Poorly planned development threatens our environment, our health, and our quality of life in numerous ways.
Sprawl spreads development out over large amounts of land; puts long distances between homes, stores, and job centers; and makes people more and more dependent on driving in their daily lives.
Sprawl pollutes our air and water. As reliance on cars and pavement of more and more roads increases, so does smog and pollution from water runoff. Today, more than half all Americans live in areas where the air is unsafe to breathe. Sprawl destroys more than two million acres of parks, farms and open space each year.
Sprawl increases traffic on our neighborhood streets and highways. Sprawl lengthens trips and forces us to drive everywhere. The average American driver currently spends the equivalent of 55 eight-hour workdays behind the wheel every year.
Sprawl wastes tax money. It pulls economic resources away from existing communities and spreads them out over sparse developments far away from the core. Taxes subsidize millions of dollars worth of new roads, new water and sewer lines, new schools and increased police and fire protection at the expense of the needs of the core communities. This leads to degradation of our older towns and cities and higher taxes.
The Good News
Runaway growth is not inevitable -- we can have cleaner air and water, more choices in transportation modes and places to live, and better-protected parks, farms and open spaces. Hundreds of urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods are using smart-growth solutions to address the problems caused by sprawl. Examples of smart-growth solutions include:
- Making significantly greater investments in clean public transportation, including modern commuter trains and clean buses.
- Planning pedestrian-friendly developments where people have transportation choices, such as trains and bus service; providing good walking and bicycling facilities around shopping and parks; and implementing traffic calming measures.
- Promoting regional and statewide planning that combines the transportation, land-use and environmental planning efforts.
- Building more affordable housing close to transit and jobs.
- Supporting greater public involvement in the transportation and land-use planning processes.
- Funding innovative, incentive based programs for encouraging alternative transportation use, such as tax credits for public transit, walking or biking, and parking cash out and parking fees.
- Requiring developers to pay impact fees to cover the costs of new roads, schools, water and sewer lines, and requiring property-tax impact studies on new developments.
Smart growth not only improves air and water quality and protects open space, but it also redirects investments to our existing towns and cities. See how smart growth solutions can revitalize sprawling communities.
Photo licensed to Sierra Club; all rights reserved.
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