Group Title: Affordable housing issues
Title: Affordable housing issues ; vol. 13 no. 1
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Title: Affordable housing issues ; vol. 13 no. 1
Series Title: Affordable housing issues
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing
Publisher: Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: December 2002
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Bibliographic ID: UF00087009
Volume ID: VID00018
Source Institution: University of Florida
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M.E. Rinker, Sr., School of Building Construction College of Design, Construction & Planning PO Box 115703,
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-5703 TEL: (352) 392-7697 SUNCOM: 622-7697 FAX: (352) 392-4364

Volume XIII, Number 1

December 2002

Measuring the extent and impact of sprawl has been the topic of much research over the years. The
results of a three-year study that was supported by Smart Growth America, several foundations, and
the US Environmental Protection Agency is available on the Internet at This study is claimed to be the most comprehensive effort yet under-
taken to define, measure, and evaluate metropolitan sprawl and its impact. Other reports based on the
study will be issued in the future. The Executive Summary of thefirst report has been reproduced
below in its entirety in order to encourage inquisitive readers to retrieve and read the full report.

Much as Justice Potter Stewart said of por-
nography, most people would be hard pressed
to define urban sprawl, but they know it when
they see it.
Increasingly, however, that is not good
enough. As more and more metropolitan areas
debate the costs and consequences of poorly
managed expansion, there is an increasing need
to be clear about the terms of the discussion.
Politicians and planners aiming to contain
sprawl also must have an agreed-upon way to
define and measure it in order to track their
progress. Beyond that, it is important for policy

makers to be able to demonstrate how, and to
what degree, sprawl has real implications for
real people.
The study underlying this report, the prod-
uct of three years of research by Reid Ewing of
Rutgers University, Rolf Pendall of Cornell
University, and Don Chen of Smart Growth
America represents the most comprehensive
effort yet undertaken to define, measure and
evaluate metropolitan sprawl and its impact.
This report is the first in a series of findings
to be issued based on the ongoing analysis of
that work.



Beginning with an exhaustive review of the
existing academic and popular literature, the
researchers identified sprawl as the process in
which the spread of development across the
landscape far outpaces population growth. The
landscape sprawl creates has four dimensions:
a population that is widely dispersed in low
density development; rigidly separated homes,
shops, and workplaces; a network of roads
marked by huge blocks and poor access; and a
lack of well-defined, thriving activity centers,
such as downtown and town centers. Most of
the other features usually associated with
sprawl-the lack of transportation choices,
relative uniformity of housing options or the
difficulty of walking-are a result of these

Based on this understanding, the researchers
set about creating a sprawl index based on four
factors that can be measured and analyzed:

Residential density
Neighborhood mix of homes, jobs, and
Strength of activity centers and down-
Accessibility of the street network

Each of these factors is in turn composed of
several measurable components, a total of 22 in
all. Residential density, for example, includes
the proportion of residents living in very
spread-out suburban areas, the portion of
residents living very close together in town
centers, as well as simple overall density and
other measures. Before being included, each
variable was tested through technical analysis
to ensure that it added something unique to the
overall portrait of sprawl.
The information assembled for each of 83
metropolitan areas (representing nearly half of
the nation's population) produced a richly
textured database that offers the most compre-
hensive assessment of metropolitan develop-

ment patterns available to date. This study is the
first to create such a multidimensional picture of
the sprawl phenomenon and analyze related

Based on its performance, each metro area
earned a score in each of the four factors, indicat-
ing where it falls on the spectrum relative to
other regions. Much of the value of this study is
in this ability to look at the particular ways in
which individual regions sprawl.
Some metro areas were found to sprawl badly
in all dimensions. These include Atlanta, Ra-
leigh and Greensboro, NC. A few metros did
better than other regions in all four factors;
among them are San Francisco, Boston, and
Portland, Oregon. Other metro areas are more of
a mixed bag. In those cases, the individual factor
scores can tell us more about the characteristics
of individual metro areas. For example, while
the Columbia, SC or Tulsa, OK metro areas
contain large swaths of low-density develop-
ment, the presence of a number of strong centers
bring them up in the overall ranking. And while
San Jose, California, has slightly higher density
than most metro areas, its lack of centers of
activity pulls it down in the overall ranking.
The scores for the four factors were combined
to calculate the overall Four Factor Sprawl Index,
ranking the most and least sprawling metropoli-
tan areas. On the Index, the average is 100, with
lower scores indicating poorer performance and
more sprawl, while higher scores show less
sprawl. Using this Index, the most sprawling
metro area of the 83 surveyed is Riverside,
California, with an Index value of 14.22. It
received especially low marks because: it has
few areas that serve as town centers or focal
points for the community: for example, more
than 66 percent of the population lives over ten
miles from a central business district; it has little
neighborhood mixing of homes with other uses:
one measure shows that just 28 percent of resi-
dents in Riverside live within one-half block of
any business or institution; its residential density
is below average: less than one percent of
Riverside's population lives in communities with
enough density to be effectively served by

transit; its street network is poorly connected:
over 70 percent of its blocks are larger than
traditional urban size.
In the overall national ranking, Riverside is
followed by Greensboro, NC; Raleigh, NC;
Atlanta, GA; Greenville, SC; West Palm Beach,
FL; Bridgeport, CT; Knoxville, TN; Oxnard-
Ventura, CA; and Ft. Worth, TX.
At the other end of the scale, the metro area
with the highest overall score is, not surpris-
ingly, New York City, closely followed by
Jersey City just across the Hudson River. (New
York and Jersey City are such extreme "outli-
ers" that they were excluded from most of the
comparative analysis discussed later in the
report.) Providence, San Francisco, and Hono-
lulu round out the top five most compact
metros, followed by Omaha, NE, Boston,
Portland, OR, Miami, and New Orleans.

This initial report examines several transpor-
tation-related measures and impacts and finds
that people living in more sprawling regions
tend to drive greater distances, own more cars,
breathe more polluted air, face a greater risk of
traffic fatalities and walk and use transit less.
Although this study was not designed to prove
that land-use patterns cause those conditions,
sprawl and its component factors were found to
be a greater predictor than numerous demo-
graphic control variables that were also tested.
Among the impacts of sprawl found:

Higher rates of driving and vehicle owner-
ship. The research indicates that in relatively

Riverside-San Bernardino, CA PMSA
Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point, SC MSA
Raleigh-Durham, NC MSA
Atlanta, GA MSA
Greenville-Spartanburg, SC MSA
West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, FL MSA
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk-Danbury, CT NECMA
Knoxville, TN MSA
Oxnard-Ventura, CA PMSA
Fort Worth-Arlington, TX PMSA

sprawling regions, cars are driven longer
distances per person than in places with lower-
than-average sprawl. Over an entire region,
that adds up to millions of extra miles and tons
of additional vehicle missions. Also, the study
found that in the ten most sprawling metropoli-
tan areas, there are on average 180 cars to every
100 households; in the least sprawling metro
areas (excluding New York City and Jersey
City, which are outliers), there are 162 cars to
every 100 households. The research indicates
that this is not simply a matter of greater or
lesser affluence; even controlling for income,
households are more likely to bear the expense
of additional vehicles in more sprawling areas.
Increased levels of ozone pollution. The
study found that the degree of sprawl is more
strongly related to the severity of peak ozone
days than per capital income or employment
levels. The difference in ozone peaks appears
significant enough to potentially mean the
difference between reaching or failing to meet
federal health-based standards. Failing to reach
the standard not only imperils the health of
children and other vulnerable populations, but
also subjects regions to a raft of rigorous com-
pliance measures.
Greater risk of fatal accidents. Residents of
more sprawling areas are at greater risk of
dying in a car crash, the research indicates. In
the nation's most sprawling region, Riverside
CA, 18 of every 100,000 residents die each year
in traffic crashes. The eight least sprawling
metro areas all have traffic fatality rates of
fewer than 8 deaths per 100,000. The higher
death rates in more sprawling areas may be
related to higher amounts of driving, or to more
driving on high-speed
Wvea ll Sarterials and highways,
In e S as opposed to driving
14.2 1 on smaller city streets
46.8 2 where speeds are lower.
54.2 3 Speed is a major factor
57.7 4 in the deadliness of
58.6 5 automobile crashes.

67.7 6
68.4 7
68.7 8
75.1 9
77.2 10

Depressed rates of
walking and alternative
transport use. In more
sprawling places,
people on their way to

work are far less likely to take the bus or train
or to walk. Twice the proportion of residents
take public transit to work in relatively non-
sprawling metro areas versus those with
below-average scores. Likewise, thousands
more residents walk to work in regions that
sprawl less.
No significant differences in congestion
delays. The research found that sprawling
metros exhibited the same levels of congestion
delay as other regions. This finding challenges
claims that regions can sprawl their way out of

This study shows that sprawl is a real,
measurable phenomenon with real implica-
tions for peoples' everyday lives. Regions
wishing to improve their quality of life
should consider taking steps to reduce
sprawl and promote smarter growth. Based
on this research, Smart Growth America

offers six policy recommendations:
1. Reinvest in neglected communities and
provide more housing opportunities
2. Rehabilitate abandoned properties
3. Encourage new development or redevelop-
ment in already built up areas
4. Create and nurture thriving, mixed-use
centers of activity
5. Support growth management strategies
6. Craft transportation policies that comple-
ment smarter growth

For additional information on various aspects
of sprawl, please visit the Smart Growth
America web site at The complete
31-page report whose executive summary is
presented in this newsletter is also available on
this web site.

Affordable Housing ISSUES is prepared bi-monthly by the Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing for the purpose of
discussing contemporary issues facing affordable housing providers. Reproduction of this newsletter is both permitted and
encouraged. Comments or questions regarding the content are welcome and should be addressed to Robert C. Stroh, Director.

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