WASHINGTON -- Metropolitan areas in the South and West dominate the list of the most spread-out areas of the country, according to a report released Thursday by a group promoting ways to contain sprawl.
The Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area ranked first in the study of 83 metropolitan areas conducted by Smart Growth America. Next is the Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point area in North Carolina, followed by Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Another southern metropolis -- Atlanta -- is the hub of the fourth most sprawling area.
The group advocates protection of open space, neighborhood revitalization, affordable housing and more transportation options.
More sprawling metro areas tend to have more fatal traffic accidents and worse pollution, in large part because people need to drive to go to work and to run errands, the report said. Mass transit is limited in most of these areas, the report said.
"Sprawl measures up to poorer quality of life," said Don Chen, Smart Growth's executive director. "This report signals to us that you can't sprawl your way out of congestion."
The report ranked areas by population and housing density; the mix of homes, jobs and services; the availability and use of town centers or downtowns; and the street network.
The only northeastern area in the top 10 is the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk-Danbury suburban area of Connecticut, home to many New York City commuters.
The report recommended that planners revive abandoned properties and neglected communities, create places where homes and businesses are near each other and encourage development in already built-up areas.
Kevin Palmer, economic development manager for the city of Riverside, Calif., said area officials have already incorporated many of the suggestions.
"These are things that cities have practiced for many years, and we are pleased that the counties have recognized these issues, too," Palmer said.
The rankings were based on analysis of federal data for 83 metropolitan areas around the country.