Urban Sprawl and the Automobile
Urban sprawl is a widespread concern that impacts land use, transportation, social and economic development, and most importantly our health. Poorly planned development is threatening our health, our environment and our quality of life. Sprawl is blamed for many things such as asthma and global warming, flooding and erosion, extinction of wildlife, and most importantly the public health such as social isolation and obesity due to people driving everywhere. Building offices, homes, shops, schools and other buildings influences the building of roads, transit and other transportation modes. This relationship that can lead to safe, walkable, diverse and lively communities or out of control, poorly planned urban sprawl. Unfortunately sprawl has been winning and the public health is at risk.
Literature definitions for sprawl are difficult to pin down because there are numerous things that cause it and what it causes. Sprawl can be described as random development characterized by poor accessibility of related land uses. It affects the landscape being changed for the use of the public. Schools, hospitals, commercial strip development, and low-density residential developments dominate sprawl. As we sprawl farther from community and city centers, Americans are forced to drive more often and greater distances. As we sprawl more, we drive more. And as we drive more, we pollute more. Vehicle smog is one of the main pollutants increased by sprawl.
Smog looks and smells bad. The word itself sounds bad. In the short term, living with smog-filled air causes burning eyes, throat irritation and difficulty breathing. Over the long term it can lead to chronic lung disease, asthma attacks, debilitation, even death. Smog is a public health problem plaguing America's largest cities. To address smog, Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970. While progress has been made, many cities continue to have significant air pollution problems. In 1990 the Act was updated, but of 207 cities analyzed between 1990 and 1999, only 10 to 14 have seen a reduction in smog, while 17 to 25 have seen an increase (www.epa.gov).
The remaining 170+ has seen no significant change. In 1999, 62 million people, more than 20 percent of the population, lived in areas where the air was not deemed safe to breathe. Of the 21 metro areas with air pollution exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for smog, nine cities, home to 57 million people, are considered "severely" polluted, experiencing peak smog levels that exceed the health standard by 50 percent or more! (www.epa.gov/otaq/04-ozone.htm)
Urban sprawl increases traffic on our neighborhood streets and highways. It lengthens trips and forces us to drive everywhere. The average American driver spends 443 hours per year behind the wheel. Residents of sprawling communities drive three to four times as much as those living in compact, well-planned areas. Adding new lanes and building new...