How does urban sprawl hurt the environment?

A viewer asked this question on 7/22/2000:

I am writing a college term paper for a "Human Ecology" course, and need some help. I would like some information on how "urban sprawl" directly effects our environment here in the U.S. The paper is not due until the end of August, but I need to start gathering information/opinions now. Thanks for anything you can contribute to get me started!

JesseGordon gave this response on 7/23/2000:

I'll add to the answer by my colleague with some larger-scale effects.

The bigger "human ecology" issue of development in general is its unplanned nature. New developments are not typically planned with "green space" (parks and open woodlands, etc). As unplanned suburban developments grow into more urban living spaces, people need parks and open spaces more, so the idea is that they should be built in from the beginning of the development.

The bigger environmental issue of urban sprawl is that it encourages more car use. Spread-out suburbs without mass transit means the cities and towns will build more roads. More roads means more people will use cars as their primary means of commuting and transportation. And once that primary means is established, there's little purpose to ever building a mass transit system, so the use of cars becomes permanently entrenched. The solution is to develop suburbs around planned mass transit expansions; that's one of the themes of those working on the "urban sprawl" issue.

Urban sprawl has come up as an issue in the presidential race (at least on Gore's side). Perhaps you could make that a theme of your paper, since you'll complete it when the political race is hot and heavy. Gore focuses on the issues I describe above; in summary:

* Gore proposes $2B to counter suburban sprawl (Nov 1999)

* Mass transit to fight suburban sprawl (May 1999)

* Supports "livability" agenda (Apr 1999)
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