wealthier suburbs.27 They argue that the residential and social segregation of whites from blacks in the United States creates a socialization process that limits whites' chances for developing meaningful relationships with blacks and other minorities, and that the segregation experienced by whites from blacks fosters segregated lifestyles and can lead to positive views about themselves and negative views about blacks.28

Ways to prevent sprawl:

* Home buyers could purchase homes in more high-density regions, and in previously developed or redeveloped regions, rather than in newer homes away from urban areas.
* Home buyers could seek out homes that are near public parks within urban and centralized development, rather than large stretches of private land or waterfront property a long distance from metropolitan centers.
* Home buyers could locate in communities that are not as exclusively automobile-dependent, but instead have more public transportation--or better yet, live in communities where commuting to workplaces can be done by foot.
* Homeowners can vote for substantive school budgets in their region which insure that their school district will not deteriorate in quality, so that there is no need for others to establish new schools elsewhere.
* Businesses looking to build or develop spaces could work with local and municipal governments to reach agreements and find less expensive and alternative ways of redeveloping real estate in centralized locations.
* Home builders could build more high-density living communities, such as multiple-family houses or adjoining buildings, condominiums, and larger in-city apartments for families that are seeking more attractive bundles of amenities.
* Local and municipal governments could create tax incentives for businesses to develop previously occupied land, and implement charges and fees on those who attempt to develop virgin land or former farmland.
* Local and municipal governments could change zoning laws, and lift restrictions on single-use zoning, so that business development can occur within residential or formerly residential areas, rather than in rural land.
* Towns and villages could seek to regulate growth in their areas, promoting development only enough for effective progress and economic stimulation, without promoting such environmental strains on their rural spaces.
* Towns, villages, and cities could make sure that their public funds are allocated to the maintenance of quality water & sewer infrastructures, quality urban roadways and traffic systems, quality police forces to keep crime low, and any other function of public monies that will encourage people to remain in higher-density regions and not seek out decentralized living arrangements.

New Urbanism (neotraditional neighborhood design, transit-oriented development, and New Pedestrianism)

New Urbanism is an urban design movement, which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s and continues to reform many aspects of real estate development and urban planning.

New Urbanism is strongly influenced by urban design standards prominent before the rise of the automobile and encompasses principles such as traditional neighborhood design (TND) and transit-oriented development (TOD). It is also closely related to Regionalism and Environmentalism.
Market Street, downtown Celebration, Florida

The organizing body for New Urbanism is the Congress for the New Urbanism, founded in 1993. Its foundational text is the Charter of the New Urbanism, which says:

We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.

New urbanists support regional planning for open space, context-appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe their strategies can reduce traffic congestion, increase the supply of affordable housing, and rein in urban sprawl. The Charter of the New Urbanism also covers issues such as historic preservation, safe streets, green building, and the redevelopment of brownfield land.

New Urbanism draws from the design of older urban neighborhoods, like this one in Venice, California.

Until the mid 20th century, cities were generally organized into and developed around mixed-use walkable neighborhoods. For most of human history this meant a city that was entirely walkable, although with the development of mass transit the reach of the city extended outward along transit lines, allowing for the growth of new pedestrian communities such as streetcar suburbs. But with the advent of cheap automobiles and favorable government policies, attention began to shift away from cities and towards ways of growth more focused on the needs of the car.

This new system of development, with its rigorous separation of uses, became known as "conventional suburban development" or pejoratively as urban sprawl, arose after World War II. The majority of U.S. citizens now live in suburban communities built in the last fifty years, and automobile use per capita has soared.

Although New Urbanism as an organized movement would only arise later, a number of activists and thinkers soon began to criticize the modernist planning techniques being put into practice. Social philosopher and historian Lewis Mumford criticized the "anti-urban" development of post-war America. The Death and Life of Great American Cities, written by Jane Jacobs in the early 1960s, called for planners to reconsider the single-use housing projects, large car-dependent thoroughfares, and segregated commercial centers that had become the "norm."

Rooted in these early dissenters, New Urbanism emerged in the 1970s and 80s with the urban visions and theoretical models for the reconstruction of the "European" city proposed by architect Leon Krier, and the "pattern language" theories of Christopher Alexander.

Key Elements
1. The neighborhood has a discernible center. This is often a square or a green and sometimes a busy or memorable street corner. A transit stop would be located at this center.
2. Most of the dwellings are within a five-minute walk of the center, an average of roughly 1/4 mile or 1,320 feet (0.4 km).
3. There are a variety of dwelling types usually houses, rowhouses, and apartments so that younger and older people, singles, and families, the poor, and the wealthy may find places to live.
4. At the edge of the neighborhood, there are shops and offices of sufficiently varied types to supply the weekly needs of a household.
5. A small ancillary building or garage apartment is permitted within the backyard of each house. It may be used as a rental unit or place to work (for example, an office or craft workshop).
6. An elementary school is close enough so that most children can walk from their home.
7. There are small playgrounds accessible to every dwelling not more than a tenth of a mile away.
8. Streets within the neighborhood form a connected network, which disperses traffic by providing a variety of pedestrian and vehicular routes to any destination.
9. The streets are relatively narrow and shaded by rows of trees. This slows traffic, creating an environment suitable for pedestrians and bicycles.
10. Buildings in the neighborhood center are placed close to the street, creating a well-defined outdoor room.
11. Parking lots and garage doors rarely front the street. Parking is relegated to the rear of buildings, usually accessed by alleys.
12. Certain prominent sites at the termination of street vistas or in the neighborhood center are reserved for civic buildings. These provide sites for community meetings, education, and religious or cultural activities.
13. The neighborhood is organized to be self-governing. A formal association debates and decides matters of maintenance, security, and physical change. Taxation is the responsibility of the larger community.

The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Please improve this article and discuss the issue on the talk page. (February 2010)

New urbanism has drawn both praise and criticism from all quarters of the political spectrum. In an interview in Reason magazine, a libertarian magazine, professor Peter Gordon, a professor of Urban Planning from University of Southern California, spoke out in favor of suburbanization and criticized new urbanism as ignoring consumer preference and the free market, claiming that cities have moved towards car-oriented development because that is what people want.

A stream of thought in sustainable development maintains that sustainability is based primarily on the combination of high density and transit service. Critics claim many new urbanist developments fall short of being truly sustainable, to the extent that they rely on automobile transport, and serve the detached single family housing market. Many new urbanists claim that this is an incentive that prepares people in transition from conventional suburban living to going back to downtown living.

The New Urbanist preference for 'permeable' street grids has been criticized on the grounds that it gives private motor vehicles an advantage over walking, cycling and public transport. The transport performance of some New Urbanist developments, such as Poundbury has been disappointing, with surveys revealing high levels of car use The alternative view, termed 'filtered permeability' (see Permeability (spatial and transport planning)) is that to give pedestrians and cyclists a time and convenience advantage, they need to be separated from motor vehicles in places.

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/00/earthpulse/sprawl/index_flash.html (external link)
This was the link we used for the new urbanism vs urban sprawl assignment, very useful and interactive. Goes into detail.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_urbanism (external link)
Wiki article on new urbanism, more info.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_sprawl (external link)
Wiki article on urban sprawl, more info.