Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Sprawl

Sprawl Costs the Public More Than Twice as Much as Compact Development

This graphic compars the cost of servicing suburban development versus urban in Halifax, Canada (in Canadia dollars) Image: Sustainable Prosperity
Public services for suburban development cost more than double the services for urban areas in Halifax, Nova Scotia (figures are in Canadian dollars). Click to enlarge. Image: Sustainable Prosperity
false

How much more does it cost the public to build infrastructure and provide services for sprawling development compared to more compact neighborhoods? A lot more, according to this handy summary from the Canadian environmental think tank Sustainable Prosperity.

To create this graphic, the organization synthesized a study by the Halifax Regional Municipality [PDF] in Nova Scotia, and the research is worth a closer look.

Halifax found the cost of administering services varied directly in proportion to how far apart homes were spaced. On the rural end, each house sat on a 2.5 acre lot. On the very urban end, there were 92 people dwelling on each acre. Between those two extremes were several development patterns of varying density.

Sprawl is a lot more expensive for municipalities to serve, this study of the Halifax region found. Graph: Halifax Regional Municipality
The denser an area is, the less expensive it becomes to provide infrastructure and services. Graph: Halifax Regional Municipality
false

Researchers evaluated how much of a given type of infrastructure -- like roads or water mains -- is needed for each type of development, then calculated the associated capital and maintenance costs per capita. They also determined how factors like travel distances and population density affected the cost of services like fire fighting.

The chart below goes into more detail (all costs are in Canadian dollars). The most sprawling areas impose three times the annual cost per household as the most compact areas. For hard infrastructure like water, sewers, and roads, the high cost of sprawl is even more stark -- "ten times the cost of other patterns" over the lifecycle of the investment, according to the authors.

Data: Halifax Regional Municipality
Table: Halifax Regional Municipality
false

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

SUV Driver Kills Girl, 3, in Harlem, Wounds Mom And Young Brothers

The girl's death marks another grim entry into a crisis of pedestrian traffic deaths this year.

July 12, 2024

Moped and E-Bike Safety Legislation Becomes State Law

Retailers must register mopeds at the point of sale, in addition to giving new owners safety information, under new legislation signed by Gov. Hochul on Thursday.

July 12, 2024

Roadway Dining May See Dramatic Decline Under Eric Adams As Deadline Looms

Fewer than two dozen restaurants are in the pipeline for roadside seating, according to public records.

July 12, 2024

Opinion: Congestion Pricing Is A Compromise

Alternatives paths to cut congestion and pollution and fund the MTA make congestion tolls look like a cheap parlor trick.

July 12, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: Department of Victim Blaming Edition

Traffic deaths in the city are on pace to reach their highest number since at least 2013 — and DOT is reportedly blaming "jaywalking." Plus more news.

July 12, 2024
See all posts