Lecture 11: Urban Sprawl, Smart Growth, Path Dependence
- Urban sprawl
- What is the problem with sprawl?
- Major arguments against it
- Smart growth in the 1990s
- Who is against smart growth
- Patterns of growth in the GTA
- History of planning policy in the GTA
- Path dependence in urbanization
WHAT IS URBAN SPRAWL?
- “a form of urbanization distinguished by leapfrog patterns of development, commercial
sgtrips, low density, separated land uses, automobile dominmance, and a minimum of
public open space” (Gillham, 2002)
o Leap frog—jumping over from city to agricultural land. Very prominent in the USA
except for the dessert in Las Veges but almost every city in the US has leap frog
development. Developers buy land farther out from the city and develop on that.
o Lower density—existing in urban development. Urban development in the last 20
years in the US has been single use areas of development big areas that are JUST
housing, or big areas that are just businesses
o Automobile dependent because public trainsit is not viable in these new
developments, as well the land is separated in large distances
- Dispersed development, at lower denstities than existing urban areas
- Development with large areas of single sue development
- Automobile dependent development
WHY DID HTIS NEW URBAN FORM DEVELOP?
- Rapidly growing car ownership
o Other countries have caught up to the USA
o Asian countries of affluence have started to spread out because housing is being
built outside the city. The farther you get away from the city, the cheaper the
- Economic growth, increasing wealth
- Urban problems – congestion, pollution, issues of housing costs, racism (inner cities with
rural areas--- white flight in the USA ), poor school
o All of these issues were tending to drive the disperasal of people in outer city
looking for low density and cheap housing. This increased the level of sprawl
- Emergence of large scale housing industry
o Before the WWII housing was built one at a time, or a few houses each year, or
custom houses. After the WWII, one builder would build thousands of houses in one
- Fragmented governments
o Very little capacity to do planning, regulations
- Cheap land
o The land was cheap outside the inner city which created cheap housing
- It was not just about have more cars, but the separation of land
MAJOR ARGUMENTS AGAINST SPRAWL
- One of the biggest problems with sprawl is its high costs
- For housing in remote locations, costs for services are all higher (but lower land costs
means housing is cheaper)
- But equally important is shift in who pays—shifts in balance of private costs and public
- Public costs (schools, hospitals, roads, emergency services) are much higher because you
have to pay for the cost of distances travelled
o Private costs are lower, while the public costs are more. The public ends up paying
more of the long-term costs for infrastructure.
- Higher social costs are not the developers concern
o The increase tax revenue is not enough to pay for the maintenance of the
infrastructure and after 20 or 30 years the renewal cost is not the responsibility of
the developer but of the public. Thus municipal governments have huge
infrastructure deficits—we are no renewing the entire suburbanization
- Local governments (taxpayers) get stuck with bills
- Large single-use areas means cars are necessary for every trip
- Suburban street layouts make it difficult to walk
o The dominant goal was to make lower density to make easy car travel and
separating pedestrians from cars.
- No close destinations, routes are not direct
- Many loops and lollipops, few sidewalks
- Self-reinforcing cycle:
o Cars need lots of surface parking and roads
o This reduces density further
o Makes other modes (walking, biking, transit) less viable
- Some argue that sprawl and auto dependence make the development of community and
- Do you agree?
- What is the logic of the argument
o Being auto dependent means we have less time to talk to our neighbours and to get
to know them.
o However parks are created so residents can get to know each other, as well children
Thus it is an open ended questions
- What are some possible counter arguments?
o Community is ever evolving phenomena, and there is real question if whether is a
o People say that people are less likely to be open to their neighbours, but others
- Major health issues associated with sprawl:
Not much walking
Big correlation with obesity and sprawl
o Traffic accidents
Driving much farther and spend more time in your car means simply more
likely to have a car accident
In North America is become an epidemic because of air pollution. Low density
environments have better quality air, but we have higher levels of asthma if
they are low density?
• The latest research is saying that inside of cars, you have high level of
pollution because you have high exposure to air pollution when you are
• You spend a lot of time in your car.
o Mental illness
Co-location issues... we do not too much about it...
- Does it make sense to link all these to sprawl?
- It is often argues that municipal fragmentation (many small local governments) is
connected to sprawl
- Why is fragmentation of local governments thought to contribute to sprawl?
o Are not able to regulate land development because they are not willing it. It cost
money to higher planners and developers. Where you have fragmentation you have
governments that are unwilling. The converse, where you are likely to have
fragmentation, you have municipal governments to connect and join together.
- Why is fragmentation sprawl contributed to fragmentation of local governments?
o Some local governments have good public schools
- Is this a serious problem?
o In Canada, provincial governments have regimes of what municipal governments
do, the services they provide and the taxes.
o Economies of scale – if you are a municipalities of millions, you will be more
involved, but this does not mean you are most EFFICIENT
- Sprawl is often described as a self-reinforcing process that makes it hard to change course
o When a place builds up with higher density, you can create those walking and