Over the past half-century, a growing trend has become apparent throughout many cities’ development. This phenomenon has become known as urban sprawl and has largely been defined as the uncontrollable spread of urban development particularly over rural landscapes. It’s an area of particular importance to city planners as they must manage zoning to supervise this growth and the spread of population and has become a problem particularly in cities such as Atlanta, Ontario, Pheonix, and Los Angeles as well as other cities around the world.
Environmental concerns are captain among the problems urban sprawl can present. To make room for development, forests, grasslands, and farms are typically transformed from rural land into the concrete and asphalt surfaces that make up suburban areas removing, possibly killing, the natural plant life and wildlife. The switch from green vegetation to heat absorbing surfaces can also be dangerous for human life as another phenomenon, known as the urban heat island, takes affect. This extra phenomenon raises the temperature of city areas, which leads to increased heat caused aliments. The water supply is potentially under attack too as the newly created surfaces affect runoff and ground absorption not allowing the replenishment of the water table.
Another environmental issue is the use of the automobile. Vehicle travel time swells with the added area that comes as a function of a city’s outward growth. The result of this extra time on the road means an increase in carbon dioxide emissions amplifying air pollution and contributing to global warming. With distance being a significant cost to individuals, many will choose to drive rather than walk putting more vehicles on the road furthering the emissions problem and spurring obesity due to less exercise. Large amounts of traffic can also yield higher road rage incidents adding yet another concern to urban sprawl.
Knowing the issues that come about as a result of urban sprawl is great but what causes it? Generally, a lack of planning is where the problem of urban sprawl begins. An exuberate population increase and a matching demand for housing can throw many building strategies off as it’s much easier to quickly construct low-density housing then to take the time to grow upward with higher density building. Slower population expansion can also become a problem over time; the sprawl can go unchecked year after year while only being recognizable after it has already taken place and hold of surrounding areas.
Technology advancement and infrastructure placement has been known to result in urban sprawl as well. Over the last century, many technologies have come along that has allowed for individuals to function in a city environment despite increasing distances between home, work, and family. The ability to transverse over large distances with the invention of the automobile has thus aided the creation of low-density development. Telecommunication improvements such as the telephones have also made distance less important in regards to development.
The location of infrastructures has always been a factor as well. Population spurts have regularly occurred around newly created highways or vastly improved road networks. Local resident also have tendency to want to be within the proximity of schools, stores, banks, post offices, police and fire departments. When these types of structures are located on the outskirts of city development, populous’ tend to follow leading to further sprawl.