What’s Up in Austin?
The Austin Business Journal reported yesterday that Austin’s population will still grow by more than 30 percent over the next 15 years, (“No matter how you slice it, Austin set for huge population growth, report says,” Michael Theis, Jan. 26, 2015), possibly even jumping from 1.7 million to 3.2 million in 2030.
But who thinks a more crowded Austin is a good thing? Who would want to live in the jam-packed housing tract above, in the photo featured by the Journal? No one I know wants to live in a place where they are constantly trapped in traffic, where sprawling highways and strip malls have replaced the beauty of nature, and where creative communities become people lost in the crowd. My friends who’ve left Austin for other places didn’t want a bigger Austin. They wanted a better one.
So what’s going wrong?
Short-sighted businesses have pushed for the growth that is tearing Austin and other communities apart, which is why Theis spins any lower-growth scenarios in the report as “pessimistic” and “worst case.” For a lot of businesses people are just numbers on a spreadsheet, and more people means more shoppers, cheaper labor, and more taxpayers. But for real people population growth means loss of community, and more traffic, pollution, and crime. Austin can choose which way it wants to go – but the best future for all of us probably lies in investing in the people that live there, rather than just adding more.