By the end of 2016, the City of Bend will have a new Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) that will shape the future of our community. The State of Oregon requires cities to establish UGBs with the goal of planning for growth while also conserving rural forests and farmlands. A UGB is essentially a line on a map that identifies a 20-year supply of land for urban uses.
What does this mean? It means that we have the opportunity to help shape the future of our community and facilitate a more compact, “smart growth” approach to development. It also means that our transportation systems might change and these changes will likely affect all of us, in our every day lives.
There is well-documented research, including a March 2015 study by the Victoria Transport Policy for the New Climate Economy and London School of Economics, which shows how more sprawling development patterns can cost citizens and governments more than we think. Overall, it is estimated that Americans living in less dense, auto dependent communities bear at least $625 billion in direct incremental costs and impose an extra $400 billion in external costs on governments, businesses and other households.
Transportation costs. Transportation is the second largest expense for most households after housing, and the cost of purchasing, insuring, maintaining and fueling multiple cars can cost up to $10,000 a year! However, households that live in areas with excellent accessibility to services spend on average $5,000 less per year on transportation expenses.
Community health. Urban and suburban sprawl can also directly affect human health and safety. Americans who live in more sprawled neighborhoods are between two and five times more likely to be killed in car accidents, and are twice as likely to be overweight. Compact, livable cities allow residents to engage in active transportation and have better access to all services, including health care.
Public safety. Smart growth development reduces crime rates by increasing “eyes on the street” and improves opportunities for at-risk residents by facilitating better access to goods and services. Additionally, in Central Oregon, sprawl poses a very real risk of wildfires in the wildland-urban interface, as demonstrated by last year’s Two Bulls Fire.
Community inclusiveness. Compact, smart development provides more inclusive mobility for all community members, including those that cannot drive. It can also provide better access to health care and allows for continued mobility for an aging population.
Infrastructure expenditures. In a different 2013 survey by Smart Growth America, cities with more spread out development will spend more on infrastructure, putting more of a tax burden on its residents. However, smart growth development can save an average of 38 percent on upfront costs for new construction of roads, sewer lines, water lines and utilities, by using those resources more efficiently.
Bend has some big decisions to make with how we grow and transportation options will be a large part of the outcome. What would you choose?
Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org
Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com