Sprawl Costs

Sprawl across America

"The project of suburbia is the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. America has squandered its wealth in a living arrangement that has no future." -James Howard Kunstler, The End of Suburbia

"Planners and architects now agree that to improve the social and environmental condition of cities the top priority is to cut car use." -Fred Pearce EcoCities | Car Free Cities

Houston consumed by cars


Because we spend so much time isolated in our cars and suburban homes, we have little time or opportunity for social contact, and the normal random meetings that take place while walking along pedestrian friendly streets and around public spaces. Because we spend more and more time stuck in traffic, we have less and less time for volunteering and getting involved in our communities. In addition, the combination of the formlessness of the suburbs along with low quality architecture has an alienating effect on us all.

At the same time, our cities have been made unlivable by the automobile arriving in mass quantities.


We now spend more time than ever in stressful traffic, and nearly 30% our income on car payments, gas, maintenance, and insurance. A great majority of our tax dollars go towards the endless building of roads and highways, with little left for valuable things like education, civic buildings, quality architecture and public spaces, or the building of new modern train systems. Our futile attempt to make the car happy is draining our national economy as well as our own personal savings.

In addition, highway and airport gridlock is strangling our national and regional economies as more and more time is wasted stuck in traffic. This greatly reduces our nation's productivity while raising the cost of doing business for everyone.

“The Federal Highway Administration itself now agrees that building more roads does not relieve congestion.”

The problem: endless traffic jams
The solution: trains


The constant exhaust fumes our car fleet pumps into the atmosphere daily takes it's toll on the global environment in many ways, and continues to degrade all the natural systems we are dependant on for life support. The continuous building of ever more roads and highways along with sprawling low-density development is consuming miles of the irreplaceable natural environment. Our beautiful wilderness areas, which are some of the greatest national treasures of America, are quickly being transformed into asphalt deserts.


Our quality of life keeps getting worse as we are constantly stuck in traffic. Our ugly, car-dominated environment is highly stressful, extremely unhealthy (from the constant toxic exhaust fumes we breathe daily), and very deadly (from the endless car accidents). This stressful environment takes its toll on us in countless ways: increased stress and rage, more alcoholism and drug abuse, rising divorce rates, rising rates of cancer and other environmental diseases, and a general dissatisfaction with our lives.

In addition, major health organizations point to the fact that a high percentage of Americans have serious health problems due to being overweight. This is caused primarily by the lazy lifestyle sprawl dictates with little or no walking or exercise as part of our daily routines.

SPRAWL IS NOT INEVITABLE. It is not an unavoidable symptom of modern growth. Sprawl is the direct result of specific government transportation choices and policies, combined with archaic zoning laws.

Read about sustainability and the problems with cars

Read about the new links between sprawl and poor health

Read about Smart Growth

Read the 10 Problems with Sprawl

Check out the Marketplace for professional services

The solution: walkable towns

Click here for the Principles of Urbanism


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