The Census Bureau has just released a fascinating special report on population changes in metropolitan areas across the country. The report, entitled Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change: 2000 to 2010 (132MB) has relatively easy-to-read tables and impressive maps that show rates of population change.
The report shows two interesting trends in the Chicago region.
First, Chicago experienced the largest gains in “downtown” living of any of the nation’s major cities in the past decade, with a 36% increase in the number of people living within two miles of city hall.
Second, Chicago continued to sprawl outwards at an alarming rate in the past decade, with population loss coming from Chicago neighborhoods beyond the downtown as well as from older, “inner-ring” suburbs in Cook County. See the map below from page 20 of the report. The purple dots represent a loss of 25 residents, and a green dot is a gain of 25. One bright spot here might be the limits on growth in Kane County – notice what appears to be a line right through the center of the county, with dense green dots to the east and almost no dots to the west. This limit on growth is largely the result of a Kane County Development plan created in 2004. But then to the west neighboring DeKalb County, which does not have such a growth plan, experienced substantial sprawl in its northeast corner.
The costs of sprawl are significant: new infrastructure and increased “vehicle-miles-traveled” are costs borne both by taxpayers as a whole and by individual families. By directing growth into the existing infrastructure, through higher density and “infill” projects, we can reduce both of these costs, and reduce our carbon footprint as well.