By Meghna Tare
Eight of the 15 fastest-growing large U.S. cities and towns for the year ending July 1, 2012 were in Texas, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Lone Star State also stood out in terms of the size of population growth, with five of the 10 cities and towns that added the most people over the year. Even within North Texas, the population of the 10-county Dallas-Fort Worth region is expected to grow from approximately 5.1 million in 2000 to 9.1 million in 2030, according to the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).
Tremendous pressure is placed upon the North Texas region land and natural resources to support the massive overpopulation. To mitigate the strains that will develop as cities expand, and to maximize the potential economic opportunity that well-managed cities can offer, North Texas needs a proactive approach to addressing the challenges of urbanization.
Business as usual
“Business as usual” means additional infrastructure to support the economic growth, but with the current depletion of resources, government and private investments cannot keep pace with growing demand. For example:
- For supporting transportation infrastructure, the anticipated investment of almost $71 billion between 2007- 2030 only results in 66 percent more hours lost to travel delay in 2030 and a congestion cost of $6.6 billion (compared to $4.2 billion in 2007).
- In 2050, existing water supplies are not sufficient to meet the needs of this urban area and North Texans will need 21 percent more electricity production capacity than is currently available.
- The region is expected to lose 900,000 acres of agricultural land, as well as substantial areas of natural habitat. The amount of impervious surface in the region (buildings and pavement) will double, increasing runoff and affecting water quality in streams, increase in urban heat island effect. More than half of the new households will live in the watersheds of the region’s water supply lakes, affecting the water quality of these lakes and the drinking water they provide.
Vision for sustainable growth: Vision North Texas 2050
Vision North Texas is a private, public and academic partnership headed by the Urban Land Institute, the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the University of Texas at Arlington as charter sponsors. Created to serve as a forum for dialogue and action about the challenges of accommodating a significant amount of future growth in a way that is both sustainable and successful, it is supported by the generous contributions of numerous private and public-sector sponsors. The Vision North Texas partnership began its work by hosting a regional visioning workshop, held in April 2005 at the University of Texas at Arlington. This workshop brought together a diverse group of nearly 200 stakeholders from across the region to discuss alternatives to the pattern of urban growth currently projected for the area.
The forum operates under the guiding principles of: Development Diversity, Efficient Growth, Pedestrian Design, Housing Choice, Activity Centers, Environmental Stewardship, Quality Places, Efficient Mobility Options, Resource Efficiency, Educational Opportunity, Healthy Communities, and Implementation.
Achieving this North Texas 2050 Vision requires a shift in thinking from the business as usual. The 12 guiding principles give decision-makers additional insight into the future envisioned through this process, but they provide a very broad description of this direction. Policy recommendations that relate to particular parts of this development pattern and investment framework are presented to support the physical development plans. The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) is leading an effort to involve cities, towns and counties in development and utilization of a watershed-based Regional Ecosystem Framework for the development of future infrastructure plans including Mobility Plans, water/wastewater plans, open space or trail system plans, the use of natural assets as “green infrastructure” and similar ecosystem-related initiatives.
Center for Metropolitan Density, University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) is a comprehensive research, teaching and public service institution whose mission is the advancement of knowledge and the pursuit of excellence. UTA is a charter sponsor of Vision North Texas. For this agreement, UTA is represented by the School of Architecture through the Center for Metropolitan Density to address the challenges of sustainable development in the 21st century.
The Center for Metropolitan Density addresses the key issues in sustainability by engaging the community in research, education and consulting. The research center has the unique advantage to be a leader in North Texas or within any other university system. Established in the heart of the Dallas-Fort Worth region, at the only school of architecture in North Texas, implies that the entire metroplex can participate in and benefit from the Center’s work. Since the sprawl in this region is representative of forces acting across the globe, the knowledge gained locally can be exported across globally.
Everything is bigger in Texas. So is the challenge!
North Texas has grown successfully and dramatically over the past 40 years. But more of the same will not be successful or sustainable for the next 40 years. This conclusion – and the desire for a future that is better than this “business as usual” scenario – has been a critical in the sustainable development dialogue in North Texas. Achieving the North Texas 2050 Vision requires change from business as usual. To plan for the future, an understanding of the characteristics and demands of the people who live here and are migrating here is necessary. Thoughtful planning for the future based on these local demographic changes and preferences is one of the principles of Vision North Texas. The recommendations in the North Texas 2050 will help this region respond to these changes and better meet the needs of our communities, businesses and current and future residents for sustainable development and growth.
Image credit: Flickr/rcbodden
Meghna Tare is the Director of Sustainability for University of Texas at Arlington where she has initiated and spearheaded many successful cross functional sustainability projects related to policy implementation, buildings and development, green procurement, transportation, employee engagement, waste management, GRI reporting, and carbon management. She is a TedxUTA speaker and also an MBA Candidate in Sustainable Management at the Presidio Graduate School. She has a sunny and positive attitude about life and all of its adventures. She enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, and building relationships with friends and co-workers. You can connect with her on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/meghnatare/