Urban sprawl has been one of the effects of the growing economy, or at least the desire of a certain place to develop. Although it has its share of good effects, there also exist plenty of negative ones. Unfortunately, more often than not, these disadvantages outweigh the advantages that urban sprawl offers. This paper explains the pros as well as the cons of urban sprawl. In addition, the preventive measures that could help correct or at least minimize the costs were also present in this paper.
Among the presented solutions, allocating the city budget of Detroit to public transportation and other public goods would help decrease the negative effects of the said urban sprawl issue. Introduction Urban sprawl, others term it as suburban sprawl, is the dispersal of a city along with its suburbs to rural lands commonly found at the edge of the urban area (“What is Sprawl? ,” 2007). Inhabitants of sprawling zones have a tendency to reside in single-family homes and use automobiles as their mode of transportation when they go to work. One of the indicators of urban sprawl is a low population density in an area.
With this, urban planners give emphasis to the qualitative characteristics of urban sprawl, which include the deficient number of pedestrian friendly neighborhoods as well as the shortage of transportation options (“What is Sprawl? ,” 2007). Urban sprawl generally has negative associations because it causes environmental and health issues (Frumkin, 2002). This is because inhabitants of sprawling neighborhoods produce more pollution per person, not to mention their suffering when it comes to traffic facilities (Norman, MacLean, & Kennedy, 2006).
With these connotations, urban sprawl became very controversial. However, its supporters claim that patrons choose lower density neighborhoods and that urban sprawl is not causing a significant increase in the traffic situation (Henderson & Moore, 1998). On the other hand, skeptics say that urban sprawl causes an increase in obesity because walking and bicycling are not feasible and practical commuting options in urban sprawl areas (McKee, 2003). They also say that it has negative impacts on land and water quantity and quality, which in turn may cause a decline in the social capital of the area.
Urban Sprawl in Detroit, Michigan Some say that the city of Detroit could be the next Paris, if the measurement tools include more cars, parking lots, highways, and suburban sprawl that cause a lasting development. This is because Detroit has been one of the proponents of sprawl indicators. For instance, Detroit is the center of the automobile industry in the United States due to its numerous developments. Along with these comes the first suburban shopping mall, the first freeway that is constructed using concrete materials, best-quality subdivisions, among others.
In addition, the city’s suburbs are gobbling up land at a rate, which is almost ten times quicker than its population growth. This rate is faster than almost any other major American metropolitan region. (Schneider, 2005) Data shows that the population of Detroit, which is almost a million in number, is only half of what was the population of the city more than 50 years ago. Consequently, the seven-county region has a population of almost 5 million people, which are just 100,000 greater than that of the 1970 population.
This only proves that Detroit is indeed experiencing an urban sprawl. In addition, the area is one of the slowest growing of the United States’ largest metropolitan regions, not to mention, the most economically segregated among them as well (see Figure 1). (Schneider, 2005) Almost 20 years ago, the city of Detroit is 100,000 of their young adult population. This has been the highest rate of brain drain in any urban center in the United States. In addition, having the worst big city mass transit system in the country, the automobile count in the city increased by 1.
6 million units since the 1970’s. Unfortunately, this caused the tearing-up of highways (see Figure 2). (Schneider, 2005) Evidence that Sprawl does not Work Being the proponent of urban sprawl and experiencing its negative effects first hand, Detroit somewhat served as a warning for other cities. According to the Forbes Magazine in its May 2005 issue, only seven metropolitan regions are not performing well in business as well as careers because they are having a difficulty in attracting new jobs. Unfortunately, two of these are in Michigan. (Schneider, 2005)
To add to Detroit and Michigan’s misfortune, but fortunately for other states, the misfortune of Michigan served as a warning for them. Phoenix, Denver, and Sacramento are building new light rail regional systems in their respective states. On the other hand, Boise is constantly continuing their efforts on protecting their agricultural lands through growth management methods. They are also expanding their public transport transit system. However, in the case of Charleston, they passed a sales tax law that states that the said taxes are going to be used for transit services and land protection.
Lastly, Portland and Seattle continued their strategies that would eventually lead to making the most out of the advantages of urban sprawl. (Schneider, 2005) To add up to the long list of cities and states that got their lessons from Detroit and Michigan, the communities of northern and southern California approved growth boundaries in order to protect their farmlands. On the other hand, Chicago transformed the entire city into one of the liveliest and most beautiful cities in the country through rebuilding its waterfront, and providing more downtowns. (Schneider, 2005)
Aside from the projects and laws enacted by the aforementioned cities and states, other means of learning from Detroit is to establish new incentives and spending public money in new ways that turns the investment to the existing suburbs and the central city. Some cities that adopted these methods include Minneapolis, Boston, Raleigh, Austin, Albuquerque, and even in Salt Lake City. (Schneider, 2005) Implementing the said procedures benefited the said cities and states. According to the same issue of Forbes Magazine, the top city in building a business and career is in Phoenix.
Other high-ranking cities in the same category include Albuquerque, Austin, and Raleigh. As for Michigan, only Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, made it to the list ranking at number 16. This city has already spent huge amounts of money to finance its public transit system. In addition, Ann Arbor passed a law four years ago, that states that a property tax increase is necessary to increase the environmental projects in the area. Some of these projects include an establishment of greenbelt around the city, the conservation of its farmlands, and the slowing down of sprawling house development.
(Schneider, 2005) On the other, in the case of the city of Detroit, it has a tiny Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) circular loop installed in 1987. AGT is almost 3 miles, around 5 kilometers, in length, which serves as Detroit’s rail system since the city deserted its first urban electric railway system around 50 years ago. However, the city’s plan to build an urban and regional rail transit system did not materialize (see Figure 3). (Schneider, 2005) Impacts of Urban Sprawl on Detroit, Michigan’s Politics
The city of Detroit has a government branch called the Economic Development Organization (EDO). Their objective is to coordinate, initiate, and finalize projects that would further develop the city. To address the issues regarding urban sprawl, there has been a development of certain plans, as well as present and past development initiatives of the EDO. (“Key Accomplishments of the EDO,” 2006) Among the planned and underway projects of the EDO, include the I-94 Industrial Park. This is an almost 200-acre industrial park located near the city’s airport.
If this would pursue, this is appropriate for manufacturing as well as warehouse operations. It would have a consolidated rail that is able to serve the park. The Phase 1 of this project opened last May 2004 under TDS US, which is a Canadian automotive supplier that brings together vehicle systems for DiamlerChrystler’s AG’s Jefferson North Assembly. This TDS facility has an area of approximately 30,000 square feet, and has employees of about 300. With this, TDS is contributing around $30 million investment in the city of Detroit.
(“Key Accomplishments of the EDO,” 2006) Another government project, the Springwells Industrial Park, aims to minimize the negative effects of urban sprawl. Unlike the I-94, this is only about 80 acres and found at the southwest Detroit located in Jefferson Avenue and the Detroit River. This project includes new dock facilities, rail services, utilities, and roadways. This will also serve as the home of the LaFarge North America cement silo. (“Key Accomplishments of the EDO,” 2006) Michigan’s Governor Pursues Smart Growth