A report from a University of Ottawa research and policy network released last month reveals that suburban sprawl comes with a bigger price tag than many might expect. While (understandably) the report largely focuses on development in Canada, the big picture holds true for the U.S. as well. Author David Thompson notes in an interview that transportation is a major hidden cost; long commutes and needing more cars per household (and subsequently, the taxes to create the infrastructure to support these cars) is a huge expense. “Free” parking, which as the report notes, isn’t really free since it is instead built into prices at stores, is another hidden cost.
Thompson has said:
“We’ve known about the environmental effects for decades, we’ve known about the health impacts for 10, 20 years…Now we’re learning that the financial costs of sprawl are going to be staggering and we’re leaving a major deficit to our children and grandchildren.”
Concerned that Thompson is suggesting we all pack up and move to the city? Don’t be. As one Canadian newspaper explains, “Thompson stressed that curbing sprawl doesn’t mean everyone must live or work in a skyscraper. His report advocates infill development and suburban retrofits. The latter phenomenon is more common in the U.S. where older malls, industrial and commercial properties are being redeveloped into suburban hubs.” Sound familiar?