Welcome to Sprawlville

Now I know we have some problems, but I never would have guessed that the Triangle would rank #3 on the national urban sprawl index! The report, by Smart Growth America, says...

This study shows that sprawl is a real, measurable phenomenon with real implications for peoples’ everyday lives. Regions wishing to improve their quality of life should consider taking steps to reduce sprawl and promote smarter growth. Based on this research, Smart Growth America offers six policy recommendations:

1) Reinvest in Neglected Communities and Provide More Housing Opportunities

2) Rehabilitate Abandoned Properties

3) Encourage New Development or Redevelopment in Already Built Up Areas

4) Create and Nurture Thriving, Mixed-Use Centers of Activity

5) Support Growth Management Strategies

6) Craft Transportation Policies that Complement Smarter Growth

Well that's quite a "to do" list. I think we are at least headed in the right direction, although probably not fast enough. This made me wonder about our ranking for the "Creative Class."

This concept was popularized by by Richard Florida who studies "the growing role of creativity in our economy." His rankingings measure creativity by looking at the number of high-tech jobs, innovation, and the gay population. It put the Triangle at #6 out of 332 regions in the nation!

That's good news, and not surprising to me. We're known throughout the country for our excellent local music (especially Chapel Hill, yeah!). We are also fortunate to have a high-tech job center like the RTP, but we shouldn't get too complacent. RTP's suburban layout is a huge part of our transportation woes, and the increasing offshoring of tech jobs (it's hapenning fast) will be felt painfully here. In fact, it already is.


I agree with the goals of Smart Growth, but some members of our community have fought greater density to create the necessary nexus for greater public transportation. I live in Carrboro, but work in Durham. I would love to be able to take the bus to Durham, but the schedules do not work. We need a greater push to encourage the community to demand better regional mass transportion instead of building another lane. How much are we spending to expand I-40. Would we have better results if we would have directed that money to more buses, more bus stops, and better headways for buses throughout the region.

40% of all Orange county residents leave Orange County to work each day, while 40% of all jobs in Orange County are filled by people who commute in from out of Orange County. (This statistic I heard from Aaron Nelson of the Chamber). We are certainly doing our part to dirty the air of the Triangle Metro area. Many of my friends in a week will drive from one side of the Triangle to the other more than a few times to work, shop, and socialize.

I wonder where precisely those air quality readings take place? For example, do we get readings west of Carrboro, then in downtown Chapel Hill, then around Meadowmont, following the direction of prevailing winds, in order to contrast outputs with inputs? We lie directly east of miles of interstate, Greensboro's own sprawl, several coal-firing plants, and eastern Tennessee, one of the greatest purchasers of air pollution credits.

A lot of people commute to Chapel Hill. And a lot of people commute out of Chapel Hill. Many couples are split in this regard, one commuter and one non-commuter. Those who both live and work in Chapel Hill can develop a sense of insularity. It's less pronounced than 15 years ago, when there was just "the" high school.

Chapel Hill is considered to be part of the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill metropolitan area, and yes, Chapel Hill/Carrboro is less sprawling. The census is helpful in this respect, and for those who have never used the American Factfinder website, it’s a great resource. Just a few tidbits. FYI-Carrboro is the densest town in NC.

Population and Densities of Triangle Cities


Commuting Patterns for the Triangle


For example, in this data, if you live in a “place” and commute in the same “place” and the place referred to is Durham, that means you live and work in Durham. If you work “not in place of residence” that means you live in Durham and work outside of Durham, but in a city or town. If you do not work in a place, that means you live in Durham and work in an unincorporated area of a county.

American Factifnder


NC Air Quality monitoring stations


Sorry for the long URLS- I hope this helps.

Is Chapel Hill/Carrboro/Orange Co part of Raleigh-Durham? I certainly don't have to drive 10 miles a day. Having just returned from Indianapolis, I don't feel like we (CH/C/O) are sprawled at all. While I was up north, I had to drive at least 2 hours a day to get anything done.

As for the air pollution factor, this is something I need to check out. Seems like I heard that a big part of our air pollution comes from wind patterns blowing pollution down from the midwest. Was I dreaming or has anyone else heard this?


Today's N&O had a great article about air pollution where we live.

Friday's paper will probably have the official designation of the triangle as a non-attainment zone regarding the EPA's new ozone rules.

We apparently have been in violation of this standard since 1987 -- so it is not an air pattern issue necessarily.

70% of the ozone in this area is due to cars and trucks so. It is hoped that the new smokestack rules will get us into compliance in a few years but commuters are the major ozone emission contributors here.

This information correlates with what that EPA report showed---that the Triangle ranks in the top 20 "cities" nationally in terms of miles driven per capita per day, and also our #4 per capita rank in the amount of nitrous oxide (?) emissions (I'm trying to quote from memory here, so the specific name might be wrong, but it certainly wasn't something good!).

Piggyback that onto our generally dismal road congestion and we are really running the risk of losing much of our area's charm and lifestyle. If we don't all work together and come up with some real solutions, our area could well turn into another Atlanta or Orlando. YUK!


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