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Sprawl Costs Americans $107 Billion a Year, Says Study

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Density is destiny

Urban sprawl isn't a new phenomenon. But new analysis from City Observatory has finally quantified the cost of building cities that make us travel farther between the places where we live, work, and play. They call it the "Sprawl Tax."

Based on numbers from a 2015 Brookings report, the new study found that commuters in the country's 50 largest metro areas pay an additional $107 billion a year in travel costs and time navigating the sprawl between work and home—at an average of almost $1,400 per person. If our cities were built to be more dense, commuters could shave 3.9 billion hours off of their commutes each year, according to the analysis.

Looking at a commuter’s out-of-pocket costs, City Observatory found that Atlanta’s sprawl had the largest per-person expense at an average of more than $1,600 annually. New Orleans was at the opposite end of the scale with a cost of only $60.66 per person each year.

But how does the cost of sprawl in the U.S. compare to other countries? City Observatory also looked at data from 15 European Countries and Canada, and found that U.S. commuters pay significantly more than our European counterparts. American commuters pay an average of 18 percent of our household incomes on transportation each year. Other countries studied paid an average of just 12.8 percent of household income on transportation.

Introducing the Sprawl Tax [City Observatory]

Sprawl Tax: How the US stacks up internationally [City Observatory]

Old-School Daguerrotypes Capture Urban Sprawl of the 1800s [Curbed]