Tallahassee leads the nation in smart, compact growth says new study

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Urban scholars like to talk about “sprawl” — and its more favorable opposite, “compactness.” The spread of a city’s growth matters in a lot of ways. For example, researchers have found that residents in more sprawling regions get stuck with fewer transportation options, higher combined costs of housing and transportation, and lower economic mobility. Researchers have also suggested that residents in compact metro areas have “longer, healthier lives” — along with some indicators of this such as lower rates of diabetes, lower blood pressure, and fewer traffic fatalities.

And for the most part, it seems, Florida cities are growing in “smart” ways.

A new study has ranked Tallahassee as No. 1 in the nation for “best change in sprawl index” between 2000 and 2010. This means that Florida’s capital city has lead the nation – by leaps and bounds – in smart growth.

The study, titled “A longitudinal study of changes in urban sprawl between 2000 and 2010 in the United States” ranks metropolitan areas on four dimensions: development density, land use mix, activity centering, and street accessibility.

“When it comes to promoting compact growth between 2000 and 2010, Tallahassee laps the field,” writes Eric Jaffe for The Atlantic’s City Lab.

No doubt, Tallahassee has made concerted efforts in infrastructure planning, not to mention the fantastic redevelopment of downtown social areas like Gaines Street and the new Cascades Park.

Previous research has listed Miami as No. 8 in compactness, nationally; and no Florida city is in the top 10 for sprawl. (Although, Tampa is noted for its “dismal” sprawl score, and for the fact that its residents spend about 56 percent of income on combined housing and transportation). Bonita Springs is at No. 3 in the nation for change in sprawl as well.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.