Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Sprawl Transect

The Rural to Urban Transect is a great tool. It provides a method for understanding the various types of built environments that one may encounter, from the densest downtown to the sparsely settled countryside. More importantly, it helps planners and designers to address each type of place according to its needs. A country road doesn't need curbs, gutters, and sidewalks, but a downtown street without them is hopelessly inadequate. Each type of place can be great, and the trick is to understand what zone you are in and design it appropriately. It can even be used, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, to select a wardrobe.

It can also help to lay out neighborhoods and cities. For example, the T5 zone shown above may be perfect for a neighborhood main street, whereas the residential side streets may be T4. Deeper within the city, where transit is available and jobs are clustered, the denser Transect zones should be more prevalent. Near the outside of the city, away from such amenities, the less intense Transect zones should dominate.

It has even been used as the basis for zoning and other codes. There has been quite a bit of thought put into it. If you'd like to learn more, go to www.transect.org

Several years ago, I developed a counter-concept that I called The Sprawl Transect. Some folks had erroneously accused the T3 zone of being sprawl, thereby accusing the Transect of accommodating sprawl. This simply isn't the case; T3 simple represents walkable low-density residential areas. These areas existed long before sprawl was a problem, and they are a great and important part of any city's land use portfolio.

Not sprawl.
(Photo by Mark Crosse)
Also, sprawl includes more than just single-family homes; it also hosts strip malls, office parks, apartment complexes, and all sorts of other goodies. 

T3 is most certainly not sprawl. So I created The Sprawl Transect to show how actual sprawl looks in transect form. There are several key differences between it at the real Transect, thereby helping to highlight the genius of the real Transect.
  • Unwalkable Residential Areas. The single-family homes are also laid out on disconnected and unwalkable street networks and larger lots. 
  • Poor Connections. The Sprawl zones don't blend seamlessly into each other as the zones do in the proper Transect. Instead, each zone abruptly ends before the next begins, and the connections between them are poor and sparse. 
  • Parking is King. The prevalence of parking is made obvious in The Sprawl Transect. 
  • No Height Variety. There are no gradients to the building heights in sprawl. Most buildings are very low, except in the rare cases when they're really tall. In the strip commercial areas, though, the pole signs create an interesting skyline of sorts.
  • No Respect for the Rural. Rural areas are often seen by developers, and sometimes by the local planning department, simply as future sprawl instead of something valuable in its own right.
  • Space Hog. To help show how space-intensive sprawl is, I used a scale which highlighted the amount of land that it consumes.

A few people have found it useful, and so I hereby share it with you today in case it can also be useful to you. It has been used as a tool, such as here and here, and it has even been included in a German language urban planning book called More Urban to Suburbia by Juliane Lorenz. I hope you like it!


  1. Nice content which provided me the sufficient knowledge about the imporatnce of studying the foreign language. Thanks for updating us.
    German classes in Chennai | German Courses in Chennai

  2. Cloud computing reduces the software and hardware costs and it will be more beneficial for small and large business. Day by day internet users are increasing and it will increase the usage of software and hardware cost, by using cloud computing resources the cost will be reduced and there will be great demand for cloud
    AWS Training in Chennai | AWS course in Chennai | Embedded course in Chennai | Embedded system courses in Chennai

  3. Learning german improves your job opportunity all over the world. It is the second most commonly used scientific language and has wide opportunities for exchange.
    German Classes in Chennai | German Language Classes in Chennai

  4. Pretty article! I found some useful information in your blog, it was awesome to read, thanks for sharing this great content to my vision, keep sharing.
    AWS Training | AWS Training in Chennai

  5. I have read your blog its very Interesting. Thanks for sharing. ERP Providers in Chennai | ERP Software Company Chennai. We provide best quality cost effective ERP software applications and end to end enterprise solutions to all the industry verticals with the affordable cost.

  6. Thank you for this valuable information. I have got some important suggestions from it. I'm working in Brave Technologies Private Limited. We provides lowest price of ERP Software for our clients. Contact us on info@bravetechnologies.in
    ERP in Chennai | ERP Providers in Chennai

  7. Nice post. Very interesting to read. Thank you for Sharing.
    erp software in chennai