Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Measuring Urban S p r a w l

A recent article in Governing examined measuring the impact of urban sprawl. They reviewed a new report conducted by the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Research Center, and Smart Growth America, an organization that advocates for sustainable growth.

Smart Growth America and the Metropolitan Research Center analyzed development in 193 census defined Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), or metro areas, as well as 28 census defined Metropolitan Divisions in the largest 11 MSAs. All of the analyzed areas had at least 200,000 people in 2010. MSAs with populations less than 200,000 people were not included in the study. This study also analyzed development in the 994 metropolitan counties which comprised the MSAs. Development in both MSAs and metropolitan counties was evaluated using four main factors: development density; land use mix; activity centering; and street accessibility.

A composite score was then created and each area, or county, was measured in terms of its sprawl. The higher the composite score the less the sprawl and the more compact and connected the area is thought to be. According to the authors, individuals in compact, connected metro areas have greater economic mobility. Individuals in these areas spend less on the combined cost of housing and transportation, and have greater options for the type of transportation to take. In addition, individuals in compact, connected metro areas tend to live longer, safer, healthier lives than their peers in metro areas with sprawl. Obesity is less prevalent in compact counties, and fatal car crashes are less common. 

Below you can find the scores, including the overall composite scores for all of the metropolitan counties in New York. Because researchers weighed the four factors equally, producing an index with an average of 100, that means that metro areas that had scores above 100 tend to be more compact, while those scoring below 100 are more sprawling.