URBS 150- Sustainable Communities
Urban Sprawl Reaction Paper
23 February 2017
Urban Sprawl, also known as low density, is a type of development that has been prevalent
in the United States since the end of World War II. Urban sprawl, or suburban sprawl, has raised a
great number of concerns in various areas, such as: environmental impacts, loss of community, and
The United States is facing an environmental disaster, losing farmland, green space, and
ecosystems due to suburban sprawl. It is said that if urban areas continue to grow this rapidly, the
environmental problems will continue to increase exponentially. Urban sprawl created more paved
surface, which in turn creates runoff during rainstorms. This runoff picks up oil, chemicals, and
gravel from the pavement and grass and carries them straight into our water supply. Moreover,
more pavements cause less infiltration for groundwater.
Land subsidence is another problem that these areas might face. As the demand for
groundwater increases, more void in the aquifer will be created. The land compresses, causing
flooding issues and cracking of foundations. San Jose is a great example in this regard because it
has suffered more than 13 feet of land subsidence. Another significant environmental cost of
sprawl is “Heat Islands”. This phenomenon increases the temperature in the area due to the
increase in the amount of asphalt and building structures. Phoenix, AZ is a perfect example of a
city in which this phenomenon has occurred due to sprawl.
Farmlands are also being lost for the creation of new highways, industrial parks, and
housing developments. The loss of farmland would minimize our capability to grow food. The
increase in property tax due to the pressure of urban development has forced farmers to lose a lot
of business. They now must sell their farmland for different types of housing developments. U.S.
Census of Agriculture reported a decline in farmland acres from about 938.3 million in 2002 to
about 922.1 million in 2007, a loss of 1.7 percent. The loss of farmland would reduce the quality
and quantity of food supply due to the possible shortcoming of arable agricultural lands.
Consequentially, the price of food would increase as the food supply decreases behind the demand.
Automobiles have become highly valued with the increase of urban sprawl as well. The
government has spent more than 300 billion dollars on the interstate highway system across the
United States. Most cities in the US do not consider the true cost of developmental decisions. Thus,
many expansive projects are being approved since the price is hidden in several states and federal
subsidies. Urban sprawl encourages the construction of more highways across the country to
decrease traffic congestion, but the expansion of highways is a short-term remedy to traffic
congestion, since we invite more car drivers into the streets and highways through the expansion of
these highways and streets. Traffic congestion because of sprawl would also impact significantly in
the incrimination of the cost of traffic law enforcement, car insurance, highway maintenance, and
road emergencies/medical services. Empirical studies demonstrate that traffic congestion in the
United States causes extravagant costs to urban residents as well. Instead of spending more money
on railways, we strive to resolve our traffic problems through expanding highways, although it would take us fifteen lanes of highway to move as many people as one lane of track.
Urban Decline is the view that sprawl leads to the decline of core cities due to public and
private resources being devoted to t