Monday, April 4, 2011

More Census Stuff

The pattern whereby I mention an item, and then later it appears in print somewhere continues.

First up, in the USA Today April Fool's Day edition, a headline reads "Young and educated show preference for urban living." No new figures or news really, just what we already know. Downtown's and urban living are an increasingly attractive living option, in this case, it's my generation and the college educated.

The more prudent piece of information is the info graphic on page five, in the link it is at the bottom of the page. Here, the top 51 metros are listed . Of that, only two experienced a decline in the young and educated population within the urban core, New Orleans and Birmingham, AL New Orleans is to be expected, given that they still haven't recovered from the hurricane.

USA Today ranks them in the paper version by growth percentage and DFW ranks tenth. I wonder about the rankings, since the explanation says "...and live within 3 miles of a metro area's central business district..." Fort Worth has a nice downtown, but it has fewer jobs than Dallas. Does that mean that all of the growth on the list is around downtown Dallas or does that include downtown Fort Worth? Either way, an additional 5,081 college educated folks now live near the DFW CBD, whatever that means.

Incidentally, St. Louis leads the way in percentage growth with 87 percent (a gain of 2,700) followed by Indianapolis at 83 (2,670), Miami at 68 (4,378) and Baltimore at 66 (8,625). New York led the way in absolute numbers with 26,126 (13%), followed by Boston with 20,558 (40), Philadelphia at 16,032 (57) and Chicago with 15, 887 (33).

I bring those up because the highest percentage growers generally added only a couple of thousand and still have a ways to go in order to achieve a vibrant downtown. Those with the highest number added were generally lower growth percentages. When dealing with stats, it is important to keep things in perspective. Using percentages, we can make the claim that DFW is better than established urban areas. Using pure numbers we see otherwise. Generally speaking, the more people per square mile, the more vibrant (other things like design, transportation and use certainly play a factor too).

Next up, from the Dallas Morning News Sunday paper. An interesting graphic showing vacancy among census tracts. I can only show the link but not the graphic because I don't subscribe to their pay site. It is a map of the eastern section of the region. Green means a vacancy rate less than 5 percent and red is over 30. The map is predominantly green, with islands of red throughout. Much of these are due to projects just coming on line or about to come on line when the count was taken.

This is why I cautioned against putting too much emphasis on census numbers. For all their use, they are really just a look at that particular time period. Some of those projects are filled and would change to green were the Census done this year.

Also, giving the critics a voice, is the issue of immigrants arose. From the article:

And other factors can make collecting accurate information difficult, she (Angelina Avalos) added. Some residents are illegal immigrants and unwilling to talk with someone from the government. Many work two jobs and are rarely at home.

"And some of the people are living in apartments that aren't furnished," she said. "So even if someone peeked through the windows, it would look empty."

That may explain why a lot of the areas near the central core are the in between shades. It also explains why a lot of cities, unlike a lot of suburbs, are planning to contest those numbers. The Census may not be entirely accurate, but as of now, it is the best system we have.

Finally, again from the Dallas Morning News on Monday, is a story about how the redistricting of the City Council Districts will be a messy and political one. While that is interesting, that is beyond the scope of this post. What isn't is the map accompanying the story. Since I can't post it, I'll try to recreate it, albeit crudely.

The following map is taken from here. Had I the time or inclination, I could have done a GIS whose color scheme made sense (I should do that anyway).
Districts 1, 2, 6, 7, 10 and 13 saw a more than five percent  population loss.
9 and 11 lost between zero and five percent.
4 gained between zero and five percent.
3, 5, 8, 12 and 14 gained over five percent.

I bring this up because the only "inner" city council district that gained population was the one that encompassed downtown, uptown, Deep Ellum and Knox-Henderson, or the inner urban core of Dallas, District 14. That relates directly to this post I made, Dallas would have lost population had they not invested in their urban neighborhoods. Now yes,  had District 3 or 8 not grown too, Dallas would have lost population, but they all work together (BTW, District 3 includes parts of North Oak Cliff, which is also a resurgent urban neighborhood).

District 14's growth is made all the more impressive when you consider the western portion did lose population. The M Streets and especially Lower Greenville area are old street car suburbs and quite walkable, and thereby attractive in today's market.

Dallas would do well to heed this warning. Areas that are walkable grew while most of those that aren't really didn't. Since most of the lost population districts are in the north, in old suburban-like neighborhoods that were built between the 50's and 70's, now is a great time to analyze what can be done to renovate/revitalize those areas into more walkable and pedestrian-friendly areas, lest Dallas gets further behind in the growing urban trend.

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