On Thursday, the Seattle Times’ Gene Balk broke the news that Seattle was no longer number one. Our time as fastest growing city in the nation lasted only a year. While it’s sad to no longer have those bragging rights I think a bit more context is in order.
[T]he new census population data shows that the fastest-growing large cities tend to be more suburban. Among the 10 fastest-growing cities with more than 500,000 people, five — Austin, Fort Worth, Charlotte, San Antonio and Phoenix — are majority suburban, and a sixth, Las Vegas, is only 50 percent urban. Only one of the 10 fastest-growing, Seattle, is at least 90 percent urban.
Only a few big cities are outpacing their wider regions
Given how indistinguishable some major cities are from the suburbs that ring them, I got to wondering: How many are actually growing faster than their wider metro area? Not many, it turns out. Among the top 50 cities, only 14 had grown faster than the state as a whole and grown at least 0.2 percentage points faster than their wider metro area (sadly, the census didn’t includes a margin of error on its growth estimates, so I wanted to leave a little room). Of that group, the star destinations were Portland, Oregon, and Miami, which are just about as far apart, geographically and spiritually/culturally/psychologically, as two cities could be.
So of the 50 largest cities, 14 grew faster than their surrounding suburbs. Of those, Seattle was third when it comes to outpacing its suburbs.
Gene Balk noted this at the bottom of his piece:
Also in the new data: Seattle grew 77 percent faster than surrounding King County in 2014. This marks the third consecutive year that Seattle has outpaced its suburbs. In fact, half the county’s population growth occurred within Seattle city limits.
Housing is interesting because units don’t fill up all at once. Units that are built in one year might not fill up until the next. It’s more a snapshot of growth to come than current growth.
It is quite obvious where growth is happening in King County. This trend has been obvious for a couple years now and mirrors a national trend.
The Puget Sound Regional Council, whose purpose is to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds to channel and mitigate the pressures of growth and density, should recognize this fact. Its growth model is also an input to Sound Transit ridership predictions. Currently their modelling (and thus allocation) is based on wishful thinking, instead of anchored to facts on the ground, which has led to inaccurate predictions and the continuing misdirection of hundreds of millions of dollars.