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The causes and effects of urban sprawl are widely studied and understood. The results are always the same: short term boom followed by long term bust. So why do cities continue to make the same mistakes that they have made for the last 50 years? In all cases the political leaders do not have a plan that they can explain to the voters, so they talk in terms of measured growth and infill. Meanwhile in every area with a polulation of 50,000, or more, there is a Metropolitan Planning Organization that is busy at work planning the next loop of highways and getting in line for federal funds. Real estate developers are only too eager to use the next new highway as access for their new subdivision. The short term economic boost paints over the longer term problems and the cycle continues, until the infrastructure fails due to neglect.
In every case a sustainable city can improve the quality of life for its residents by focusing on infill. But there is no case of a city that has moved from unsustainable to sustainable through the processes of infill and measured growth. These unsustainable cities remain unsustainable and become permanent wards of the federal government. The federal funds that pour into these cities encourages political and economic corruption while further decreasing the opportunities of the residents left behind.
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Perhaps, but it will not be by growth and infill. If the population of Memphis doubled, it would then be on an even footing with Detroit at its worst. The population of Detroit is the same as Memphis, but the city area is one-half as large. This increased service area stretches budgets to the limit. "...the same services are merely stretched over a larger area. For example, the budget of the Memphis Division of Park Services has been flat for 20 years despite annexations. (Smart City Memphis)
Here's the thing: since 1970, even with 27 annexations of 100 square miles, the population of Memphis has remained essentially the same. And despite taking in this much land area, the population outside Memphis in Shelby County increased from about 95,000 to 250,000.
The only way to rehabilitate Memphis is to shrink the city and city service area. With the input of the citizens, identify neighborhoods to be rehabilitated and neighborhoods to be converted to parks and urban farms. Relocate residents to sustainable neighborhods. Encourage teachers, bus drivers, city employees, police and fire personnel to relocate to rehabilitated neighborhods. Restore neighborhod schools and neighborhood stores. Ilands of development in seas of connected greenspaces. The goal of the communities should be to reduce the area of Memphis by one-half.
This tool was developed to give citizens and professionals a snapshot of a city's ability to sustainably deliver city services. Additionally, it provides a way to compare varius cities and to forecast potential future problems.