Advantages and Disadvantages of Urban Sprawl

Many argue that urban sprawl diminishes downtown city centers.

The issue of urban sprawl is a contentious and polarizing one, as people seem to either love or hate it. The fact remains, however, that it remains a permanent fixture, with cities growing exponentially in terms of geographic area. While the phenomenon may very well be here to stay, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to be considered.

1 Low-Density Housing

People who live in sprawling, urban fringe areas tend to have more space, as houses are spaced out on larger tracts of land. Granted, it's not quite rural in nature, but it offers much more breathing room than a crowded city block full of apartments. Not only is there more space, but the cost of the land is much cheaper, meaning that residents save money. A comparable residence within the higher-density city limits would probably cost more.

2 Traffic and Pollution

The more sprawling a city becomes, the more cars become a necessity. Bus lines, monorails and other forms of mass transit are available in the city, but not so much in the suburbs. Even a quick trip to the grocery store or the hair salon requires the use of a car. More traffic means more emissions, which is bad for the environment. According to a study by Smart Growth America of the 2000 U.S. Census, the top 10 most sprawling cities have 180 cars per 100 households.

3 Zoning

Zoning regulations in areas of sprawl are usually more specific in nature, meaning that you won't see a house next to a bowling alley. Commercial, residential and industrial areas are all segregated, meaning that residents in their homes are less exposed to potential public nuisances such as noisy nightclubs or odorous paper mills.

4 Compromised Wildlife

While some animals such as deer are quite adept at adapting to their land areas being compromised due to sprawl, others in the natural ecosystem are more sensitive. The more houses and strip malls that get built, the less natural habitats for the flora and fauna. Plus, there's also the issue of less farmland to be had.

Dave Stanley has covered sports, music and hard news since 2000. He has been published on and various other websites. Stanley is also a feature writer for "WhatsUp!" magazine in Bellingham, Wash. He studied journalism at the University of Memphis.