3. A Commitment to Sustainable and Responsible Development – Putting a Stop to Urban Sprawl
Growth in cities is connected to nearly every other aspect of cities – sustainability, transportation, infrastructure and maintenance, public services, and agriculture. We support growing in, not out – infill and high-density over new low-density suburban development.
In a spread-out city, infrastructure simply costs more – everything from more roads to maintain (and more potholes!), a larger public transit network, infrastructure such as water and sewage, and more public services such as emergency services. Providing this infrastructure and services is much more cost effective in high density development (Neptis,2003). In Edmonton, it has been shown that new development – the Horse Hill Area Structure Plan (ASP) that was approved earlier this year – does not pay for itself. The cumulative city costs to 2062 are higher than the cumulative revenues (Male,2013).
In addition, Edmonton does not need to approve more new areas for development to fulfill housing needs to 2039. The capacity from existing low, medium, and high density in approved growth areas, and mature and established suburban redevelopment will supply more units than the anticipated demand, without including urban growth areas such as the Horse Hill ASP (Male, 2012).
A more compact city leads to a higher quality of life for the people living in it. To accomplish this lively city, a city needs both a critical mass of people (that is, a certain amount of density), and good public space. In addition, a lively city needs people spending time in the public sphere and interacting with others in that space – this is created through walkable communities, rather than car-driven sprawl (Gehl, 2010).
A more sustainable city requires the city to be compact – the lower the density, the more energy consumed (Newman and Kenworthy, 1989). In addition, low-density auto-dependent development makes active transportation such as walking and cycling close to impossible because of enormous distances and a lack of direct routes (Transport Canada, 2011). In a higher density city, it becomes far easier for people to use active or public transit, and people simply don’t have to travel as far. In addition, a higher density city is more fiscally sustainable – it costs far less to maintain infrastructure and services in a higher density area. This is a key component to “living within our means”.