Twin Cities’ Metropolitan Council tries to project 30 years into the urban future

The Metropolitan Council for the Twin Cities region in Minnesota is working on a new plan that tries to project urban changes in the next 30 years:

For example, he noted, the Twin Cities region will have 900,000 more people, with twice as many elderly. Also, by 2040, 43 percent of the region’s population will be people of color, up from today’s 24 percent.

Big changes are already being seen in housing patterns. The share of building permits issued in developing suburbs has been declining since 2008, when they had 66 percent of the total. But by 2011, less than half were issued in the second- and third-ring suburbs for the first time in a decade…

“But what we’ve seen in the few years is that employment did not increase between 2000 and 2010. Employment dropped in the seven-county area, so growth management isn’t the issue it was before,” she said.

Instead, the new plan will likely focus more on “what the transit system means for our region, thinking out how new light-rail lines will influence new development and thinking about water supplies.”

A quick summary of these predicted changes: a more diverse population, slower or less growth on the suburban fringe, a struggle to create good-paying jobs, preserving local natural resources, and looking to build more effective mass transit that might also boost local development efforts. I suspect a lot of regions, particularly ones without high levels of growth, will have similar concerns. As cities and communities age, infrastructure will cost more, regions will continue to compete with each other for high-tech and white-collar jobs, and new populations might challenge the existing character of places and regions.

A note: if you have read the work of Myron Orfield (for example, see American Metropolitics), you will have heard of the Metropolitan Council. Compared to other metropolitan regions, the Twin Cities has a metropolitan agency with some teeth:

The Metropolitan Council or Met Council is the regional governmental agency and metropolitan planning organization in Minnesota serving the Twin Cities seven-county metropolitan area. The Met Council is granted regional authority powers in state statutes by the Minnesota Legislature. These powers can supersede decisions and actions of local governments. The legislature entrusts the Council to maintain public services and oversee growth of the state’s largest metro area. This agency is similar to Metro in Portland, Oregon in that both agencies administer an urban growth boundary…

In 1967 the Minnesota Legislature created the Metropolitan Council in response to growing issues of septic tank wastewater contamination. During that time, it was recognized there were systematic problems which transcended coordination of any one agency. There were more than 200 municipal agencies in existence then.

Additional acts of the legislature passed in 1974, 1976, and 1994 expanded the role and powers of the Met Council, merging it with transit and waste control commissions to become a unified regional authority.

In other words, the planning being done could have a big impact on the next few decades in the region.

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