10 Sprawliest Cities in the United States

Though this street in downtown Nashville looks quiet, commuters in Music City spend more time in their cars than anywhere else in the U.S.A. Matthew D White/Peter Arnold/Getty Images

The country music capital of the U.S. has less of a reputation for sprawl than some of the other cities on this list, but as far back as 2001, the region was cited as the most spread out [source: El Nasser]. And that still holds true today.

Metro area drivers in the Music City spend an extra 120 hours a year in their cars specifically because of sprawl, as measured based on factors like time spent traveling and congestion, according to an analysis by CEOs for Cities and Good Magazine. That's the most in the nation [sources: Metropolitan Planning Organization, Good Magazine, Benfield].

In 2012, Nashville city officials recognized the strain that sprawl has put on metro area drivers and the need to link planning, development and transportation efforts as a result. The 25-year Regional Transportation Plan is intended to use nearly $6 billion to make the city and surrounding area more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, add public transit options and develop affordable housing closer to the areas where most people work [source: Metropolitan Planning Organization].

For the time being, you don't need to go anywhere near a car to enjoy other articles about sprawl, commuting and city planning. Just continue on to the next page.

Author's Note: 10 Sprawliest Cities in the United States

The best way to gauge a city's sprawl, in my own humble opinion, is by looking for a hotel in it using one of those online search engines. The father away the properties that the site spits out to you, the worse the sprawl. In my own hometown of D.C., for example, I often have friends who come to town on business and somehow end up in a Holiday Inn in the Ballston section of Arlington, Va. That's a mere 6.1 miles from the White House, but the pseudo suburban location is a far cry from being in the nation's capital.

Related Articles


  • Abouhalkah, Yael. "The $600 million project primed to promote sprawl." The Kansas City Star. Nov. 14, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.kansascity.com/2012/11/14/3917561/a-600-million-project-primed-to.html#storylink=cpy
  • American Homeowners Association. "Suburban Sprawl Fueled by Cheaper Land." (Jan. 6, 2013) https://www.ahahome.com/html/articles/030101.cfm
  • Boxall, Bettina. "Infill housing development rises in Los Angeles region." Los Angeles Times. Dec. 20, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-infill-housing-increases20121220,0,878307.story
  • Benfield, Kaid. "Nashville's promise for a greener transportation future." Natural Resources Defense Council. Feb. 15, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/nashvilles_promise_for_a_green.html
  • Byrnes, Mark. " 40 Years of Las Vegas Sprawl, as Seen From Space." The Atlantic Cities. March 5, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2012/03/40-years-las-vegas-sprawl-seen-space/1402/
  • City of Houston. "Houston Facts and Figures." (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.houstontx.gov/abouthouston/houstonfacts.html
  • Coolican, J. Patrick. " Foreclosure fallout: Official says Las Vegas should turn from sprawl." Las Vegas Sun. Oct. 26, 2010 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/oct/26/foreclosure-fallout-lv-should-turn-sprawl/
  • El Nasser, Haya. "A comprehensive look at sprawl in America." USA Today. Feb. 22, 2001 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/sprawl/main.htm
  • Elmostehi, Fayza. "Win Butler acknowledges his home: Arcade Fire tells true tales of Texas inspiration in The Woodlands." Culture Map Houston. May 5, 2011 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://houston.culturemap.com/newsdetail/05-05-11-the-big-win-arcade-fire-tells-tales-and-talks-texas-in-its-return-home-to-the-woodlands
  • Gallagher, Leigh. "Tony Hsieh's new $350 million startup." CNN Money. Jan. 23, 2012 (Jan. 8, 2013) http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/01/23/tony-hsieh-las-vegas-zappos/
  • Gilroy, Leonard. "Urban Sprawl: Good for Minorities?" Reason Foundation. Oct. 26, 2001 (Jan. 8, 2013) http://reason.org/news/show/urban-sprawl-good-for-minoriti
  • Good Magazine. "Sprawl Crawl." (Jan. 6, 2013) http://awesome.good.is/transparency/web/1009/sprawl-crawl/transparency.jpg
  • Groth, Aimee. "Zappos' New Las Vegas Office Is Meant To Look Unfinished." Business Insider. Sept. 23, 2012 (Jan. 8, 2013) http://www.businessinsider.com/zappos-new-downtown-las-vegas-office-2012-9?op=1
  • Hess, George. "Just What is Sprawl, Anyway?" North Carolina State University. May 28, 2001 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www4.ncsu.edu/~grhess/papers/sprawl.pdf
  • Invest Atlanta. "Economic Development." (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.investatlanta.com/econoDev/statistics.jsp
  • Kim, Teddy. " North Texas' sprawl sprang from pro-growth policies." The Dallas Morning News. Feb. 4, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20120204-north-texas-sprawl-sprang-from-pro-growth-policies.ece
  • Kim, Teddy. "Rethinking the future of North Texas development." The Dallas Morning News. Feb. 6, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20120206-rethinking-the-future-of-north-texas-development.ece
  • Kolko, Jed. "The Top U.S. Cities for New Home Construction." The Atlantic Cities. May 4, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2012/05/top-us-cities-new-home-construction/1935/
  • Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. "One Small Step for Anti-Sprawl, One Giant Leap for Houston Economic Development?" Jan. 10, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.icic.org/connection/blog-entry/blog-one-small-step-for-anti-sprawl-one-giant-leap-for-houston
  • Joffe-Block, Jude. "Beyond Sprawl: Gambling on Downtown Las Vegas." KPBS. Nov. 30, 2011 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.kpbs.org/news/2011/nov/30/redevelop-urban-blight-construction-business/
  • Linebaugh, Kate. "Detroit's Population Crashes." The Wall Street Journal. March 23, 2011 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704461304576216850733151470.html
  • Levy, Francesca. "Best and Worst Cities for Commuters." Forbes. Feb. 16, 2010 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/12/best-worst-commutes-lifestyle-mass-transit_2.html
  • Maynard, Mark. "Detroit and How it Got This Way." MarkMaynard.com. Jan. 28, 2009 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://markmaynard.com/2009/01/detroit-and-how-it-got-this-way/
  • Museum of the City. "The Post-WWII Growth of Las Vegas, NV." (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.museumofthecity.org/exhibit/post-wwii-growth-las-vegas-nv
  • Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. "Land Use & Urban Design." (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.nashvillempo.org/regional_plan/land_use/
  • Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. "Moving Nashville Forward." (Jan. 8, 2013) http://www.nashvillempo.org/regional_plan/land_use/moving_tennessee_foward.aspx
  • O'Connell, Jonathan. "Is Washington becoming a Tysons suburb?" The Washington Post. Oct. 21, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/tysons-to-dc-hows-life-as-our-suburb/2012/10/19/9c7d7ec6-1976-11e2-aa6f-3b636fecb829_story.html?hpid=z4
  • River Network. "Poor development and sprawl." (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.rivernetwork.org/problem/development
  • Rosenberg, Jeremy. "The Roots of Sprawl: Why We Don't Live Where We Work." KCET. March 19, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.kcet.org/socal/departures/landofsunshine/laws-that-shaped-la/the-roots-of-sprawl-why-we-dont-live-where-we-work.html
  • Shauk, Zain. "Plan could alter housing density outside Loop." Houston Chronicle. Jan. 2, 2012. (Jan. 6, 2013). http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Plan-could-alter-housing-density-outside-Loop-2437503.php
  • Sierra Club. "Sprawl-Threatened Cities Dishonorable Mention: Los Angeles." (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/report98/angeles.html
  • Smith, Hubble. "Las Vegas housing saw transition from foreclosures to short sales in '12." Las Vegas Review-Journal. Jan. 8, 2013 (Jan. 8, 2013) http://www.lvrj.com/business/las-vegas-housing-saw-transition-from-foreclosures-to-short-sales-in-12-186020071.html
  • Texas A&M Transportation Institute. "Urban Mobility Information." (Jan. 8, 2013) http://mobility.tamu.edu/files/2011/09/national-table_7.pdf
  • Urbanophile. "Urbanoscope." Jan. 21, 2011 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.urbanophile.com/2011/01/21/urbanoscope-17/
  • U.S. Census Bureau. "State and County Quick Facts." (Jan. 6, 2013) http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/42/42101.html
  • U.S. Census Bureau. "Texas Dominates List of Fastest-Growing Large Cities Since 2010 Census, Census Bureau Reports." June 28, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb12-117.html
  • Van Zuylen-Wood, Simon. "Planes, Trains and Conspiracy Theories." Washington City Paper. June 29, 2012 (Jan. 6, 2013) http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/42920/planes-trains-and-conspiracy-theories/
  • Vogel, Peter. "SCOTUS: From Pornography's 'I Know It When I See It' to Social Media's 'I Don't Get It.'" Ecommerce Times. Dec. 8, 2010 (Jan. 6, 2013). http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/71402.html


10 Alternatives to the Las Vegas Vacation

10 Alternatives to the Las Vegas Vacation

Las Vegas alternatives abound for the adventurous traveler. Learn about 10 Las Vegas alternatives that combine gambling with some local flavor.

More to Explore