Cities Are Now Growing Faster Than Suburbs -- Except in Dallas, Of Course

When the U.S. Census Bureau released figures Thursday estimating cities' growth between 2010 and 2011, the big news locally was that eight of the 15 fastest growing cities are in Texas and, of those, five -- Plano, McKinney, Frisco, Denton, Carrollton -- are in our corner of the state.

The big news nationally was that, for the first time in a century, growth in most major cities outpaced that of their suburbs.

Dallas, obviously, does not fall into the latter category. It grew a healthy 2.1 percent between 2010 and 2011, according to the census figures, but it was skunked by its northern neighbors: Plano, Frisco, and McKinney each grew by 3.8 percent, Denton grew by 3.4 percent, Carrollton by 3 percent. Every time it seems that sprawl has stepped over the limits of possibility, that Plano and its spawn couldn't possibly inch any closer to Oklahoma, we are reminded by numbers like these that it is not the case.

Which means Dallas' urbanists are losing. Sure, they're winning battles, carving out vibrant pockets of pedestrian- and hipster-friendly neighborhoods, but what about the war? Young, creative types might be coming toward the city center, but many more are opting for the four-bedroom house, golf-course lawn and hour-long commute.

Urbanites might be right that their lifestyle is richer, more fulfilling, more sustainable, but the market is speaking, and it's been saying the same thing for the past half century or more. The argument that the suburban lifestyle is heavily subsidized by pro-sprawl policies and that it would otherwise be less attractive is, of course, true, but so what? Those policies have a momentum of their own, and judging by the census figures, are only gaining a larger constituency locally.

So Dallasites can enjoy having walkable neighborhoods, microbreweries, bike lanes and whatever else to their heart's content, but those things aren't making North Texans stop moving to McKinney. Not yet, anyway. That won't happen until those people die off and their children join the creative class. Or maybe until the coming of the environmental apocalypse. Or we run out of oil? All good options.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson