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Dealing with Sprawl in the United States

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Dealing with Sprawl in the United States

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Urban sprawl refers to the growth and spread of city or its suburbs. It mostly involves development of commercial and residential structures into rural areas as well as in undeveloped outskirts. People commuting to job in the city and residing in single-family homes characterize the urban sprawl. Urban sprawl has had both positive and negative impacts. Some concerns argue that urban sprawl is a sign of upward growth of local economy while see it as impacting negatively on local environment and residents. Urban sprawl can also be defined as the settlement of low density either residential or commercial that is outside the borders of an urban centre of high density. Most American people opt to live in suburbs and work in the city since they are attracted by better public service, open space and upscale houses. The continuous growth in suburbs has influenced the emergence of large metropolitan areas which are cumbersome to manage. In United States housing for suburban expansion is often purchased from ranchers and farmer (Gonzalez, 57). Between 1970 and 1990, more than 20% of the people in the United States cities moved away from urban centers to the outskirts and suburbs. During this time, in Chicago for example, urban population reduced by at least 0.6 million people. The metropolitan population grew by almost the same number. Poor planned development of population of a city is the main cause of urban sprawl.

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Growth and development of urban sprawl has symptoms such as strip malls, fast food chains, shopping malls and subdivisions of homesteads. Housing subdivisions refer to big pieces of land made entirely of newly raised residential and commercial buildings. These subdivisions are served by curved roads and paths. Few places for entry and exit characterize these developments hence high numbers of collector points for traffic are required. Fast food chains are more often established in less denser areas where population and traffic is expected to rise. Fast foods increase rate of urban sprawl especially with their plastic structural design, liberal parking lots and flamboyant signs. People eventually create more spread settlement as they move away from existing sprawls. Shopping malls are also common in areas facing sprawl. This is usually made of one building with multiple shops surrounded by large parking space. Shopping malls are aimed at recreational shopping with good infrastructure such as access to highway. Ontario government promoted building of several downtown malls in the 1970s. This was intended to reverse the migration of businesses to the outskirts of the city (Soule, 132). Strip malls refer to separate buildings sharing a common parking space usually networked by well built roads. Strip mall has a variety of functions to gather for daily use such as laundry and financial services. Low density, ample parking space, single-storey buildings and access to delivery vehicles characterize these developments.

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Suburbanization has over time become prevalent not only in developed countries but also in developed nations. There are several factors attributed to unrelenting urban sprawl in the United States and other parts of the world in general. These are; lack of proper planning, high population growth rates, consumer preferences and subsidization of infrastructure. According to planners, lack of adequate planning is the main cause of urban sprawling. Planning bodies in densely populated areas should consult the surrounding communities to avoid poorly effected plans in the outskirts of urban centers. The less populated areas normally incur new costs for improvement of infrastructure which would otherwise be bridged with the amenities of urban centers. Regional planning would allow for execution of proper plans to foster community cohesiveness. Rapid growth of population has largely contributed to urban sprawl in the Southern and Western parts of the United States of America (Gonzalez, 68). The high rate of population increase exceeds the capacity of cities prompting the formation of new communities. An increase in population of newly created communities will cause further spread which extends farther and farther from the centers of the cities.

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Most people in the United States of America prefer a serine environment away from the city. Their desire for bigger yards, larger homes and more rooms results in urban sprawl. This bigger space is often not available or affordable in the cities which are crowded. Infrastructures in the United States of America such as roads have been subsidized allowing easy access to the outskirts and suburban. Such infrastructures entice people to live in the surrounding of an urban centre and still access the city with ease. New York City had commuter services through railroad by 1832. Railroads promoted growth of suburbs since only well off citizens could afford to pay rail fare. Omnibuses pulled by horses were also introduced. Omnibuses were able to pick and drop passengers in large numbers at designated depots. The Industrial Revolution in the United States experienced between 1830 and 1880 influenced the growth of suburbs (Richardson & Chang-Hee, 96). The industries located near cities and drew workforce from rural areas resulting in congestion. It was due to congestion that most people moved to suburbs.

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Suburbanization has had negative effects on both the economy as well as health of the people. The aim of many American citizens has been to escape chaos in town by moving to suburbs. Companies desire to build industries in less populated areas which are pleasant to their employees. Side effects such as excessive light and noise can affect residents who can resist set up of industries. Separation of industries from the city causes the inflation in property between the two prompting landowners to sell their land. Urban sprawl eats into available open space. There will be no parks and playgrounds for children as people look for places to put up homes and set-up their business. Households in the suburbs consume more land than in the city centers. Continuous urban sprawl in the United States and suburbanization in Los Angeles has increased the cost of infrastructure (Richardson & Chang-Hee, 103). Sewer lines, roads and water lines cost the American government a lot of money. The government resources that would have been used to improve existing infrastructure go into paying of new necessities further away from city center. Prices of homes decrease as a result of suburbanization but people spend a lot on transport costs. In the United States resources are consumed because of the miles driven and lack of public transit. Property taxes in less densely populated suburb areas are lower hence the government gets less revenue.

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Sprawl has several negative thus it is necessary to be controlled. This can be achieved through planning which considers high density living arrangement. Sprawling is characterized by parks and open fields. High density structures reduce open places and keep the buildings at close proximity. This closeness can allow use of other means of transport such as bikes as opposed to driving. Planners should clearly outline the minimum density required which affect to behavior of development. Formulation of land policies that curb urban sprawl is also crucial. This can include designing growth boundary to separate urban centre from rural areas. People are further discouraged by improving existing infrastructure in city as opposed to creating new amenities further away (Soule, 127). Policies restricting expansion of urban area also come handy in quest to control urban sprawl. Regional meetings for collectively giving plans to address land issues need to be held. Cities such as California have to write visionary document on how the city will grow. Engaging people through invitation of public views and debates can lead to significant changes in utilization of city’s land.

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Suburbanization in the United States was mainly due to technological and social advancements. Income of the prospective residents and ethnic heritage greatly influenced the design and location of suburbs in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. People associated some health benefits with living in suburbs in the nineteenth century and this encouraged them to move to areas outside city centers. Urban sprawl is linked to quite a number of problems including air pollution, poverty in central city, traffic chaos and destruction of scenic areas. Leaders need to understand the extent, consequences and characteristics of urban sprawl. Measures such as proper planning and formulation of policies to curb urban sprawl should be put in place. To safeguard open space and scenic places in the city surrounding, dense building should be encouraged in the city surrounding.

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References

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Richardson, Harry W, and Chang-Hee C. Bae. Urban Sprawl in Western Europe and the United States. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005. Print.

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Soule, David C. Urban Sprawl: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2006. Print.

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Gonzalez, George A. Urban Sprawl, Global Warming, and the Empire of Capital. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009. Print.

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