Downtown Memphis from across the Mississippi River. Photo by Joel, via Flickr.
Like many large southern cities, Memphis, TN’s growth over the past few decades has been characterized largely by sprawl and a focus on automobile travel. Josh Whitehead, Planning Director for Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County, is working to promote development downtown through the use of the city’s new Unified Development Code (UDC), which gives more flexibility to developers in order to facilitate infill growth.
Some regions in the United States are sprawling, some are building in compact and connected ways, and the difference between the two strategies has huge implications for the day-to-day lives of millions of Americans.
Measuring Sprawl 2014, released today Smart Growth America in partnership with the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Research Center, ranks the most sprawling and most compact areas of the country. The new report evaluates development patterns in 221 major metropolitan areas and their counties based on four factors: density, land use mix, street connectivity and activity centering. Each metro area received a Sprawl Index score based on these factors.
In 2001, Smart Growth America released the landmark study Measuring Sprawl and its Impact. On Wednesday, April 2, we’ll release the next edition of this flagship report with new information about the state of development in the United States.
Measuring Sprawl 2014 will look at development patterns in 221 metropolitan areas across the country and evaluate which communities are the least and most sprawling in the country. The report will score and rank every metropolitan area in the country based on its development, using a four-factor system developed by researchers at the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Research Center.
Join us for the launch of Measuring Sprawl 2014. Smart Growth America and the Metropolitan Research Center will hold an online event to detail the findings of the new report and to discuss growth strategies with communities highlighted in the new analysis. Join us for this free event on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 11:00 AM EDT.
Beltline a walk in the park
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA) – October 13, 2012
On Monday, Mayor Kasim Reed will dedicate what city officials are calling “the most significant step forward yet” in the long-awaited Beltline, a projected 22-mile loop in central Atlanta built upon abandoned railway corridor.
As gas prices soar, city cycling more attractive
Associated Press via San Francisco Chronicle (CA) – October 13, 2012
Statewide, Californians are increasingly pumping air into the flat tires on their dusty old bikes instead of gas into their tanks. Recent historic spikes in gas prices are expected to stay high, forcing many to look at their gas guzzling minivans and SUVs in a new light.
Trulia Throws Cold Water on ‘Death of Suburbia’ Argument
Wall Street Journal – October 12, 2012
On Page One of Wednesday’s Journal, we wrote about a museum in Kansas that caters to America’s undying fascination with suburbia. Merits of the museum aside, the article highlights a persistent theme in American culture that has fascinated demographers, urbanists and especially home buyers for several generations: the question of whether or not the suburbs are alive and well or hollowed-out and dying.
Is urban sprawl to blame for cities going bankrupt?
KPCC’s AirTalk (CA) – October 2, 2012
Former Ventura mayor William Fulton says that large public pensions aren’t solely to blame for California city bankruptcies. Urban sprawl poses additional problems.
America’s Great Streets Named By American Planning Association
Huffinton Post – October 3, 2012
As part of the Great Places in America program, the American Planning Association has compiled a list of America’s 10 Great Streets for 2012.
The New SimCity Will Turn You Into An Urban Planning Nut
Co.Exist – October 3, 2012
The newest version of the classic city building game is introducing complex models about things like energy, health care, and transportation. But you can also still destroy your city with an asteroid.
Study: Single-Family Homes May Be History
KPBS (Calif.), December 14, 2011
A new study from the Urban Land Institute suggests single-family homes, the largest contributor to urban sprawl, may be a thing of the past. The study looked at California’s major metropolitan areas — including San Diego — and found that by 2035 the supply of homes in conventional subdivisions will far exceed demand.
How the Tea Party Is Upending Urban Planning
Atlantic Cities, December 14, 2011
Across the country, Tea Party activists have been storming planning meetings of all kinds, opposing various plans by local and regional government having anything to do with density, smart growth, sustainability or urbanism. In California, Tea Party activists gained enough signatures for a ballot measure repealing the state’s baseline environmental regulations, while also targeting the Senate Bill 375, the 2008 law that seeks to combat climate change by promoting density and regional planning.
Beyond Sprawl: Rethinking Development in Tucson
Arizona Public Media, December 15, 2011
Tucson and the city’s outskirts were riding high on growth several years ago, with developments seeming to pop up everywhere there was empty land. But that all changed when the housing bust and recession took hold. The Tucson area continues to suffer from the downturn, but does that mean we did something wrong?
Imagining a City Without Its Public Transportation
The Atlantic Cities, December 12, 2011
Officials from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are out in the city all the time talking about the costs of the capital region’s transit system – the money it takes to run the thing, the investments required to expand service and build new lines, and the fares needed to pay for it all. But no one talks much about the benefits, the real benefits, not just for faster commuting times, but for the region on the whole.
Study: As Gas Prices Rise, Americans Drive Less And Seek Public Transit
Gas 2.0, December 12, 2011
A new study by Bradley Lane of the University of Texas at El Paso has found a strong link between gas prices and shifts in American transit ridership. Bradley Lane’s study concluded that for every 10% increase in the cost of fuel there was a 4% increase in bus ridership and an 8% increase in rail travel.
Transit’s Not Sucking the Taxpayer Dry — Roads Are
Streetsblog, December 12, 2011
“Taxpayers cover costs that should be borne by road users,” asserts the State Smart Transportation Initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Road subsidies push up tax rates, squeeze government services, and skew the market for transportation.” SSTI, along with the smart growth group 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, published a study in October showing that “between 41 and 55 percent of [Wisconsin’s] road money comes from non-users.”
Ventura mayor plans to move to D.C. after leaving office
Ventura County Star (Calif.), December 2, 2011
Bill Fulton, whose term as mayor of Ventura ends Monday, will leave town in the spring for a job with an urban planning think tank in Washington, D.C.
A new challenge for this politician
Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2011
Fulton announced in July he wouldn’t seek reelection when his term was up this year. In a few months he will move to Washington, D.C., where he’ll work for Smart Growth America, a think tank that advises cities and counties on development issues.
‘Smart growth’ advocates study Williamson’s efforts
The Tennessean, November 30, 2011
Quality-growth experts from throughout the country visited Williamson County as part of a three-day visit to Nashville to learn about successful quality-growth models and best practices in Middle Tennessee…A model region is selected every year by the Smart Growth America network as part of its convention. Smart Growth America is a national organization that works with communities to implement smart growth planning and development.
Beyond Sprawl: Gambling On Downtown Las Vegas
KPBS (Calif.), November 30, 2011
Like most Southwest cities, the Las Vegas growth model was to expand out, creating sprawling suburbs and quiet gated communities. But one trendsetting local business – the online shoe company, Zappos – thinks an urban setting would be a better fit for its employees and industry.
Cleveland Turns Uptown Into New Downtown
New York Times, November 29, 2011
Since 1950, when its population peaked at 914,808, Cleveland has steadily shed residents and jobs. In 2010, just 396,815 people lived within the city limits, almost 81,000 fewer than a decade before, and about the same number of people who lived in Cleveland in 1900…But in recent years Cleveland’s municipal government and its Regional Transit Authority have rallied major employers, banks, foundations and developers around a central goal of rebuilding the city’s core according to the new urban market trends of the 21st century — health care, higher education, entertainment, good food, new housing and expanded mass transportation.
KC mayor develops priorities so progress can continue
Kansas City Star, November 29, 2011
Q: What can the city do to promote economic development on the East Side?
A: It’s hard to economically develop a place where people don’t feel safe…That has an impact on how people feel about things. It depresses property values. It makes businesses unwilling to invest in an area. It traps people who don’t have means to get out while others do. You perpetuate a demographic. The first thing is let’s make people safe. Let’s deal with the crumbling housing, foreclosed housing and infrastructure issues.
The city that floats
Salon, November 28, 2011
Whether out of High Line envy, Olympic fever or a pining for its days as a naval superpower, London has hatched a plan — a big, wet one — for the north bank of the river Thames. A sleek, kilometer-long floating promenade running from the Tower of London to the Millennium Bridge, London River Park will create an instant walkable waterfront in a stretch of the city where there is none.
‘Brain Hubs’ Like Austin, Texas, Create More Work for Less-Educated Residents
Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2011
In recent decades, a select number of brain hubs like Austin have attracted a higher percentage of well-educated workers and a lopsided share of new investment and young companies. In 1970, the top 10 most-educated metropolitan areas among the nation’s 100 largest had an average of 23% of workers holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 10% in the bottom 10, according to an analysis of Census data by Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser. The 13-percentage-point gap has widened every decade since, and had doubled by 2010. Beyond creating new middle-skill jobs, such brain hubs have generally higher incomes and for the most part have performed better through the recession. In Austin, the 7.1% average unemployment rate in 2010 was well below the nation’s during the same period.
Manheim Township ordinance allows for increased density
Lancaster New Era (Pa.), November 29, 2011
Manheim Township commissioners approved a revised zoning ordinance that will allow for increased density in hopes of guiding development using “smart growth” principals on Monday night.