Sprawl and Population


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Sprawl and Population


Americans have finally noticed that our country is getting more crowded - public transit use is up, school enrollment is exploding, parking is getting more difficult and a host of related problems reduce the quality of life for everyone. The largest attention has gone to sprawl, the cancer-like expansion of suburban housing which creates the associated problems of disappearing open space and farmland, longer commutes by car and generally worse traffic. Even though the United States has added more than 120 million people in just 50 years, the subject of population growth rarely occurs in discussions of sprawl and gridlock - a curious oversight. California, which is the poster case of rampant sprawl's damage, has grown from an environmentally sustainable 10 million in 1950 to 35 million today. How can such growth be ignored?
"Smart growth" purports to solve sprawl by mandating more densely populated cities surrounded by green belts of agricultural land and open space, aided by more public transportation. But "smart growth" only seeks to redirect growth, not to slow it. At the same time, the U.S. Census forecasts the U.S. will reach half a billion people in the lifetime of a child born today. Surely any approach to sprawl which ignores the population component is intellectually dishonest and will fail to solve the problem.
Consider the following and decide whether it is wise to ignore America's overpopulation problem...
• The United States is growing in population by around 2.2 million persons yearly (more than half of which is from immigration) with no end in sight.
• California now has a higher rate of population growth than Bangladesh, i.e. 1.7 percent versus 1.6 percent.
• The Texas Transportation Institute reckoned that areas in the nation with "severe" and "extreme" traffic congestion increased from 14 percent in 1982 to 36 percent in 1997.
• In 1998, Atlantans spent 23 hours per year stuck in traffic and wasted $1.5 billion worth of fuel. (Metropolitan Atlanta's population has more than doubled since 1970.)
• In California's Central Valley, which provides half of America's produce, there has been a population influx of two million in 20 years, shrinking valuable farmland by 500,000 acres. Another seven million residents are forecast for the region by 2040, perhaps causing one million farm acres to be lost. The state as a whole may lose half of its agricultural acreage in the next 20 years if current rates of farmland conversion continue.
• The number of hours of delay on Sacramento-area freeways have grown 1,000 percent since 1986.
• CalTrans reported (2/19/99) that traffic congestion on California urban freeways is increasing an average of 10 percent per year, costing motorists nearly $8 million in lost time and wasted fuel use each day.
• The San Francisco Bay Bridge carries 44,000 more cars per day than it did just 10 years ago.
• The California Transportation Commission announced in 1999 that $100 billion in repairs and new building was required in the next decade to keep up with the state's explosive growth. Another 18 million residents are expected in the next 20 years.
• While California's population went up nearly 50 percent in the last 20 years (from 24 to 34 million), the lanes of new roads increased over the same period by just 16 percent, with most of that occurring within new subdivisions.
• By 2020, drivers in Southern California are expected to spend 70 percent of their time in stop-and-go traffic, as compared to 56 percent now, according to the Southern California Association of Governments.
• The nine counties that comprise the San Francisco Bay Area are projected to grow in population from 6.9 to eight million by 2020. (The current population is a near-doubling from 1960's 3.6 million.)
• Bay Area Rapid Transit authorities reported (2/9/00) that ridership had increased by 18 percent over the previous January, surpassing the transit district's own projections by 12 percent.
• Bay Area drivers lose $3 billion annually because of congestion and its accompanying wasted fuel and lost productivity - that's $1,000 per driver.
• According to a 1999 PBS Newshour report, "A new state study shows that morning and evening rush hours in parts of the Bay Area have nearly doubled in length over the past two years, and now total seven hours a day."
• In a recent Pew Foundation study, 47 percent of San Francisco Bay Area residents named sprawl as the worst problem facing the region.
• The pollution from Los Angeles' famous smog degrades air quality in the Grand Canyon, hundreds of miles away.
Read the new report Sprawl in California, which shows that population growth is highly related to sprawl in that state. This report is part of a national study (to be released in late November, 2000) quantifying the role of U.S. population growth in the two most recent decades of Sprawl in the 100 largest Urbanized Areas as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau.
U.S. population must be stabilized soon if we hope to save America's environment.


Information on Sprawl

The Sprawl Ballot Question

The Overlooked Factor in Sprawl

The Sprawl Ballot Question - Looking for the Root Cause

Facing the Future and Sprawl

StarWhat you can do to help

Sprawl and Population

Supporting statement (short)

Census Adjusted Upward

Supporting statement (long)

Sprawl: It's Too Many People

Sprawl resolutions passed by Club Chapters

www.SprawlCity.org shows
population-sprawl relationship

Frequently Asked Questions

Democracy in the Sierra Club?


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