Urban sprawl began in the later part of the nineteenth century. The construction of the railroad system in America enabled people to move around the country. The government offered land at a price people could afford to entice them to develop and farm the land. However, even during that period, people were drawn to land near large cities and the wealthy would build large homes, and the area eventually would become an affluent neighborhood.
In the late 1920s through the 1930s the automobile brought change to America, the highway infrastructure began to take shape. By the late 1940's it was clear that newer safer roads were needed for Americans to travel. The Federal Highway Act of 1956 opened the country to Americans like never before. The highway system stretched from east to west and north to south, covering the American landscape.
The ability to travel long distances for vacations, or to move to a different part of the country began the modern urban sprawl. Also known as, suburban sprawl, urban sprawl was a new phenomenon. Middle class Americans began to buy homes in areas just outside cities, normally larger cities. Suburbia was on the rise, single-family homes clustered together and people commuted to the city for work. Urban sprawl continued to grow, in the late 1970s, communities began to make the neighborhoods pedestrian friendly by building schools, stores, and other conveniences to make the more appealing to home buyers.
Population density refers to the number of people occupying an area in relation to the size of that particular area. When trying to identify urban sprawl, the population density in that area is low. Since the 1970s, urban sprawl has not been looked on as favorably as it had been in the 1950s and 1960s. The negative outlook on urban sprawl is due to the amount of traffic, which causes pollution that hurts the environment, and causes increased illnesses due to the pollution created by the traffic. Schools in suburban areas are generally over crowded, mass transit is not always available, and people who live in the area pay higher taxes.
On the other hand, urban sprawl does have its good points as well. Urban sprawl has helped integrate neighborhoods in America, along with providing housing opportunities for minorities and recent legal immigrants. Urban sprawl has also helped increase the affordability of housing in the cities and the suburbs. Urban sprawl helped develop America, and brought a new way of life to many Americans.