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More Evidence of Smart Growth Savings

Analysis of incremental tax revenues and public service costs of various development patterns in Madison, Wisconsin indicates significant economic savings from more compact land use. Modest increases in density can provide large fiscal benefits.
April 7, 2015, 6am PDT | Todd Litman
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The city of Madison hired Smart Growth America to analyze potential development options in the city’s Pioneer District, a 1,400-acre, undeveloped area in the city. Their study evaluated five different scenarios for development: a "base" scenario that reflects the city’s current plan; a "Plus 50" scenario that assumes 50 percent higher density on certain parcels within the district; a "Compact" scenario that assumes the same development program as the base but on 500 fewer acres; a "Compact Plus 50" scenario that assumes the Plus 50 scenario on 500 fewer acres; and a "Low Density" scenario that assumes the same development as the base but on 1,000 more acres. 

This study uses real world data to provide detailed information on how sprawl increases various government costs, including expenditures for the construction and maintenance of roadways as well as transportation to and from schools. The figure below shows that increasing density from under 5 to over 15 residents and employees per acre typically reduces road length (feet of road per resident and employee) by 50-80 percent.

Similarly, increasing density from under 50 to over 400 pupils per square mile typically reduces school transportation costs per student by 30-80 percent.

This research provides more evidence that smart growth is literally conservative: it conserves land and municipal costs.

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Published on Monday, April 6, 2015 in The Fiscal Implications of Development Patterns
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