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25.1 Smart Growth America Sprawl Index

This indicator summarizes research by national experts based on four factors in order to measure sprawl in large U.S. metropolitan areas.

This indicator is part of Efficient development.

Indicator description:

This indicator summarizes research done through Smart Growth America (SGA) by national experts from Rutgers and Cornell Universities. SGA created an index that measures sprawl in large U.S. metropolitan areas, including Albuquerque. The index is based on four factors: residential density; mix of homes, jobs, and services; strength of activity centers and downtowns; and, the accessibility of the street network. Each of these factors has numerous metrics, that combine for a factor score. Smart Growth America is a nationwide coalition promoting a better way to grow: one that protects farmland and open space, revitalizes neighborhoods, keeps housing affordable, and provides more transportation choices.

Smart Growth America Rankings of Sprawl by Metropolitan Area (2003)
Metropolitan Area Overall Sprawl Score ¹ Street Connectivity Centeredness Mixed Use Density Ranking ²
Albuquerque 124.5 117.8 124 103.7 97.0 72
Colorado Springs 124.4 96.7 135.2 119.0 91.2 71
El Paso 117.2 102.3 119.5 103.4 100.1 65
Salt Lake City 110.9 117.0 93.8 103.2 99.5 61
Austin 110.3 94.4 115.8 111.9 89.0 59
Tucson 109.1 88.0 106.4 121.8 90.4 56
Oklahoma City 85.6 69.1 95.6 101.3 84.5 21
¹ Average Score for each factor and overall score  is 100; low score indicates more sprawl.
² The lower the ranking the worse the sprawl; 83 total Metro Areas ranked.

Why is this indicator relevant?

SGA defines sprawl as the process in which the spread of development across the landscape far outpaces population and infrastructure growth. New development on the outskirts or fringes of the City is not necessarily sprawl, especially if development is efficiently connected to public infrastructure. City development policies attempt to limit the occurrence of sprawl, since it impacts many other desired conditions or their indicators, including higher rates of driving; increased levels of ozone pollution; greater risks of crashes, especially fatal collisions; depressed rates of walking and alternative transportation usage; and congestion delays similar to areas with less sprawl.

Data Source:
Measuring Sprawl and Its Impact, Smart Growth America, Reid Ewing, Rolf Pendall, and Don Chen, 2004.

What can we tell from the data?

  • The Albuquerque metropolitan area was ranked the highest among peer Southwest cities in most sprawl factors, except density, which was slightly below average. Albuquerque had the 11th best overall sprawl score among the 83 metropolitan areas measured, ranking especially highly in street connectivity, centeredness and activity centers.
  • Albuquerque scored well above average on accessibility of its street network and strength of activity centers.


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