Posts tagged ‘buses’
We live in amazing times. On the global scale, the changes occurring as the world’s population flocks to cities are unprecedented. On the national scale, this change is much less, but impactful nonetheless.
A few years ago, the United Nations issued a report that cited “the growth of cities will be the largest influence in nation-building this century. Managing this urban growth is one of the most important challenges we face.”
Over the past 10 years, the number of people living in urban places exceeded the number of rural dwellers for the first time. The number of urban dwellers will double again by mid-century, and in Asia and Africa, the number of people living in cities will double in just 30 years. That duplicates in one generation the entire history of urban growth on those continents. This change is staggering.
By 2050, roughly 80 percent of the world’s urban population will live in developing nations. Why is this important for Montgomery County?
We already see the bulk of population growth in Montgomery County and the United States occur due to births in the minority population and immigration. Montgomery County way outperforms the region, state and country on attracting immigrants.
Urbanization occurs because people harbor hopes of prosperity and better lives. City life offers opportunities in business, better services and the possibility of sharing of wealth with family members.
The Cousin Syndrome goes back to the mass migrations from Europe at the turn of the last century, although those new residents landed in the big U.S. cities. Today, more immigrants live in the suburbs, but the concept holds true. After new residents find work in the burbs, they send money back home – along with a message that there are better opportunities. Relatives follow. They share housing, capital and ideas. They begin to grow new businesses, employ more people. Their children assimilate into schools, social and cultural activities. The civic culture benefits from their participation in the local economy.
With each passing generation, the “new” residents become more and more integrated into our society. The children quickly begin to advance in school, graduating into universities and college programs, then entering many new walks of life. The new generations seize opportunities their parents may not have had.
In Montgomery County, we need to assess how the rapid changes in our landscape will necessitate change. Montgomery County is already an Arrival City, a huge magnet for immigrants. Over the course of history, the most successful communities for new residents provide good places for people to live, work, get an education and cultivate relationships in the community, all in close proximity. If parents have to travel 45 minutes each way to work, their time with family is at risk. If new residents do not have access to housing they can afford, services and cultural norms like native food, the community support network so common and important to new immigrants, begins to break down.
Around the world, immigrant communities confront local regulations like zoning that prevents the mixing of activities so common to foreign residents whether they are from Europe, Central America, Asia or the Middle East. Our suburban pattern of growth, which is mimicked in so many places overseas, has created issues for new residents.
Many foreign-born populations, many of whom are the minorities that make up over 50 percent of the county population, thrive on working and living in close proximity. It is important to consider how to maintain the social fabric that acts as a network to help communities thrive, which may mean differences in how the suburbs have traditionally evolved, functioned and prospered.
We are looking at planning for today and our future residents.
25- to 35-Year-Olds
The make-up of Gen X and Y, the County’s fastest-growing demographic, will soon become more than 50 percent minority. We need these young people to choose us as their place to live, find multiple careers and establish roots. They prefer multicultural places they can walk to and socializing outside their homes. They tend to like smaller living spaces, and for the first time in generations, generate less car ownership.
By 2015, we will see as many as 4.4 million new renters in the United States, largely made up of Gen X and Y as well as those who lost their homes to foreclosure. Add to this the rapid growth in foreign-born populations who cannot afford to buy into our housing market. The Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) are rapidly expanding into markets to which the gen X and Y folks are attracted. Washington is now on the REIT radar screen, joining the likes of New York, Atlanta and Miami as destination for younger people to move to.
In Montgomery County, we can expect more rental units. This is the one segment of the housing market that shows growth and is providing positive returns. Our County needs more housing opportunities, especially for new residents and recent graduates, who change jobs more frequently than most people buy cars.
Have we created enough opportunities to provide this shift in housing trends? A new master plan in White Flint and our draft plan in Wheaton are moving in the right direction. Opportunities exist in places like Burtonsville, where retail centers could offer the type of environment where there is a mix of housing types, tenure and services near a bus transfer station and Park and Ride.
What Is Our Role ?
People have to get to places. While we want to create more areas where much of our daily lives can be conducted in close proximity, the fact of life in the suburbs is that most activities are spread out, requiring travel. Convenient, regular and affordable transit is a must, especially considering the high cost of housing. The recent graduate without a car and sharing a rental unit needs to get places conveniently, just as does the service sector worker with school-aged children, as does our rapidly growing population of seniors. Transportation is key for our current and future residents, and that future, largely, is buses.
We must provide opportunities for reasonably priced housing close to services in places throughout the community like strip malls and underutilized shopping centers. Once we have provided the housing and access, we can then capitalize on the energy of our new residents to help them, their children and our community prosper.