The City of Houston added more people than almost any City in America - second only to New York City - adding 40,032 people between 2014 and 2015, according to the Urban Edge blog.
Looking at the new Census data for 2015 confirms that growth in the Houston region has significantly changed between 2010 and 2015 compared to the previous decade, according to Houston Tomorrow analysis (xls):
From 2010 to 2015, the City of Houston has added an average of 39,355 people every year - 28% of the 142,281 added every year on average in the 13 County Houston region.
From 2000 to 2010, the City of Houston added an average of 14,582 people every year - 12% of the 145,820 added every year on average in the 13 County Houston region.
While the region as a whole appears to have slightly slowed down its extremely rapid rate of growth, the percentage of regional growth being added inside the City of Houston has increased by 2.39, an extremely welcome sign for those concerned about traffic, health, prosperity, and the local and global environment.
We know from the Kinder Houston Area Survey that there is a massive pent up demand for walkable urban lifestyle options that traditionally has not been met in the last four decades of development. The shift in regional growth may be due to a shift in development as the City of Houston has started making urbanism legal. Walkable urban development remains illegal by City of Houston development code in most of the city, requiring a variance unless the development is within a quarter mile of a light rail station. In this small area, the Urban Corridors code is allowed as an alternative to the car dependent codes required for the entire city.
Transit, walking, biking, and green space improvements may also be facilitating the shift.
In general, the greater proportion of regional growth that can happen in existing communities, the less future traffic, air pollution, and regional ecological loss we can expect. One of the consequences of ecological loss may be an increase in flooding, as noted in recent articles about the tax day flood.
On average, residents of the Houston region drive 22,830 miles per year per household, while residents of the City of Houston drive 19,374 miles per year per household, according to maps from the Center for Neighborhood Technologies Housing + Transportation Index. Residents of dense neighborhoods like Montrose or Gulfton drive around 14,000 miles a year per household.
Had the Houston region continued growing with only 12% of growth in the City of Houston for the last five years, we would be theoretically seeing an additional 1,633,643 vehicle miles traveled every single day.
For those hoping for traffic relief, there is hope that this changing pattern may continue and intensify if Mayor Sylvester Turner succeeds at changing the paradigm of transportation and urban planning, facilitating an even greater percentage of growth in existing communities while improving everyone’s quality of life.
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