The following excerpts are from the David Suzuki Foundation (Getting the Facts - Driven to Action - A Citizen’s Toolkit)
GETTING THE FACTS: THE COST OF SPRAWL
Sprawl doesn’t pay. In fact, sprawl hurts national and local economies. It costs more to accommodate growth by building new roads, electrical lines, sewer and water infrastructure for brand new subdivisions, office parks and shopping centres, than by integrating people into existing areas. There are further costs associated with impacts on the environment and on public health. The rise in cost is directly related to the distance traveled to city or town centres. More economic benefits of growth are realized if new residents and jobs are directed to existing developed areas.
In 20 years, Winnipeg’s urban boundary quadrupled even though its population only doubled. According to Statistics Canada, the City of Calgary exceeds 700 sq. kms - close to the size of New York City’s 5 boroughs. But Calgary is home to only 1/10 of the number of people as New York.
COST OF SPRAWL IN DOLLARS
Sprawl is supposed to be paid for by money raised from development charges and from property taxes collected from new residents. But this revenue falls far short of the costs.
• It costs more to live in sprawl developments.
• The price of a new home in a sprawling development might be cheaper but home resale values are less and property taxes are more likely to rise in the future.
• Car ownership and maintenance costs increase as families move farther from the downtown core. In 2001, Canadians spent 13% of their household income on cars, 19% on shelter and 11% on food. Residents of Houston, Texas (plagued by sprawl) spent 22% of their family income on cars, which surpassed housing costs at 16% of income.
COST OF SPRAWL ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Climate Change & Energy
• About 70% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation are from cars and trucks and 2/3 are generated within urban areas. The more urban areas extend outward the more GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions grow, making it difficult for Canada to meet its Kyoto pledge.
• Sprawl’s dominant reliance on cars strains Canada’s energy supply, and adds to pressures to find new supplies.
New tar sands oil extraction in Alberta produces 125 kg of GHG emissions for each barrel of oil produced, far more polluting than traditional energy sources.
Lands, Wildlife & Water Quality
• Sprawl consumes greenspace and forests.
•Woodlands and wetlands are sacrificed to sprawl, depriving wildlife of habitat and destroying native flora and fauna.
• Sprawl threatens rare and endangered species and contributes to exotic species invasion. Creating small isolated forest patches can disrupt pollination, seed dispersal, wildlife migration and breeding.
•Water quality and quantity declines with sprawl and the removal of forests by creating more pollutants and eliminating natural filters.
• Sprawl reduces rainwater absorption, interfering with the recharge of groundwater
Cost of Sprawl on Public Health
• Cars are a major source of air pollution. Over 16,000 Canadians die prematurely from air pollution each year. Smog and particulate matter also cause respiratory diseases and impair lung function
• Sprawl is linked to increases in obesity in Canada, due to a lack of space or opportunity for physical activity. Obesity can lead to heart disease, hypertension, stroke, some cancers and premature death.
• Sprawling subdivisions place time burdens on families with longer commutes and children who cannot travel independently. Families that need to downsize their homes often have to leave their neighbourhood and friends. Elderly residents who can no longer drive are isolated.
• The loss of nearby farmland reduces the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.
• A recent study, in the medical journal Public Health Reports, showed that people living in walk-able
neighbourhoods were more likely to know their neighbours, participate politically, trust others, and
be socially engaged.
• The Ontario Medical Association says air pollution costs Ontario more than $1 billion a year in hospital admissions, emergency room visits and absenteeism from jobs.
No New Roads
Establish Moratoriums on Highway
and New Road Construction
Expanding local transportation choices is not enough. Every new highway, expressway or municipal thoroughfare encourages sprawl. Limited transportation dollars are better spent on public transit, bikeways and pedestrian routes. Congestion is alleviated when more people ride transit, not by building new roads.
Build Communities Under A New Standard
Establish Local Alternative Develop Standards
Alternative Development Standards (ADS) offer a new set of development regulations to help build communities that: are compact, affordable, competitive; support public transit; and are environmentally sensitive and socially responsible. Applying these standards in your community increases opportunities for growth within cities, eliminating the need for consumption of new land and creation of
more sprawl. Based on the concept of creating mixed-use communities, residents can live, work, shop and play all in the same neighborhood. Using ADS can reduce housing costs by 25-40% and reduces per-person production of greenhouse gases by 30-50%.