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Sprawl Increases Vehicle Travel, Costs U.S. $1 Trillion Per Year

Urban sprawl costs the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion per year, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute estimated in a report issued last week by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

“Sprawl significantly increases per capita land development, and by dispersing activities, increases vehicle travel,” writes VTPI lead author Todd Litman. “These physical changes impose various economic costs including reduced agricultural and ecological productivity, increased public infrastructure and service costs, plus increased transport costs including consumer costs, traffic congestion, accidents, pollution emissions, reduced accessibility for non-drivers, and reduced public fitness and health.

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“Sprawl provides various benefits, but these are mostly direct benefits to sprawled community residents, while many costs are external, imposed on non-residents.”

With the world going through rapid urbanization, VTPI said the North American study results could be applied to developing economies, as well. “Smart growth policies which encourage more efficient development can provide large economic, social, and environmental benefits,” Litman writes.