Population Growth Challenges

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Population Growth Challenges for the Triangle  

The Triangle region, home to over 1.5 million people, is projected to grow rapidly to over 2.5 million by 2035.  We will add more people in the next 25 years than the existing population of our 10 largest municipalities.  Our growth rates have outpaced population growth for the nation and for North Carolina.  As of 2007, Wake County was the 7th fastest growing county in the U.S.   The Raleigh-Cary metro area is now the fastest growing region of the entire country!

This extraordinary rate of growth has created one of the most sprawling, auto-centric regions in the nation.  It threatens our economy and quality of life with long commutes, congestion, and lack of transportation choices, especially for elderly, children and lower income households.   For more information on population growth, visit www.wakeupwakecounty.org.

We are changing, and can’t all drive

We are also experiencing changing demographics that predict an even greater number of future residents who will need alternatives to driving, because of age or economic status.  By 2035, those aged 65 and older will increase from less than 10% of our population in 2000 to more than 15% by 2035.  Either by choice or necessity (because of cost or disability), today 32,000 households in the Triangle do not have a car (up from 29,000 in 2000).

We are driving more

We are driving more, crossing county lines daily.  31% of Triangle residents work outside their county of residence (2006).  Fifty-two percent of Durham’s workforce commutes from another county and for Duke it is closer to 60%.  Only 34% of the faculty & staff at UNC live in Orange County.  The map shows some of the 180,000 people who commute across county lines for employment each day (whole numbers represent 1,000’s of people).

Triangle commuters are spending more time commuting.  From 1990 to 2000, the average commute time in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan area increased 23%.  The number of workers who were able to reach their jobs in 20 minutes or less declined, while the percent of workers reporting one-way commutes of greater than 60 minutes increased.

We are sprawling

Despite our added people, our population density is lower than it was in 1980.  With few natural barriers to development, we have spread out into undeveloped land at a far more rapid pace than the increase in our population.  Among the largest 83 metropolitan areas, we are the third most sprawled region, more so than Atlanta.

As we have sprawled, we have followed a pattern of widely separated land uses for homes, shops, jobs, schools, and civic and cultural facilities, increasing the number and length of trips.  This pattern has increased air and water pollution resulting in impaired health for citizens and negative environmental impacts.  Sprawling, bedroom communities lack a robust local economy and tax base to pay for infrastructure, police, fire and schools.  Sprawl has destroyed farms, wildlife habitat and polluted waterways.  Auto-dependency also affects our physical and mental health, creating fewer opportunities for exercise, family interaction and community involvement.

Click here to download a copy of a Population Growth Challenges for the Triangle fact sheet