Does sprawl cost more? The influence of urban form on public transportation expenditure
Bhatia, Kruti Suryakant
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To sprawl or not to sprawl? This question has fueled much debate in recent years among public officials, scholars and concerned citizens. A number of studies have wrestled with this question by evaluating the costs and benefits of sprawling development patterns. These investigations, however, offer limited empirical evidence in measuring precise features of the built environment and how these features influence fiscal, economic and social conditions of communities. Consequently, communities and its officials are faced with ambiguous and often times contradicting views on the impacts of different patterns of development. Although it is very difficult to address all the issues surrounding urban sprawl, this research contributes to the sprawl debate by evaluating the impact of various urban form features on public transportation expenditures. Using GIS, this research measures a number of spatial characteristics of existing urban development patterns in Erie County, New York. Through a cross-sectional analysis, these measures of urban form are used to test how sprawl affects municipal transportation costs. This study finds that increase in per capita transportation expenditure is positively associated with characteristics commonly seen in sprawl. These include lower density, lower street connectivity, larger parcel size, prominence of single-family housing and longer road length. Concerns over the adverse impacts of sprawling development patterns have led to various local, state and federal initiatives aimed at managing growth. The findings of this research lend support to growth management initiatives that aim to reduce sprawl to promote fiscally efficient development patterns.