Posted by: Katarina Kovacevic | May 20, 2010

Current Trends, Future Development

Portland's entire 260-mile bike path system cost the city $65 million. This same amount of money would only fund one mile of freeway. (Photo from Flickr user itdp)

An editorial in the May 12 edition of The Arizona Republic about a recent Brookings Institution study on the United States’ shifting populations offered up some pretty groundbreaking facts, including a reverse in 80-year-old migration patterns.

The study, based on U.S. Census data compiled from 2000 to 2008, shows educated young people moving in increasing numbers into centers of some of the largest cities, including Washington, D.C., Atlanta, New York, San Francisco and Boston. Their reasoning? Convenience, of course. Urban areas are closer to work centers, mass transit and amenities like dining, events, museums and nightlife.

What the Republic article failed to mention is that my millennial peers aren’t the only members of the shift. In fact, at Valley Forward Association’s annual Livability Summit last month, James Charlier, an expert in growth strategies and sustainable transportation systems, revealed information from the same study on migration patterns of elders. Can you guess what they’re looking for?

Walkable, mixed-use urban housing. By 2040, this segment is expected to make up 33 percent of housing demand. For the average resident, it’s about convenience. But for Phoenix’s future, it’s about much more than that. “Complete neighborhoods,” what Charlier calls areas that are walkable and transit-served with mixed-use development, are essential to reducing our dependency on petroleum – and foreign oil in conjunction – and improving public health therefore cutting health care costs. Why?

Our transportation systems are almost entirely dependent on (imported) oil. And most of the money that we spend as individuals on it doesn’t even stay in the local economy. In many cases, it doesn’t even stay in the United States economy. On average, obesity costs the U.S. $147 billion annually. Research conducted by the US Center for Disease Control and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation suggests that people who live where walking and bicycling are convenient, safe and comfortable live much more active lifestyles.

So what does this mean for Phoenix? Check out these videos on Valley Forward’s YouTube Channel for Charlier’s perspective.

Other Findings from Valley Forward Association’s 2010 Livability Summit

  • According to Paul Leinberger of The Futures Company (formerly Yankelovich), we’ve seen a dramatic shift in consumer attitudes and spending, moving from the “Era of Indulgence” into the “Era of Consequences,” or, put more aptly, the “Age of Responsibility.” Priorities shifted away from material things and signs of success now include more intangible things like being satisfied with one’s life and having a good marriage.
  • A “New Responsibility Marketplace” has put consequences and risk back on the agenda, and consumers are now taking more responsibility for their decisions. They’re also seeking out companies that reflect this attitude. It’s no longer “all about me.” Think about the impacts on business!
  • Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, headlined the event and presented his ideas on the “Third Industrial Revolution” in the United States in which we are (or need to be!) moving away from 19th and 20th century ideas of development, and harnessing smart technologies and global communication networks to create a renewable energy regime.
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