"[Planning Professor Reid] Ewing tracked fewer fatal car crashes in counties with less sprawl. More densely populated counties actually had more car crashes (more traffic), but fatalities were lower. So a person living in Walker County, Georgia, is three times as likely to be killed in a car crash than a person living in Denver County, Colorado."

Urban Sprawl: Get Fat, Stay Poor, And Die In Car Crashes : a new report on metro density says it straight: quality of life improves in compact cities | Fastcodesign.com, 4/7/14

New report confirms Metro Atlanta as leader in sprawl

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A report released today from Smart Growth America calls Metro Atlanta the most sprawling large metro in the US. This confirms that, despite the strides in good urbanism happening all over the region in pockets, there’s a major uphill battle in the long run due to the sprawling development of the past.

Measuring Sprawl 2014 “evaluates development patterns in 221 major metropolitan areas and their counties based on four factors: density, land use mix, street connectivity and activity centering.”

The report lists the damage done to people living in sprawl:

  • Sprawl harms economic mobility. In compact, connected areas, “a child born in the bottom 20% of the income scale has a better chance of rising to the top 20% of the income scale by age 30.”
  • People in sprawling areas spend more on the combined expenses of housing and transportation and have fewer transportation options.
  • Life expectancy is greater for people in compact, connected areas, where both fatal auto collision rates & average body mass index are lower and air quality is better.

And so the Atlanta region has its work cut out for it, being at a greater disadvantage than any other large metro in the US when it comes to inefficient, costly, damaging urban development patterns. It’s going to take good leadership on a region-wide level to make significant changes and retrofit the sprawl for a more sustainable urban environment that benefits us all.

"Cities are human inventions that are thousands of years old…The creation of suburbs is a recent phenomenon and we’re struggling with how to pay for them."

Why Downtown Development May Be More Affordable Than The Suburbs | Forbes.com, 3/15/2014

According to the CDC, motor vehicle-related injuries are the leading cause of death in the US for ages 5-34. Worldwide, road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for ages 15-29. While both statistics are serious, it’s clear that, in the US, a greater range of the population is in danger of death from motor vehicles.
I write a lot about car-centric places being bad for reasons related to efficient, careful land use and for the relationship we have to our built environment and to each other.
But It’s important to take a regular break from those concerns and think about the impact that our car-centric places have on our health in the US. For a look at the other health problems (apart from fatal injuries) caused by cars, see this interview with former CDC director, Richard Jackson.Atlanta traffic photo from Flickr user spartan_puma

According to the CDC, motor vehicle-related injuries are the leading cause of death in the US for ages 5-34. Worldwide, road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for ages 15-29. While both statistics are serious, it’s clear that, in the US, a greater range of the population is in danger of death from motor vehicles.

I write a lot about car-centric places being bad for reasons related to efficient, careful land use and for the relationship we have to our built environment and to each other.

But It’s important to take a regular break from those concerns and think about the impact that our car-centric places have on our health in the US. For a look at the other health problems (apart from fatal injuries) caused by cars, see this interview with former CDC director, Richard Jackson.

Atlanta traffic photo from Flickr user spartan_puma

"Today’s local officials must contend with the enormous liabilities brought about by decades of horizontal expansion. They are asked to provide high levels of service to a widely dispersed population with a tax base that is in no way up to the task."

Money Hall | Charles Marohn, Strong Towns Blog, 2/24/2014

"If we really want to prevent future crises, it’s not going to be a matter of shutting down every time there’s a scary weather forecast, but investing in longer-term solutions to our sprawl."

How Atlanta Survived Icepocalypse II
We’re not a national joke anymore. But our city’s still a sprawling mess.
| Politico, 2/14/2014

The 1952 regional plan that set a pattern for Atlanta’s sprawl

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Thanks very much to a reader named Joe for sending me a link to this fascinating piece he wrote about Atlanta’s sprawl, posted on the GSU library blog.

In the wake of Snow Jam 2014, which saw millions of Metro Atlanta car commuters stranded on icy interstates, he takes a look at the origins of the region’s car-dependent sprawl — a situation that led directly to a reliance on interstates and personal cars for commuting.

According to the post, a 1952 Atlanta regional plan titled Up Ahead “clearly supported the development of a low-density, car-oriented region.” The image above comes from that plan and shows a single-use neighborhood design that keeps uses detached (single-family homes all in one place, stores detached elsewhere) and channels car traffic all onto one to the major artery road.

Does it look familiar? This resembles what most the metro looks like now, though, due to population growth, it’s on a much larger scale that puts most homes even further from destinations than pictured here.

Here’s a good quote:

Although a complex myriad of factors influenced Atlanta’s urban form, such as FHA lending policies that encouraged newly constructed single-family home purchases, an interstate highway system that allowed people to easily move to the suburbs, and weak local land use policies that contributed to the loss of an urban fringe, sprawl across the region was, in part, achieved by choosing to live in the many low-density, limited through traffic, suburban neighborhoods that dot the region.

The one point on which I’ll quibble with this is the phrase “choosing to live” — for new residents, there was not much of a housing choice to be made in a region that offered little alternative to detached-use sprawl in its zoning practices.

I’m very glad to see the metro trending away from this development type in current construction, but we’ve got a long way to go when it comes to repairing the sprawl damage of the past.