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Beyond density: municipal expenditures and the shape and location of development

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A clear understanding of the relationship between development patterns and municipal expenditures is complicated by how one chooses to quantify these patterns. Extant literature often employs a single density measure to capture the low-density nature of sprawl. While density provides an intuitive link to economies of scale and congestion costs, it fails to capture other spatial characteristics of sprawl related to centrality, connectedness, and mixed use that may influence municipal expenditures according to Smart Growth and New Urbanism advocates. This study uses Massachusetts orthoimagery data to construct multidimensional measures of residential and commercial land use patterns. Municipal expenditures associated with public works, fire, and police are regressed on multidimensional measures of land use as well as a number of demand controls. Findings indicate that economies and diseconomies do exist with respect to the multidimensional metrics considered. Support is mixed for development patterns emphasized by Smart Growth and New Urbanism advocates.
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Keywords: GIS; Land use; built environment; municipal expenditures; smart growth

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Center for Population and Development Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA 2: Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA

Publication date: September 14, 2019

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