If the area continues to grow the way it has in the past, that influx of more then three and a half million people will have a profound impact. David Crossley is the president of the Gulf Coast Institute, a non-profit with the goal of improving the quality of life in the Houston region. He's used data from the Houston-Galveston Area Council to publish the Gulf Coast Institutes first edition of a magazine called Tomorrow. It is a charts, graphs, maps and data intensive publication that is designed to show what the area will look like in 2035 if growth continues as it has in the past.
"What we see when we take their data and make maps is that we lose massive amounts of green space. Essentially all the green space in Harris County is gone. I would say half the green space in Montgomery county is gone, about half in Brazoria and Fort Bend counties. Forests and wetlands and prairies--all of it gone."
Crossley says the way you begin to change Houston is by thinking of it differently. He says we tend to think of Houston, as others do, as a big city with lots of concrete and crowded highways and dirty air.
"Another story is that it is the most complex eco-system in North America. We still have most of that left. We have the ability to grow almost anything. Gardens and trees are very popular here. There's lots of organizations that deal with green space and struggle to save it. So that if you described Houston as a garden city and began to think that way, I think it is even justified today and it would be easy to justify it in 25 years."
You use less land for development, according to Crossley by building communities with centers, every neighborhood has a center, every town has a center and cities have many centers, so people can walk and drive less. As populations increase nearby jobs become available and there's even less driving. Crossley says a perfect example of this is The Woodlands.
"Shortly after it was instituted and people started moving in, they say about 80% of people were driving to Houston for their jobs everyday. Now that's down to about 30%. That's because The Woodlands now has a lot of jobs. It's now started to build its city in the center."
Crossley says studies show people in this area want to be able to walk more, and have more green space. But to get to that down the road we have to know what are choices are and make decisions now. The first edition of Tomorrow is full of data about where we are headed and where we could be. You can request a copy from the Gulf Coast Institute through a link at kuhf.org.