How is Sprawl Related to Landscape Change in Cities?
Over the past 20 years the 100 largest US urbanized areas have sprawled an additional 14,545 square miles according to the US Bureau of Census on Urbanized Areas. That was more than 9 million acres of natural habitats, farmland and other rural space that were covered over by asphalt, buildings and housing of suburbia. A major controversy in the efforts to halt the rural land loss is whether land-use and consumption decisions are the primary engines of urban sprawl, or whether it is the nation’s growing population boom that is providing the driving expansion. A good example of this rapid sprawl is the city of Chicago. It has had astonishing growth in the past years bringing about many new issues such as traffic congestion, surging housing markets, air pollution, loss of rural land and overcrowded schools. Through the redevelopment of existing cities like Chicago using methods like smart planning we can create livable areas, meet the needs of citizens and thus reduce the need for sprawl at the outer edge of existing cities. The main issues that will be covered are housing and human and social implications.
The first issue is to define what sprawl is. There are many definitions of sprawl but the central component of most definitions seems to be this: Sprawl is the spreading out of a city and its suburbs over more and more rural land at the periphery of an urban area. This involves the conversion of open space (rural land) into built up, developed land over time. Organizations whose chief concerns involve urban planning goals may tend to emphasize qualitative attributes of sprawl, such as attractiveness, pedestrian-friendliness and compactness. But those who are most concerned about the effect of sprawl on the environment and agricultural resources, the more important overall measure of sprawl, is the actual amount of land that has been urbanized.
When looking at the US Census Bureau data I found that two factors share equally in the blame of sprawl. One is per capita sprawl which is about half of the sprawl nationwide. This type of sprawl appears to be related to the land-use and consumption choices that lead to an increase in the average amount of urban land per resident. The second factor is population growth that leads to the increased number of residents in urbanized areas. No other source of sprawl data is as methodically and standardized as the measures of the bureau’s loss of rural land to urbanization according to the Sierra Club report.
Generally, well-planned sprawl or smart growth is a good thing and will result in fewer acres of rural land being covered by urban development. Environmentalists for example are interested in the urban planning aspects of anti-sprawl work because they can reduce the amount of energy used and pollution produced by residents. Also better planned sprawl is likely to keep residents happier and less likely to decide later to move...