Monday, December 28, 2015

The Big Squeeze in the Big Guava?

The Tribune reported Squeezing them in: Florida's growing population will come at a price.
Twenty million and counting.

Florida leaped over another population milestone this year, according to U.S. census figures, and is now the nation’s second-fastest growing state behind Texas.

Most of those new Floridians — some 1,000 per day — are arriving not in the delivery room but by one-way trips in ports and airports and along interstates 75 and 95 with trailers in tow.

That influx is not expected to slow down anytime soon with the state’s population predicted to rise to 26 million by 2030, according to the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.
They're coming from somewhere. Hopefully not Syria.

Actually, they are coming to the sun belt, including Florida from the midwest and northeast according to census populations trends. Chicago, Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, etc. are not growing, and are losing residents. Where are they going? Dallas - Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin, Nashville, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Phoenix, to name a few growing sunbelt cities. And of course, just about anywhere in Florida.

Why are they moving here to Florida?

Because it's better here, whether they're from Chicago or Syria.

No matter what you're looking for, we are tending upwards. Quality of life, growing jobs opportunity, affordability, weather, business climate, lower taxes, less onerous government intrusions. All these sunbelt cities are turning for the better and are growing compared to most any northern or midwest counterpart, and we're riding that wave.

It's also interesting to note that the sunbelt destination cities all are relatively younger cities, sprawling metro areas, post transit, small central business districts, multiple employment centers, with predominant suburban lifestyles. All brought to you by the modern marvel the automobile.

Where are they going in Florida? A lot will end up right here in the Tampa Bay area. According to UF's BEBR June 2015 Population Projections report, by 2040, local growth forecasts

2040 Projection Growth Projection
Hillsborough 1,301,887 1,883,123 581236
Pasco 479,340 733,885 254,545
Pinellas 933,258 978,541 45,283
Polk 623,174 901,077 277,903


As a comparison, Central Florida (Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia Counties) is forecasted similarly to add another 1,116,590 residents combined. The stories about the I-4 corridor being the growth belt of Florida still hold true as over 2 million are expected here by 2040. The only place close is South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties) where another 1.4 million are expected by 2040.

Will Tampa be like Hong Kong in 2040?
Keep in mind much of this growth is a continuation of Florida, and the Tampa Bay areas, growth over the last 25 years. Florida's population in 1990 was 13.03 million. It is now over 20 million. As scary as some people are making all this growth sound, the next 25 years are forecasted to be much in line with what we've been through. We don't need a wall or keep out signs at the border, or tell Zephyrhills water to stop bottling, or stop lawn watering to list a few of the doom and gloomers commenting in the Trib.

Of course, growth presents a continuing challenge on our infrastructure, governance, culture, environment -- many of the things that attracts people to Florida in the first place.

The Tribune highlights water and transportation as challenge areas to be addressed.
“Florida’s increasing population will continue to stress our critical water resources,” [Agriculture Commissioner Adam] Putnam spokesman Aaron Keller said in an email. “We must invest more in water supply planning and alternative supply development to meet the needs of this growing population and continue to support a thriving economy while balancing the needs of our natural environment.”

The situation is less acute in Tampa Bay, where existing sources, mainly reservoirs, lakes and other surface water, will provide enough potable water until about 2040,..
The most critical water shortage may be in the Orlando area.
Under the urging of Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Department of Transportation has focused on toll and paid express lane projects. Locally, that includes the $454 million Gateway Express, which will link Interstate 275 to U.S. 19. The state is also moving ahead with the $3 billion Tampa Bay Express, which will widen I-275 through downtown Tampa and redesign its interchange with Interstate 4, commonly known as “malfunction junction.”

The state is now funding road and other transportation at record levels, and even more money will be needed to keep up with demand, Polzin warns. That could be especially true in the Tampa Bay area, where the region’s unusual geography — a huge metropolitan area linked by just three bridges — will make it difficult to solve traffic woes.

The region has the second-lowest number of freeway miles of any major metropolitan area in the nation, he said. Attempts in the past to build ring roads to alleviate the burden on I-275 failed to materialize because of environmental concerns.

More people also will mean more cars on the road during events such as hurricane evacuations.

“Virtually everything in the region needs to go on I-4 and I-275; there aren’t good alternatives that would help relieve pressure on that critical link,” Polzin said. “It foretells some pretty serious congestion and traffic problems.”
Don't forget those hurricanes. Few people look towards transit for evacuations.

The vast majority of the new arrivals will be arriving by car, will continue to use their car in their daily. This growth is the driving reason why we must fix our roads now!

Many of the new arrivals will be baby boomers, seeking to retiree in the sunshine the rest of us have enjoyed for many years. But keep in mind where many are coming from, and why they are coming here. They are not coming here to replicate the experiences they had in the past. They want our lifestyle - sun, fun, affordable living and freedom and ease of getting around town and the state.

But all thats at risk if we don't get it right.
The challenge for Florida will be to accommodate that increased demand without land and property prices spiraling out of the reach of working- and middle-class families, said Jack McCabe, chief executive of McCabe Research & Consulting of Deerfield Beach and an independent housing analyst.
In the past, Florida was a natural destination for retirees with many becoming snowbirds, living in mobile homes in the mild Florida winters before returning north for the summer.

Many of the residential towers recently completed or under construction are luxury-priced and aimed at affluent retirees or millennials. Prices of condos and downtown apartments are already out of reach for many residents in places like South Florida and downtown Tampa, he said.

“That was always one of Florida’s biggest selling points in the past — that it was affordable,” he said. “That isn’t the case anymore.”
We are beginning to see the consequences of some of the decisions

Hipster urbanists, urban planners and environmental do-gooders that end up limiting the new arrivals residential choice to urban oriented condos, apartments, infill development and urban growth areas will only constrain residential supply and choice and make residences more expensive for everyone else.

If fact, it will homogenize the urban areas further, reducing our delightful diversity to the people who can afford it. Afford to be with others of the same class, and same thinking, forcing the underclass out, perhaps into the suburbs the hiptster urbanists abhors. See San Francisco. But they'll think they saved the environment and the black bear, ignoring the real costs they hoisted upon others.

But if you're rich, you'll be set. But it's these same type of urban containment policies making day to day life unaffordable that many of the new residents will be fleeing from.

Yet these are often the same crowd that wants to restrict suburban growth and therefore limit the "live, work and play" choices for new arrivals.

In reality, Tampa proper has only grown about 70,000 the last 20 years. It will not be able to handle the 580,000 new residents in Hillsborough County without nearly tripling density. Think about every single family home in Tampa becoming a triplex, or building 1,160 500 unit apartment towers in the next 25 years, or about 46 per year. This is a bit of reductio ad absurdum arguments,  but some urbanist are thinking along these lines. Perhaps we can get by with 800 high rises. If you like Hong Kong.

Also consider the over 500,000 that will be arriving in Pasco and Polk counties by 2040, many of whom will work and play in Hillsborough further straining infrastructure needs.

The growth will largely occur in the suburban, and what is now rural areas. There are now developments encroaching upon Wimauma, of all places. Soon to go beyond. Sure, we'll have urban infill, increased densification in some areas for those that want that lifestyle. But there is no room for the amount of people coming this way in Tampa. They will be "out there", and will need more roads to get around. Even if the new arrivals ride transit at triple the current rate to 6%, 500,000 new residents will still be on the roads in Hillsborough every day, going where they want and need to go. FDOT understands this, and that's why the Tampa Bay Express project must proceed.

At the end of the day, we'll have challenges with our infrastructure driven by growth, and will have to make some tough decisions on our water, transportation, development strategies and costs, and environment. But we should always gauge our plans decisions on what's best for the people, and not some theoretical growth management and containment plan.

The new arrivals are voting to be here with their money and time because they like it more here than where they came from. Let's keep it that way. For all of us.

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