I’m a recent arrival in the Pacific Northwest. When I first moved here, fresh from the wooded mountains of coastal California, the high-rise buildings and crowded freeways of Seattle were a bit of an adjustment.
Now, I love the convenience and character the city has to offer, and I don’t even notice all the people around me as anything unusual. But can you imagine the Puget Sound with the same population density as Japan? You may not have to imagine it–according to a book that was covered recently in the Seattle PI, our population density in 2040 will be similar to what Japan has today. Wait–really?
Megalopolitan America: A New Vision for Understanding America’s Metropolitan Geography is by Arthur Nelson, a founding director of the Metropolitan Research Center, and Robert Lang, director of the Brookings Institution Mountain West. According to the authors, there are ten “megapolitan clusters” that will propel the US economy over the next 30 years.
Megapolitan areas share economic, physical, social and cultural traits, and have accounted for nearly three-quarters of the growth of the past 40 years. The US will continue to add significantly to its population (unlike other developed countries), and substantial planning challenges will result.
The Puget Sound area alone is expected to swell from 4.5 million people in 2010 to 6.3 million people in 2040. The resulting population density will rise from its current level (less than that of Germany) to approximately 809 people per square feet in 2040–that’s on par with current-day Japan. And somehow, there will have to be enough housing and jobs for all of us! That’ll mean 1.9 million new homes, among other things.
For a full rundown of the book (including some in-depth analysis on the economic ramifications of such a population shift), check out Aubrey Cohen’s article in the Seattle PI. Meanwhile, have you been to Japan? How were the crowds? Think we can adapt in the next few decades? Weigh in below.