Suburban sprawl is one of the most avidly followed urban issues in the United States today. However, despite the level of attention that is afforded sprawl, their remains relatively little understanding of its determinants and its constitution. Previous attempts to measure sprawl have focused largely on costing out its impacts rather than quantifying its characteristics. Also, the characterization of sprawl is often confused with general suburbanization and remains, in many cases, without clear empirical foundation. This paucity of understanding casts doubts about the effectiveness of growth management and smart growth policies and inhibits the ability of planners to inform public policy in a reasoned way. This paper contributes to the debate about sprawl by offering a toolkit for characterizing its attributes in a quantifiable manner.
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