Office of Planning and Budgeting

Planning for Urbanization

In 43 years, the world’s population is expected to double.  In developing countries the urban population is expected to double between 2000 and 2030.  The urban land cover will double in 19 years and the built-up area of major cities in the developing world will triple.  At least, this is according to a new report, “Making Room for a Planet of Cities,” that was published by The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy last month.

For the past five years, a team of researchers looked at GIS-based maps, satellite images, and historical maps to create a comprehensive data set to look at five key attributes of urbanism – urban land cover, density as measured by population in relation to built-up areas, centrality (distance from city center), fragmentation (the amount of open space within cities), and compactness. The summary from all of the historical research: “average densities declined as population and wealth grew, not just in the U.S. as part of the familiar pattern of sprawl but worldwide.”

Looking to the future, the research conducted by this report suggests that planners and policy makers should look at growth management within the context of the following: realistic projections of urban land needs, selective protection of open space, generous metropolitan limits, and infrastructure to support mass transportation.

As a planner at the University of Washington, this emphasizes the importance of the University’s location in an urban center.  Assuming that increased urbanization will continue, as suggested in the report, the University District area is on track for increased density.  This makes the report timely in its reinforcement of the growing importance of planning for the future using realistic projections, protection of open space, and an emphasis on infrastructure prior to significant urban growth.

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