Prescott ranks in the nation’s top 10 on a new list of the most sprawling cities.
A report scheduled to be released today calls the area anchored by Arizona’s territorial capital the fourth-worst metro area in the country for sprawl.
The Prescott area trumped metro Phoenix, which ranked No. 48 in the list, according to an annual Smart Growth America report.
The ranking bears some explaining, however. The Prescott metropolitan area includes all of Yavapai County, taking in the cities of Prescott, Prescott Valley, Cottonwood, Camp Verde and other towns spread over Yavapai’s 8,100-plus square miles.
In 2010, Yavapai County had 211,073 residents, making it the third-largest metro area in Arizona, according to the Census Bureau.
Sprawl, as defined by Smart Growth America, means having a population not living close together, near jobs and shopping.
The Valley ranking might surprise some who think of the area as one of the most spread out U.S. cities after Atlanta, which was ranked No. 2 in the Smart Growth America for having the worst sprawl.
“Metro Phoenix has been becoming more dense for many years,” said Mark Stapp, director of the Master of Real Estate Development at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. “This has nothing to do with light rail, either. Changing demographics, psychographics and economics have accelerated the trend away from sprawl for the Phoenix metro area.”
He said it’s a misconception that metro Phoenix’s sprawl issues are worsening.
Metro Prescott is much more spread out, which is likely why it ranked high on the list, say Arizona growth experts.
New York and San Francisco ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, for being the best-connected cities with the least sprawl issues.
The higher the ranking above the average of 100, the more compact and connected the city. The lowest scores denote the most sprawling cities. Prescott received a score of 49. Atlanta’s score is 41. Metro Phoenix received a 78.3.
The report was launched in 2001 to examine the costs and benefits of sprawl, which has been linked not only to longer commuting distances and times but to traffic fatalities, poor air quality, higher energy use, slower emergency response times, teenage driving problems and physical inactivity and obesity.
Smart Growth America is a national coalition of more than a dozen planning, transportation and community groups. The sprawl rankings are based on a system developed by the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah.
Sprawling vs. dense
Most sprawling metro areas *
1. Hickory/Lenoir/Morganton, N.C.: 24.9.
2. Atlanta/Sandy Springs/Marietta, Ga.: 41.
3. Clarksville, Tenn./Ky.: 41.5.
4. Prescott: 49.
5. Nashville-Davidson/Murfreesboro/Franklin, Tenn.: 51.7.
6. Baton Rouge, La.: 55.6.
7. Riverside-San Bernardino/Ontario, Calif.: 56.2.
8. Greenville/Mauldin-Easley, S.C.: 59.
9. Augusta/Richmond County, Georgia/S.C.: 59.2.
10. Kingsport/Bristol/Bristol, Tenn./Va.: 60.0.
Most compact and connected metro areas
1. New York/White Plains/Wayne, N.Y./N.J.: 203.4.
2. San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood City, Calif.: 194.3.
3. Atlantic City/Hammonton, N.J.: 150.4.
4. Santa Barbara/Santa Maria/Goleta, Calif.: 146.6.
5. Champaign/Urbana, Ill.: 145.2.
6. Santa Cruz/Watsonville, Calif.: 145.
7. Trenton/Ewing, N.J.: 144.7.
8. Miami/Miami Beach/Kendall, Fla.: 144.1.
9. Springfield, Ill.: 142.2.
10. Santa Ana/Anaheim/Irvine, Calif.: 139.9.
* U.S. metro areas with more
than 200,000 people.
SOURCE: Smart Growth America
Catherine Reagor, The Arizona Republic