Washington Region Forecast to Continue Growing, Mostly in Activity Centers

May 5, 2014

The latest growth forecasts from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) predict more than 1.5 million new jobs and 2 million new residents in the Washington region by 2040. Most of this new growth will occur in denser, mixed-use housing and job centers known as Activity Centers, according to the forecasts.

COG works directly with its member jurisdictions to update its "Cooperative Forecasts" on a periodic basis. The forecasts predict how much the region will grow in coming decades and where that growth is likely to occur.

The information is meant to help area jurisdictions and planners prepare for increased transportation and development demands, as population and job growth have significant transportation impacts. More residents commuting to more jobs will stress already crowded roadways and transit systems, for example. The location of new housing and jobs will affect how much people have to travel around the region and the ways they're able to do so, and it could impact the look and feel of communities.

The latest Cooperative Forecasts show that most of the growth expected over the next 26 years will occur in Activity Centers, with 76% of the new jobs and 55% of the new population anticipated to locate in Activity Centers by 2040. This can allow for more efficient movement of people and goods by making it easier for more people to take advantage of transit connections between centers and to make more local trips by bicycle or on foot.

The Regional Transportation Priorities Plan, approved by the Transportation Planning Board in January, specifically calls for efforts to concentrate more growth in Activity Centers, to connect those centers with high-capacity transportation options, and to enhance circulation within centers. According to the Priorities Plan, these steps will help the region make better use of existing and planned infrastructure, and help protect the natural environment by reducing vehicle-related emissions of various pollutants.

In addition to showing how much future growth is expected to occur in Activity Centers, COG's Cooperative Forecasts also reveal how jobs and population will be distributed more broadly throughout the region.

For example, the forecasts show that the inner suburban jurisdictions will continue to be home to the greater number of jobs and the most population, adding 633,000 new jobs and 659,600 new residents by 2040 -- growth of about 42% and 22%, respectively.

According to the forecasts, the region's outer suburban jurisdictions will grow the most quickly. The number of jobs in these areas is expected to increase by 315,500, or 70%, while population is expected to grow by 50%, adding 570,900 new residents.

The core jurisdictions will add 368,000 new jobs by 2040, and 405,200 new residents.

This latest round of forecasts, known as the Round 8.3 Cooperative Forecasts, updated previous forecasts to reflect new population and employment estimates provided by several jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia and Loudoun County.

In addition to making it easier to see what the Washington region will look like in 2040, the Cooperative Forecasts are also a key input into the TPB's annual Air Quality Conformity Analysis, a federally mandated step in the process of updating the Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan, or CLRP. The purpose of the analysis is to verify that total future vehicle-related emissions under the proposed transportation plan will comply with standards set locally and approved by the federal government.

Tools like the Cooperative Forecasts can help planners and jurisdiction officials understand how many people and jobs are expected to move to the Washington region, and where in the region those people and jobs are expected to locate. As the region continues to change, this information can inform discussions about where and what type of transportation modes can most effectively move people and goods.

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