What Has Been Our Pattern Of Growth And Development?

Marylanders drove an average of 40 percent more in 2006 than in 1990. As the distance between homes and other destinations has increased, providing efficient transit services has become more difficult. Almost three quarters of all commutes to work in Maryland are by private car. Less than 7 percent of the population lives within a half-mile of premium transit services (ones that operate within their own right of way). Only about 17 percent of job locations are within a half-mile of such services. The Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas were, respectively, the 2nd and 22nd most congested in the nation in 2005, based on the average hours of travel delay. The costs of congestion totaled $2.3 billion ($545 per person) in the Washington area and $1.1 billion ($486 per person) in the Baltimore area.

photo of Bay BridgeAll that driving is a consequence of a lack of mixed uses in our land-use planning. The places where people live, work and play should be adjacent or much closer to each other, not so far apart. Spreading out has also led to a stratification of real estate value, shrinking the amount of affordable housing throughout much of Central Maryland. Between 2002 and 2007, the percent of home sales affordable to Maryland's teachers, for example, was halved, to 19 percent from 41 percent. In only four jurisdictions did more than 40 percent of sales meet the definition of affordable.

More sprawling development has also had a severe environmental impact on land, streams, waterways, aquatic habitats, living resources, and both surface and ground water supplies. For the first time, Marylanders are experiencing drinking water shortages resulting in building moratoria and competition between development and farming for the use of water supplies in rural areas. Clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay, a concern for more than a generation, has also been stalled by the smothering effects of sprawl on the nation's largest estuary.

At current development trends, about 560,000 acres, or an area roughly the equivalent of Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties combined, would be developed by 2030. Under a Smart Growth scenario, the impact could be limited to less than one-third of that, to around 163,000 acres, impacting many fewer watersheds, and much less agricultural and natural resource land.

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