Defending Atlanta from Anti-Sprawl Malcontents

Robert Bruegmann, professor emeritus of art history, architecture, and urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago, defends the recent attacks against Atlanta, especially regarding its sprawling footprint.
May 17, 2014, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"The most recent confirmation of Atlanta’s status as an icon of American sprawl," according to Robert Bruegmann, "comes in a new report from Smart Growth America called 'Measuring Sprawl 2014.'" The report found Atlanta to be the country's most sprawling metro, compared with New York City's least sprawling metro.

Bruegmann, however, rejects many of the study's findings, and insists that Atlanta's doubters have it wrong.

"You would think from the commentary that Atlanta is flat on its back. In fact, of course, Atlanta, over the last half century, has obviously seen its population and its economy grow faster than most of the older, higher-density, more transit-oriented cities of the United States or Europe. It must be doing something right, perhaps including the way it has sprawled."

Bruegmann claims that traffic congestion is usually worse in dense urban areas, before providing possible explanations for why Atlanta performs worse in congestion than he expects from a less-dense area. Here's a sample: "Infrastructure almost always lags in places that experience extremely fast population and economic growth. In other words, traffic congestion is, in part, an almost inevitable by-product of Atlanta’s undeniable and enviable economic success."

Bruegmann also prescribes some do's and don't's for the cities ongoing approach to the problem of congestion.

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Published on Thursday, May 8, 2014 in Politico
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