I grew up believing everything in the US was bigger and better, but it turns out that when it comes to your urban environment, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Some places in the United States are sprawling out and some places are building in compact, connected ways. The difference between these two strategies affects the lives of millions of Americans.

Smart Growth America has just released Measuring Sprawl 2014, which analyses development in 221 metropolitan areas across the United States, as well as the relationship between development and quality of life indicators in those areas. It achieves this by evaluating four main factors:

  1. Development density
  2. Land use mix
  3. Activity centering
  4. Street accessibility

It turns out that individuals living in compact, connected metro areas have greater economic mobility. They spend less on the combined cost of housing and transportation, and have greater options for the type of transportation to take. One of the primary findings of the report is that people in compact, connected metro areas tend to live longer, safer, healthier lives than their peers in metro areas with sprawl.

Here are the Top 10 US compact and connected urban areas nationally:

# Metro Area Score
1 New York/White Plains/Wayne, NY-NJ 203.4
2 San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood City, CA 194.3
3 Atlantic City/Hammonton, NJ 150.4
4 Santa Barbara/Santa Maria/Goleta, CA 146.6
5 Champaign/Urbana, IL 145.2
6 Santa Cruz/Watsonville, CA 145.0
7 Trenton/Ewing, NJ 144.7
8 Miami/Miami Beach/Kendall, FL 144.1
9 Springfield, IL 142.2
10 Santa Ana/Anaheim/Irvine, CA 139.9