On his blog, David Reevely makes a convincing case against urban sprawl that I hadn’t heard previously:
The trouble is, sprawl has costs. It’s incredibly expensive for us all. Light-density housing is great to live in, but it’s brutal to supply with public services. Take fire stations: their response times are primarily a function of how far the firefighters have to drive to get to a call. That means that to maintain minimally acceptable standards, you need to have a fire station every so-many kilometres. If 10,000 people live within that radius, then 10,000 people share the cost of supporting that fire station, its firefighters and their equipment. If you pack 100,000 people into that radius, then the cost is divided among 100,000 people, and you have a lot left over from their property taxes for other things. But if you have too few, and their property taxes aren’t enough to pay for the fire station, then you need to bring in money from somewhere else.
It’s a bit ironic, really. We discussed before how people living in rural areas can get a false sense of their own self-sufficiency. It’s ironic that rather than being bold frontierspeople, living off the land, those who populate the less dense fringes of urban centres might impose disproportionate costs on the municipal authorities.