CHAMPAIGN — Champaign-Urbana is the No. 5 most compact metropolitan area in the country, according to a study released Wednesday by Smart Growth America, a Washington, D.C. group that advocates for policies countering urban sprawl.
The New York, San Francisco, Atlantic City, N.J., and Santa Barbara, Calif., metro areas were Nos. 1 through 4 ahead of Champaign-Urbana. Springfield came in at No. 9.
The group graded 221 metropolitan areas based on four criteria: population and employment density, land use mix, "activity centering" and street connectivity.
Champaign-Urbana scored high in the "activity centering" criterion, which measures the degree to which people and businesses are near each other. It scored lower in street connectivity, which examined things like the average length of street blocks and density of street intersections.
In its study, Smart Growth America notes that quality of life improves when communities avoid urban sprawl. The group says that people in more compact metro areas have greater economic mobility, spend less on housing and transportation and have better transportation options. Obesity and fatal car crashes are less common in compact counties, according to the study.
Local officials were touting the ranking on Wednesday. In a press release, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District officials said government agencies have been working to encourage new development that provides more choices for transportation, housing and employment.
"The high level of transit service, improvements in sidewalks and infrastructure for bicycling have given residents the ability to live, work, and play without having to own a car if they choose," the MTD press release said.
Champaign County Regional Planning Commission CEO Cameron Moore said compact growth policies are reflected in local government agencies' downtown revitalization efforts, bicycle and pedestrian programs and regional transportation plans.
"There's huge support in our region for vibrant, walkable neighborhoods," Moore said. "Today's findings show that we're making solid progress toward that goal."
Those interested can visit smartgrowthamerica.org to see the full rankings and download the report.