Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ubran sprawl

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“What Will it Take to Halt Sprawl”

Article By Molly OMeara Sheehan

The article What Will it Take to Halt Sprawl deals with three cities in different parts of the world that have had problems with urban sprawl in their societies. The three cities are Washington D.C. of the USA, Santiago in Chile, and Prague in the Czech Republic. They all come from very different backgrounds and have different situations which their people live daily life. The article tries to raise the awareness of the problems that urbanization can cause to the environment and to the people who live in it. The three cities that were focused on in this article are ones that can make a difference in our world. Basically, personal examples of national capital cities can cause a change in the way the rest of the world lives.

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The United States as well as Washington leads the world in sprawling development. In the early to mid 100’s Washington’s population boomed significantly as it built it up to over 1 million then to over million people. As the population built up, the metropolitan area grew even faster. The National Interstate and Defense Highway System Act of 156 launched highway building across the country with the goal of travel between cities, which resulted in more paved roads in between cities. Also because of the U.S. push for more affordable housing it too spread out the cities development. Washington’s first attempt to limit the city’s expansion was in 160, when they wanted a regional transportation system of railways. They wanted a combination of rail and roads, but it took forever for the metro underground to be built. As a result all the basic structure of roads had all ready been built. Until 000, the metropolitan population rose to nearly 5 million people, and the amount of land grew to more than ,500 square kilometers. Washington’s difficulties in stopping sprawl starts with its lack of regional cooperation. It is between Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. The individual counties must compete for the limited funds. In an effort to shift people from cars to transit, D.C. council passed a $1 per day parking fee in 14, but after Congress threatened to veto it, the city decided not to enforce it. The 10 Clean Air Act amendments require all U.S. metropolitan areas to meet standards for air quality or risk losing federal transportation funds.

The 11 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act made it easier for regions to use federal funds for transit, or bicycles. Both of these two laws that were created made it easier for the public to become aware of the link between transportation policy and air pollution. Washington was in need of installing cleaner polluting buses, because of the poor air quality. It required $50 million to take measures. An organization called the Coalition for Smarter Growth was created to begin acting locally on the problems that face Washington. For example, construction in the Gallery Place Metro station, which had been vacant shows how land can be redeveloped into lively housing, stores, and offices all within walking distance of the station. They figured instead of spending money on new schools in newer areas, they should rebuild and spend money on existing schools. Improving existing schools jumped from 4 percent in 15 to 84 percent in 18. A better mix of housing for different income levels would help reduce travel. The people who have to travel a long way to fill lower paying jobs in wealthy areas would be filled in by people if there could be mixed housing. Washington now realizes that building on previously used lands is a better way to become pedestrian friendly and decrease the use of pollution.

During the Industrial Revolution as factories were built to take advantage of nearby mines and ironworks, the first railway was built in 145 in Prague, Czech Republic. The city grew in both population and land area to about 1 million people by World War II. Prague remained relatively small and compact while Washington and Santiago were booming, because of the communist rule during the time. After the communist rule was lifted, foreign investors rushed to Prague’s newly free markets because of its educated workforce. It entered the industrial nations club, and as a prospective member it is receiving aid to improve long-distance transportation links. Its short distance urban transport is declining and most of the money that is received by the city goes to outlying locations not easily reached by public transport. They have begun to build large supermarkets in urban areas, in 17 they had 1 and in 000 they have 5. They are not doing anything for the development in central Prague as more than 1,000 hectares of abandoned industrial sites or brownfields now exist as holes in the fabric of central Prague.

In April 001, an anti-sprawl campaign brought foreign experts on brownfields redevelopment together with local developers and officials. Developers are afraid of buildings on abandoned industrial sites because they know they are polluted. Governments are changing the tax code to make the cost of cleanup deductible for them. An ITDP (Institute for Transportation and Development Policy) campaign targets both governments and companies to more responsibly develop Prague. It sees that the Czech’s could more responsibly control land development. As well, consumer pressure could coax the retail industry into considering the environmental implications of the store. It wants to take a lead in committing to locating a certain percentage of stores in more central locations, and improving non-automotive access of existing stores. Prague has entered a regional government which is suppose to prepare regional plans for transportation and set aside areas to be protected as open space.

Santiago, the capital of Chile was too like Washington where its consumption of land outpaced population growth. Earlier on some of the sprawl was caused by unintended results. The socialist government passed a law which enabled poor farmers to own land by making it easier to subdivide large rural tracts into very small lots. The result was that developers snapped up these parcels of land on the city’s fringe to build houses. With a military government in the 170’s they evicted poor people from the city’s core and sent them outwards. There were large tracts of agricultural land in the southern part of the metropolitan area. By 10 Santiago used less than half the urbanized land that Washington, D.C. did, yet they continued sprawl. The government listened to the investors that wanted to expand their land and profits instead of what was best for the people. The region was divided into too many jurisdictions and could not make common decisions amongst each other, basically management chaos of the area.

Santiago has a clash of groups between the SECTRA who believe in public transportation and the MOP who promote highway projects. The problem occurs that the MOP has all the money and is spending it on highway projects. When the national government wanted to build a major highway running through many people’s houses they created a group called the Ciudad Viva, or Living City. In the process of fighting against the highway they also began to fight for alternatives such as improved public transportation, and better facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians. Also the Ciclistas Furiosos formed a group, which would take to the streets the first Tuesday of every month to dramatize means of personal transport. Ciudad Viva is like Washinton’s Coalition for Smart Growth. They point out that only 0 percent of the people in Santiago can afford to commute by car so it would benefit the government to shift some of the space used by cars to the express of public busways. Yet the citizen activism has produced limited results, although it has increased the speed the traffic flow with the added bus lanes. The activist groups claim that they will continue to work on helping to stop sprawl and help the environment.

Washington, Santiago, and Prague are all very different situations but I feel that they can all be helped in the same type of manner. I feel that what many of the organizations in different countries are doing the right thing by trying to make a change. Looking at it now makes it seem like it will be very difficult in the future to stop the expansion and sprawl of cities. Although, what it takes is a complete and full effort by us, the people to try to help a solution. I think that the only way to prevent pollution and create more public transportation is to get the public informed on the issues and once they are informed they can be supportive of achieving new solutions. Changing companies or investors is not going to work, but governments will eventually listen if the people all unite and force a change, even if it means restructuring how the government operates or the people in control. In many cases it is too hard or expensive to make total changes to the programs that a city takes. Although, people themselves can make a conscious choice to help out the environment and contribute to the worlds best interests. The governments in the cities within this article are not putting the funds into the right parts of society resulting in these issues. They are building outwards when they could be helping to rebuild the central part. This will not only help transportation but the poor as well. I feel that the way for the world to make a change in urban sprawl is to have personal examples of cities that made sacrifices in their own, showing it can be done and it is a just cause. Without someone starting to take action others will most likely not follow, but with an example to follow they could see the prospects of a bright future and want to be like that. I feel this is the only way for us to make a difference in todays growing world.

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