Your questions about "Measuring Sprawl," answered

We received a lot of great questions during Wednesday’s discussion about our new report, Measuring Sprawl 2014. We got so many great questions, in fact, that we weren’t able to answer all of them during the call. So we’ve collected some of the most common questions and will answer them here.

Q. The first edition of this report was published in 2002. Looking back, is America trending toward more sprawl or less sprawl? What about my particular metro area or county?
Both our methodology and the geographic boundaries have changed significantly since 2002. The bad news is that means comparisons over time are not accurate. The good news is that the 2014 methodology represents an significantly improved measure of sprawl.

Q. What public policy tools can towns use to encourage more compact, connected development?
There are lots of ways local leaders can influence development, and the best strategies for your community depend on your community’s specific goals. That said, check out our Smart Growth Implementation Toolkit, a step-by-step guide for how to examine the policies, codes, zoning regulations and development requirements that can impact how a community grows. In addition, our Local Leaders Council provides support and resources specifically for city and county elected officials. If you are an elected leader you can apply to be a member. Otherwise, you can nominate a local elected official to join the Council. And if you still want more ideas, Smart Growth America is available for one-on-one technical assistance workshops with community leaders.

Q. What do real estate developers think of compact, connected development? Isn’t building in sprawling ways cheaper (and presumably, more desirable) for them?
There is a growing movement of real estate developers who see significant opportunity in walkable, urban development and actively support it. Our LOCUS coalition of real estate developers and investors working to change state and federal policy to better support smart growth strategies. You can learn more about the coalition and their work at the 2014 LOCUS Leadership Summit, happening in Washington, DC in June.

Q. How does sprawl impact municipal costs? How can these costs be measured?
This report didn’t examine how much sprawl costs for towns or cities. However, we tackled that question in 2013 in Building Better Budgets. That report found that smart growth development costs one-third less for upfront infrastructure, saves an average of 10 percent on ongoing delivery of services and can generate 10 times more tax revenue per acre than conventional suburban development—facts that every fiscally responsible local leader should pay attention to.

Q. Where can I find more information about this report’s methodology?
Detailed information about how we define sprawl and how we calculated Sprawl Index scores is available in the full academic version of this report, published by the University of Utah.