The use of Geographic Information Systems for locating and interpreting contemporary urban growth of Chicago's urban fringe
Traditional models of explaining the process of suburbanization concentrate on the impact of transportation development on urban structure. They help us understand the history of Chicago’s growth. There are two concerns about today’s urban sprawl throughout the USA. The farmland protectionists want to protect farmland by containing yrban growth, while urban growth proponents encourage urban development because of its economic benefits. Current surveys show that the residents of Chicago prefer not only a larger home in a suburb, but also a home closer to the natural environment. This indicates that the amenity factor emerges to shape the contemporary urban growth in Chicago. This study examines the physical factors affecting the urban growth of Chicago. The study attempts to locate and explain Chicago’s recent urban growth by studying both population change and land use change. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is used with multivariable linear regression to identify factors influencing the urban development in Chicago. Fifteen factors are examined in this study. Eleven of them are economic factors while the other four factors are physical. The patterns of population density distribution, population density change, population percentage change, land use patterns and changes are studied at the township level. Based on regression results, current population growth tends to be attracted to water bodies and limited by environmental protection policies. With the traditional economic factors and zoning regulations still exerting a strong impact on urban growth, other factors such as amenity and environmental protection starting to shape urban growth. Economic factors and zoning regulations are shown as pull forces while the amenity factor affects minor developments. The effect of environmental protection is shown to depend on how strong the local environmental protection organizations are.