Smart Growth America has released its 2014 Measuring Sprawl report as an update to the study completed in 2002. Sprawl is new development in greenfield areas or land that is not already built on, with low density and dependency on automobiles. This type of suburban development creates a burden on our infrastructure, taxes and the health and prosperity of our cities and our own personal well being.
“To spread out, extend, or be distributed in a straggling or irregular manner,
as vines, buildings,handwriting, etc.”
According to the index created to measure sprawl, Syracuse ranks right around the middle of the 221 cities researched at 130 and a sprawl score of 96.65. The index ranks comparable cities based on the following four measures with 100 being the average.
1. Development density within the core and surrounding region
2. Land Use Mix which takes into account walkablility and job balance
3. Activity Centering which measures job centers and population centers as they spread out from the core
4. Street Accessibility which analyzes block sizes, intersections and street connections
A sprawl score near 100 means that Syracuse is average with the rest of the country in its efforts to reduce sprawl and re-invest in its core. A score under 100 is nothing to be excited about, so in that sense we have a lot of work to do to create a vibrant, prosperous, healthy community. Zoning codes will play a major role in the future of our city as they provide the framework for responsible land use and sustainable practice.
In addition to looking at the geographical advantages to core investment, the study also researched the effects of sprawl on quality of life issues. The findings indicated that people who live in metro environments benefit from the following advantages:
• People spend less of their household income on the combined cost of housing and
transportation in these areas.
• People have a greater number of transportation options available to them.
• And people in compact, connected metro areas tend to be safer, healthier and live
longer than their peers in more sprawling metro areas
What I take from this is the less people depend on cars, the healthier and wealthier they will become. Syracuse’s future as city competing for workforce and corporate talent will only be as successful as our ability to provide convenient alternative transportation methods and a well connected downtown.
Full Smart Growth America Report available Here.