The census tells us quite a bit about where people are populating and when. What we see in the chart below is a significant (not tested for significance) change in course for population movements. The data examines the population of central cities of each metro area, compared to the surrounding metro area populations. Suburban growth patterns continued to dominate the percent of growth through 2007 (noted by the tall blue bars above the metro area), then abruptly fell for both in 2007-2009. What follows is primarily growth in the central cities (green bars in 2009-2011) with some moderate growth in the surrounding towns.
I continue to believe that when faced with economic uncertainty, due to high fuel prices, sputtering economy, etc., people will choose a more efficient lifestyle. Cities are an opportunity for that, helping to reduce commuter costs and put people closer to the things they want and need. Even in the face of higher housing costs in central cities, the combined cost of transportation and housing is still a better deal. In a flat economy with high fuel prices, that is a choice many are inclined to make.
- Is MTV relevant any more? Last I checked they sucked. Confession: I haven’t had a TV in 18+ years so how would I know?
- Fuel prices are part of the equation, but not the entire story. Is the younger generation environmentally conscious or merely frugal?
A statement disguised as a question:
- When will GM, Ford and Chrysler start building good transit vehicles, and not involve themselves in running (destroying) transportation services? Wait, they already did that.
- Rural areas will continue to feel a long slow death until they can build walkable villages and town centers that are transit connected to larger metros. It isn’t that we don’t like these places. It isn’t that we don’t want to live in small towns (pick anywhere in Maine outside Bangor, Portland, L/A). We might, but we need transportation options that are frequent enough to feel like we have freedom.
Why plan for an uncertain future? Our world is changing in ways that we can hardly comprehend. The planning we have been engaged in over the last 100 years, is geared to a world with abundant energy, a stable climate, and a dwindling natural resource endowment that is reliant on cheap energy for extraction. That world is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Oil price spikes due to supply/demand and geopolitical concerns, water shortages (Google Lake Mead, Central Valley, CA or the Ogallala Aquifer for details), and soil depletion are just a few of the problems we face. As we move forward, the notion that we can continue with business as usual (BAU) is not going to sustain us. Thinking creatively and making difficult decisions will test our abilities, push our cultural boundaries and hopefully shape a world where these uncomfortable realities can be dealt with in an equitable and meaningful manner.
I write about things I see, think, and work on as I transition from being a planning student into the world of planning. I am neither a technological optimist, thinking we can invent our way out of all our problems, nor a doomer, believing in returning to a world much like pre-industrial times. I believe that our creativity combined with the lessons from the past will be instrumental tools for laying the foundation for the path forward. Some of my ideas may seem radical, others are just based on common sense and keen observations.