Pushing east on I-90 from the city, as Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Post Falls, and Coeur d'Alene form one contiguous metropolitan area, it would appear smart growth is a regional challenge. Too often, development requires residents to drive long distances between jobs and homes and we are simply not maximizing our investments.
The below graph, courtesy of the Sightline Institute, demonstrates smart growth by northwest city, with Vancouver, B.C. leading the way.
The transportation sector is the largest single source of emissions for said cities, so the graph is scaled by creating new growth into smaller, more walkable communities that enable residents to drive less. For example, according to Sightline, between 2001 and 2006, Vancouver’s pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods thrived, with net growth of more than 27,000 residents. That’s four-fifths of the net population growth that occurred within city limits, putting us to shame.
In Spokane County, 25% of growth in the last decade has happened outside our urban areas and the Urban Growth Area itself has not reached the population it was planned to accommodate. Also, it was estimated that Spokane County is expected to grow by more than a staggering 150,000 people between now and 2031. It becomes obvious: Growth needs to be focused inside our cities and towns to keep them economically vibrant instead of making infrastructure investments for sprawl which increases costs to taxpayers and stretch our urban services so thin.
Also, check an animated map of Spokane’s sprawl from Sightline. It becomes apparent the outskirts of Spokane are dominated by low-density housing.