Suburban Development Made Scapegoat for Urban Woes (Letter to the Editor)

The national debate about suburban development spawns many misunderstandings about the real issues.

The recent USA TODAY editorial and response by Vice President Al Gore include several of these misunderstandings (“One-size-fits-all won’t control urban sprawl,” Our View, and ‘Washington can help,” Opposing View, May 12).

They claim the costs of sprawl are polluted air, slow commutes, loss of farmland and enervated city centers.

However, looking at the facts reveals a different story.

If increased suburban development causes polluted air, then why does the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “National Air Quality and Emissions Trends Report, 1997,” show that air quality is the best on record?

If sprawl causes slow commutes, then why does the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Nationwide Personal Transportation Study” show that average commute times decreased from 22 minutes in 1969 to 20.65 minutes in 1995?

If the USA is losing 50 acres of farmland an hour to development; as is claimed, why do U S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that from 1945 to 1992 cropland area remained constant at about 24% of the United States?

Blaming the country’s suburbs for decreasing the vitality of city centers is akin to blaming the United States for emigration from other countries.

People from around the world move to the United States because it is a good place to live and work, just as people from the city centers move to the suburbs because they are good places to live and work.

Unlike the vice president, we must examine the real issues and not buy into alarmist fantasies.