Study: North American urban planning fuels sprawl patterns

A Victoria Transport Policy Institute report said North American cities shouldn't be used as planning models for other urban areas. | Contributed photo
The Victoria Transport Policy Institute recently released a report on public policies that unintentionally encourage and subsidize urban sprawl.

The report concluded that compared with “smart development,” sprawl increases per-capita land consumption by 60 percent to 80 percent and motor-vehicle travel by 20 percent to 60 percent. Sprawl also reduces the amount of land that can be farmed and used for other ecologically beneficial purposes. It also makes it more difficult for non-drivers to get around and increases transportation costs.

By making it more difficult for people to walk, bicycle and use public transportation, sprawl affects lower-income groups the most, contributing to crime and broken families in urban areas. The study looked at planning and market distortions that encourage sprawl, and concluded that the high degree of sprawl and reliance on cars in North American cities is not economically efficient and shouldn’t be used as a model for other cities.

To be more efficient, the report suggested that cities should expand along major transit and utility corridors. To be more livable, cities need to limit the number of cars to the capacity of its roads and available parking spaces, build plenty of parks, create and foster good schools, and promote events that bring residents together.