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Population and Employment Growth

Population and Employment Growth

The 1996 Transportation Master Plan was based on a land use projection that called for a 2020 population of about 118,000 for the Boulder Valley and an employment of 111,000. As the figure shows, Boulder is near those levels today. Despite reaching the projected 2020 population and employment levels today without the transportation system planned for 2020, it is remarkable how well the transportation system continues to function. Based on current forecasts and current zoning, the city needs to accommodate a significantly larger population and employment base and the resulting demand for travel than was anticipated in 1996.

A new policy adopted in the recent update of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan calls for the city to better balance the number of jobs to the number of housing units. From July through September 2002, the TMP staff team analyzed the transportation implications of a number of alternative development scenarios. These scenarios were developed as part of a Jobs/ Housing Project and each included various levels of reduced employment growth and increased housing growth.

Three alternative scenarios, were analyzed along with a current trends alternative and current trends at "buildout" (projected maximum growth). All the land use alternatives have levels of jobs and population significantly above those on which the TMP was based and result in nearly doubling the congestion levels in the Boulder Valley. Two transportation investment programs were developed, and these were modeled against the five land use alternatives. These results are discussed in the transportation section of the report presented to City Council and Planning Board on Sept. 24, 2002. In general, this analysis produced these conclusions on the relationship between transportation and land use:

  • None of the land use alternatives in combination with either transportation strategy met all the objectives of the 1996 TMP. However, since all of the alternatives project less future employment growth than what could occur at “buildout,” they all would reduce traffic impacts from “buildout” projections.
  • Congestion and travel times increase moderately in the city under the three alternatives, largely due to planned investments and overall reduced growth. For all land use alternatives, the Fully Funded TMP investments reduce VMT by at least 11 percent and hours of congestion delay by at least 28 percent. In addition, this program produces an increase in accessibility and changes in corridor character resulting from a wider selection of transportation choices and greater attention to design.
  • Congestion and travel times on the regional corridors leading into the city show large increases. Most future new employees will travel these corridors with many coming from areas where alternatives to the automobile do not currently exist. In contrast with the ongoing investment program in the city, little dedicated funding currently exists to make improvements on the regional facilities.
  • TDM programs have their greatest effectiveness on work related trips and when they are supported by the employer with a medium to high level of support for transit, carpooling and vanpooling. National examples show a range of vehicle trip reduction of from 21 to 47 percent, with parking management and financial incentives being the most effective in changing behavior.

The Jobs/Housing analysis reinforces the policy focus areas of the 2002/2003 TMP Update. Improving transit service and particularly regional transit connections will be a significant need to accommodate projected employment growth. And current TDM practices are producing only a portion of the potential effects.

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