BR named most sprawling midsized metro area in US

Baton Rouge is the most sprawling midsized metro area in America, according to a new study by good growth advocacy group Smart Growth America, which looks at how communities have developed and gives poor scores to those with high urban sprawl and low connectivity.

What’s more, the study ranks the Capital Region’s sprawl at 216 out of 221 U.S. cities of all sizes—including major metro areas like Atlanta and Houston.

“Sadly, this doesn’t come as a surprise,” says Boo Thomas, director of the Center for Planning Excellence. “Our master plan, FuturEBR, recognizes this … it really underscores the need for a first-class transit system.”

Smart growth advocates both locally and nationally promote compact and connected development patterns in communities for several economic, environmental and quality-of-life reasons. As the “Measuring Sprawl 2014” report by Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Smart Growth America, released today, puts it: “The researchers found that as Sprawl Index scores improved—that is, as areas became less sprawling—several quality of life factors improved with them.”

People who live in compact, connected metro areas have greater economic opportunity, the report says, as well as better transportation options and lower average spending on housing and transportation, and they lead healthier lives. There’s also greater economic mobility in metro areas with low sprawl. “For example, the probability of an individual from the Baton Rouge, La., area (index score: 55.6) moving from the bottom income quintile to the top quintile is 7.2%. In the Madison, Wi., area (index score: 136.7) that probability is 10.2%,” the study says.

The study measures sprawl in metro areas with populations of at least 200,000 and ranks them based on four factors: development density, land-use mix, activity centering and street connectivity. Baton Rouge ranked poorly in all four areas, particularly in the categories of activity centering and street connectivity. The Capital Region received a 55.6 overall index score in the report, which says the most compact, connected metro area in America is New York City, which received a score of 203.4. Atlanta was ranked as the most sprawling major metro in the country, with an index score of 41.

“If you take a map of the East Baton Rouge Parish roadway system there are lots of places that have no cross streets, no east-west connectors,” Thomas says. “You also don’t have walkability.”

See the complete study.

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