Trend is Not Destiny

Today I attended a joint meeting of MTAC (Metro Technical Advisory Committee) and TPAC (Transportation Policy Alternatives Committee – on which I am a citizen representative). The purpose of the meeting was to review the 2030 population forecasts, which will help drive the next update the Regional Transportation Plan and the next UGB (Urban Growth Boundary) expansion.

The headline, as has been reported elsewhere, is that between 2000 and 2030 we will add 1.1 million residents to the region, reaching the population level that had originally been planned for 2040.

Ironically, on the way to the meeting, I was listening to a podcast of Smart City (a radio program out of Memphis that is regretably not broadcast locally) talking about the problems of Detroit, which has seen its population shrink by 50% since 1960. Anyone want to pick which problem to have?

The interesting part of the discussion today was not about the faster than expected growth, but rather about the choices and assumptions we will need to make:

Can Damascus come online fast enough to absorb much of this growth?

Will we run out of exception lands and need to begin expanding the UGB onto Exclusive Farm Use lands?

How much infill can we expect? Metro has lowered the forecast for infill, but as Al Burns, a planner from Portland put it “if we expand the UGB, of course we won’t get the level of infill we want.” Al quoted Lewis Mumford: “trend is not destiny.”

Others from Portland made a compelling case that Metro’s input data is missing all the 1/4 acre and under infill developments that are happening in Portland.

If we build a 10-lane bridge over the Columbia on I-5 we get both more commuters and more jobs in Portland. Don’t build it and the jobs go to Vancouver.

Which cities get the growth? Both Portland and Washington County were lobbying for more housing, while Gresham was lobbying for more jobs.

Watch this space…

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