Last week, the National Institute of Health and Smart Growth America published research by University of Utah professor Reid Ewing and others that showed that denser, connected urban areas are better than sprawling ones in a number of key metrics. People in more compact communities live longer, have a lower overall cost of living, have more transportation and entertainment options, and have a greater likelihood of upward social mobility. They walk more, are less obese, and have fewer automobile accidents.
We believe that this research helps validate the direction Utah planners and elected officials are working toward with the Wasatch Choice for 2040 Vision and Gov. Gary Herbert's Your Utah, Your Future statewide visioning initiative. Over the next three decades we will see an additional 1.4 million people in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, and Utah Counties a 65 percent increase. Demographers tell us that some of these will be move-ins, but most will be our own children and grandchildren. Where will they all live? Where will they work and play? And how will we navigate a Wasatch Front with such a population?
These are the issues being addressed with the Wasatch Choice for 2040 Vision. If we implement the plan it will reduce region-wide traffic congestion by 18 percent, improve air quality, and save about $4.5 billion in infrastructure, transportation, and housing costs over the next 20 years. One of the keystones of this vision is to accommodate growth in town centers, near regional transportation systems. It is true that many Utahns would rather maintain their suburban lifestyle in a single-family home. But we believe that accommodating much of the new growth in town centers near transit stations is the best way to maintain the character of existing neighborhoods.