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May 20th, 2009
The Next American System
[REPORT] Boomtown! Denver
Downtown Denver

They say in Denver, ‘most people just got here.’ With a population of some 2.8 million people, the metro area has grown steadily in the past 10 years – averaging a 1.9 percent growth in population each year from 1998 to 2008. And by 2030, Denver’s population is expected to grow by 1 million – to over 3.8 million people.

As the city’s growth rate has consistently outpaced the national rate every decade since the 1930s, its people have spread out across the region similar to Phoenix, Arizona, or Houston, Texas.

Though all of these Western outposts grew into mega-metros and continue to spread out, there are, at the same time, new developments to at least manage their growth.

Phoenix has built light-rail. Houston has built light-rail. And, so has Denver – since 1994.

Denver light-rail near Union Station

The existing light-rail system in Denver provides transportation through the central (line opened in 1994), southwest (2000), and southeast (2006) of the metro area. With each year – and with each new line – ridership has increased.

Still, even with a rail and bus system, the population in the Denver region continues to spread out. That, however, could change with the completion of the Fas Tracks plan.

In 2004, area voters approved Fas Tracks to build out Denver’s mass transit system, even into the growing suburbs.

The Plan

By 2016, an additional 122 miles of rail will be put in place along six new lines as well as extending routes already in place and expanding the regional bus system. If completed, the Denver metro area will rank among the top five regions in the country for total miles of fixed rail.

But even with the expansion of mass transit, Colorado – as a state – has done little to manage its continued growth in terms of development. In 2000, however,  Colorado voters did have an opportunity to control regional growth, but, after initial support, the referendum was defeated – and it has not been revisited since.

As the Denver metro area continues to spread out, its mass transit system, at the same time, will also have to continue to be built even further out for it to remain effective for the region.

Sources: Denver Region Transportation District, The New York Times

  • Kathleene Parker

    I think this presentation and indeed most of our views on a multitude of environmental/infrastructure topics miss the OVERRIDING point. BLUEPRINT referred to U. S. population and population projections as almost inevitable, as set in concrete. Yet, our demographic future is being decided by us today. Another 100 million Americans is inevitable only if we don’t act. No one ever asks why other developed nations’ populations have stabilized and we boom. Point: To 2050, HALF of all growth on the planet will be fueled by just 8 nations, with the U.S. fourth among them! (U.N. data) Repeat! We are a demographic super giant! Why and how did that happen? We are one of just 3 nations, along with China and India, with more than 300 million citizens and we are the world’s 4th fastest growing nation due to 2 causes: unfettered immigration (against the advice of a 1972 Presidential Commission on population) and a birth rate that last year exceeded the baby boom of 1957, not due to women have as many children per woman but due to MORE women having children. The U.S. has experienced a POPULATION EXPLOSION since World War II with that escalating post 1990, yet it is the absolutely unacknowledged elephant in the room. WE–INCLUDING THE NEWS MEDIA AND ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS–REFUSE TO ALLOW IT ONTO THE TABLE AS THE CAUSE IT IS OR AS A FACET OF SOLUTIONS! As long as we dodge this critical topic, no problem–global warming, sprawl, infrastructure, education, medical care, economics, water shortages, endangered species–will really be solved long term because population growth will consume all the gains we get from conservation, planning and technology. The same Presidential Commission in 1972 urged the U.S. to draft and pass a population policy, yet we still have none,nor are Americans educated about or informed about population and we’re certainly not having a national dialog about what is best for our demographic future. That must change as even cities like Portland will not, long term, hold the resulting pressures at bay!

  • Allen

    At this point we know the 2016 date for Fastracks is incorrect. It can only be met if a the sales tax for the Fastracks is doubled. That needs to be passed by a vote and at this point it looks likely that such a doubling of the tax will not pass.

    At this point with sales tax revenues and the 40% cost overruns, the completion year for Fastracks is 2034.

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