Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reviewing The Met Council's 2040 "Projections"

As a member of Crystal’s Planning Commission, one thing that I deal with is the City’s comprehensive plan.

The comprehensive plan outlines the city’s plan for growth over the next 20 or so years. A city is required to have one by state law, and the document requires Met Council approval.

The next update to the comprehensive plan is due in 2018, and covers the period to 2040. Even though we’re still several years out, the Met Council has already begun work on the 2040 plan.

The planning commission recently received information on the Met Council’s “Preliminary Forecasts” for 2040, which was focused on three areas: Population, Households, and Employment.

In each case the Met Council’s “forecasts” were not based in reality.

Crystal is projected to see an increase of 28% in population, 35% in households, and 55% in employment by 2040.

To reach the population and household numbers, Crystal would have to see growth increase by a rate of 5 times more than the rate we achieved during the housing boom of 2000-2007.

Said another way, we need to add about as many housing units per year for the next 26 years as we usually add in a decade. It’s just not going to happen.

The employment number is even more insane.  I’m not sure where the land comes from for all the new jobs, since we’re supposed to be using it all to add housing units.

Crystal’s city planner attended a workshop with the Met Council to discuss the city’s concerns with the “projections”. The concerns were echoed by the planners from other cities, meaning the asinine numbers are not unique to Crystal.

The Met Council admitted there were flaws in the computer models they used to form the projections, but were noncommittal about when or if the flaws would be corrected.

Crystal’s city planner wrote a great recap of the issues with the process, which you can find here.

His update includes this line, which I believe describes the issue perfectly: "maybe [The Met Council’s] ‘forecasts’ are really just MC’s aspirations and should just be treated as such."

Anyone with even a passing familiarity of the Twin Cities Metro Area would realize quickly that the Met Council’s “projections” are pure make-believe.

A computer model that treats a corn field in Farmington the same way as it treats a fully developed neighborhood is Crystal, as this one does, is pure garbage.

When I first reviewed the comprehensive plan, one of the first questions I had was over the use of the term “projections,” as the projections in the current comprehensive plan are not realistic either. That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

What’s frustrating as a taxpayer is that we have city staffs all over the Metro wasting time responding to the Met Council’s fantasy plan- several years before the numbers should even be relevant.

The Met Council’s “projections” are used to justify demand for light rail, among other things.

It’s clear that the Met Council is more interested in pushing an agenda than providing for common sense regional planning. It’s time that cities start understanding that, and acting accordingly.