Urban Sprawl in the Twin Cities metro, 2000-2019

Over 70,000 acres of farmland, wetlands and other greenspace surrounding the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro were converted into suburbia over the past two decades. That's enough to cover the surface of Lake Minnetonka five times. It's more than all the state parks along the North Shore combined. To some, this growth is of a robust economy. However, urban sprawl carries environmental and social consequences. Nearly every feature of suburbia from the houses and strip malls to the miles of asphalt that connect them are impervious. Loss of habitat and fertile agricultural land are the most visible consequences of this pattern of development.

However, the most signifcant threat sprawl poses is the type of lifestyle it demands: one dependent entirely on a car to get around. Outer suburbs are low-density, which invalidates walking, biking and public transportation as means of transportation. More people driving means more carbon dioxide emissions. Transportation is Minnesota's largest source of greenhouse gas emission, and the cost of all that driving is not equally paid. Air pollution from freeways is disproportionately breathed by those living in the city, intensifying racial inequities in health.

Data from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau

Graphic by Jake Steinberg