Environmental Issues: Transportation


  • The built environment of the Columbus, OH, metropolitan area will be reshaped through a combination of new drivers of housing demand and recycling of existing nonresidential spaces.
  • Public-private-civil partnerships are needed to leverage private resources that can unlock opportunities to create communities that are more walkable, bikable, vital, and responsive to change.

The jurisdictions within the Columbus, Ohio, Metropolitan Statistical Area (Columbus MSA) are growing at about the national average. Between 2010 and 2040, the Columbus MSA will grow from 1.7 million to 2.2 million residents, or by about 26 percent, somewhat less than the nation's projected growth rate of 31 percent for that period. About 171,000 households will be added. More than 400,000 space-occupying jobs will also be added, requiring more than 300 million square feet of net new enclosed space. With about 750 million square feet of space requiring replacement, there will be about 1 billion square feet of nonresidential development during this period, representing about 1.8 times the total enclosed nonresidential space supported in 2010.

There will be important changes between 2010 and 2040:

  • About one-third of the change in population between 2010 and 2040 will be attributable to seniors.
  • The "new majority" (comprising all racial and ethnic minorities) will account for nearly all the growth.
  • Between 2010 and 2040, households with children will make up about one-fourth of the total household change.
  • Single-person households will account for more than half the total change.

The bottom line is that the most influential drivers of the form, location, and nature of the region's development since the 1970s are undergoing fundamental changes. Understanding these new drivers and their implications for the built environment, and appropriately planning for and shaping the region's growth in recognition of these new drivers, may be major factors in determining the region's future economic competitiveness.

The built environment of the Columbus MSA will be reshaped through a combination of new drivers of housing demand and recycling of existing nonresidential spaces. To accommodate emerging market needs efficiently, effectively, and equitably, a series of actions are needed at the local, regional, and state levels. In summary, they include:

  • Updating land use plans and codes to get ahead of the curve, mostly by getting beyond the baby boom "time warp" in housing demand.
  • Expanding housing choices.
  • Rethinking infrastructure investments.
  • Using existing public sector tools and inventing new ones to leverage private redevelopment.
  • Engaging regional agencies to inform and educate local decision makers and citizens on the implications of the sweeping nature of demographic changes.
  • Investing in modern regional transit systems that connect key centers and other nodes along existing commercial corridors.
  • Adjusting state policies to address sweeping demographic changes.
  • Requiring all communities in the state to plan for and implement policies that broaden housing choices based on sweeping demographic changes.

The challenge for the Columbus MSA is to create public-private-civil partnerships that can facilitate approaches to meet future housing needs and simultaneously reshape the massive commercial redevelopment that will occur. If such an effort is successful, perhaps all new attached housing and all new nonresidential development can occur in mixed-use configurations on existing built spaces, which today are mostly parking lots. This will make feasible modern transit options such as light rail and bus rapid transit. These partnerships are needed to leverage private resources that can unlock these opportunities. If successful, the future Columbus MSA will be more walkable, bikable, vital, and responsive to change than is currently the case.

last revised 2/7/2014

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