Improving the Measurement of Sprawl

January 01, 2001

Funding: U.S. Geological Survey

Summary: Current efforts to measure sprawl suffer from two serious problems. First, neither the Urbanized Area nor the Metropolitan Statistical Area are appropriate areas for assessing sprawl; the first underbounds the area over which sprawl might occur and the second overbounds it. The project developed and provided means of measuring an Extended Urban Area (EUA) as a more appropriate unit of geography for measuring sprawl. Second, most measures of sprawl include all land in the area (including bodies of water), regardless of whether the land is developable. Using satellite imagery from the USGS National land cover Data Base, the project calculated sprawl measures after excluding developable land and compared these measures for several EUAs to the same measures including all land. Important differences were found on some dimensions. An article based on this, “The Fundamental Should be Considered,” is forthcoming in Professional Geographer.