North Idaho Slow Growth
In the last few years Kootenai cities have updated their Comprehensive Plans to prepare for substantial growth. We've been told that our population will more than double over the next twenty years, and our cities will have to accomodate more than 100 thousand new residents. KMPO's "official" population projections, along with the last 30 years of census data is provided here:
Several important questions come to mind:
- Who produced the 2040 numbers? The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization (KMPO) is a Federally mandated commission that coordinates highway planning in North Idaho.
- How did KMPO produce these numbers? KMPO assumed exponential growth, massaged census data to maximize the growth rate, then extrapolated an aggressive CAGR for 20 years.
- Why do our cities use KMPO's population growth numbers? City planners are required to use a “qualified source” to anticipate growth. If our cities fail to use KMPO numbers the county may not qualify for federal highway funds.
It seems as though a Federal planning authority has imposed imposed aggressive “Growth Estimates” on our cities under threat of the loss of millions of Highway dollars. This situation requires a closer look.
What is the "Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization"?
KMPO is an agency funded by the US Department of Transportation responsible for certifying that our local governments “have met all federal requirements" before receiving federal highway funds. It is a gate-keeper for millions of federal dollars and wields enormous power over regional transportation, but its directors are not accountable to local voters. Who then is KMPO accountable to?
Two divisions of the USDOT finance most regional transportation projects. One is the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), with an annual budget of $50 billion. The other is the Federal Transit Administration, the social engineering arm of the US-DOT, with an annual budget of $13B. FTA funds Public Transit projects and is committed to densification, "smart growth," and the redesign of cities to minimize automobile travel. Guess which one of these agencies administers KMPO?
"[KMPO]. . . supports compact development patterns, mixed-use neighborhoods and higher densities to help reduce reliance on private automobiles and increase walking, bicycling and transit usage. . . . "
—From KMPO’s Complete Human Services Transportation Plan
Once one understands that KMPO is funded by an agency committed to promoting high density urban growth, public transit, and minimizing car travel, several seemingly contradictory problems start to make sense. For example:
- In a recent article about the Huetter bypass we discussed disfunctional traffic grids in the area, and wonder why planners abandoned right-of-ways in West CDA, leaving residential road connectivity entirely to the whims of developers. But if KMPO planners are exclusively fixated on highways and federally funded transit corridors, their neglect of efficient residential traffic routes is understandable, but still inexcusable!
- Local planners fervently support promote bike paths, densification, and multi-family housing even though these "smart growth" priorities are the polar opposite of Kootenai Resident’s Vision of healthy growth. This seems illogical, but they have no choice. Producing a 20 year "comprehensive plan" that incorporates bike lanes, mixed use development, and public transit is required as a condition of receiving federal highway funds, that is imposed on every urban area in the United States.
“Each state must prepare a long-range [20 year] statewide transportation plan, . . . that provides for the development and implementation of a multimodal transportation system, including transit, highway, bicycle, pedestrian, and accessible transportation. This plan must . . . meet the state’s economic, transportation, development, and sustainability goals, among others . . . .”
-- Federal Transit Administration
There you have it. Resident preferences don’t matter. Environmental factors don’t matter. The layout, economy, and history of individual towns don’t matter. Logic doesn’t matter. Every town in America must prostrate itself before the Gods of "Sustainability" and "Multi-modal transportation" in order qualify for federal highway funds. The whole Comprehensive Planning scam, with all it's backdoor provisions favoring well-connected developers and "stakeholders" is a federal scheme imposed on the entire nation.
How did KMPO come up with its population projections?
KMPO may be a politicized, federally funded planning agency, mandated to foist public transit on an unwilling population, but that doesn’t mean its population projections are worthless . . . or does it? A short lesson in statistics is necessary to understand KMPO's projections, and since a picture is worth a thousand words, the following diagram illustrates various ways to predict future growth.
- Asymptotic growth is limited. It may grow quickly at first, but it slows over time as it approaches a natural limit. The population growth of almost all cities with fixed boundaries is asymptotic.
- Linear growth is steady. Notice that linear growth approximates asymptotic growth until the limit is nearly reached.
- Exponential growth accelerates. It may start off slowly, but since the rate of growth increases over time, the population grows continually faster until it crashes or goes to infinity. No city demonstrates "exponential" growth over the long term.
By visually inspecting the growth of Kootenai County over the last 50 years, it appears that a linear growth model fits best, especially in recent years. Our cities, however, have fixed boundaries and will eventually approach a growth limit.
So how did KMPO planners decide to model city growth? By assuming Exponential growth, of course. They simply chose their starting point in 2000 and came up with an extremely aggressive Compound Annual growth rate (CAGR). Had they used more recent data (*2), their numbers would have been significantly lower. And had they used a linear model (*3), which better reflects actual historical growth, their numbers would have been lower still.
It is clear that KMPO and the "stakeholders" they represent seek to promote maximum short term growth. But the skyrocking demand for development in the area is unsustainable, and their insanely ambitious growth plans for the county are harmful to the entire region, and abhorrent to the current residents. A linear growth model is more than sufficient for the healthy growth of the community.
Instead of developing a reasonable long-term plan for North Idaho that recognizes permanent limits to growth and density, we have a Federal planning agency with its foot on the gas pedal engaged in a mad rush to pull out all the stops on growth, maximize density, pave over the prairie, and force permanent congestion, high taxes, socialized housing, and public transportation on an unwilling population.
BUT MUCH WORSE IS IN STORE
KMPO already has an enormous impact on regional planning, but its federally imposed mandates to evolve towards a transit-oriented urban area are about to become much more onerous. Once the population of Kootenai surpasses 200K the region will be declared a “Metropolitan Transit Area”, and according to the FTA website, “an MPO in a TMA has a stronger voice in setting priorities.”
It is beyond obvious that the KMPO, ITD, US-DOT, and the region's "stakeholders" are in the drivers seat, and they have every intention of using the bait of highway funding and other federal grants, to transform Kootenai county into yet another monolithic, urbanized, "Metropolitan Area" populated by serfs, not citizens. None of these institutions are accountable to the people of Kootenai county, yet all claim to support "Strong Economic Growth", "Safety", "Affordable Housing", and "Accessible Transportation Systems". What these terms mean to current residents, however, amounts to, "Out of Control Growth", "Endless Roadwork", "High Density, Subsidized Rentals", "Unwanted Transit Systems", and complete loss of control over our local government.
How much federal highway money will be foisted on us and used to finance the destruction of our way of life? The strings attached to Federal funds have perverted our entire system of self-government. We are better off with dirt roads than with dirty money!
Shelly says (Jul 14, 2023):
Agree!!!! We need to show down a bit. We are growing so fast and our roads are not set up right! Many round abouts should be put in ramsey rd and honeysuckle is one of them it backs way up after work hrs 4pm . We don't need smart anything we need smart planners who can look at the traffick and which roads are backed up and make changes accordingly!! I was born and raised here and I see my home town all the farm land turned into track homes and apartments is heart braking ! How about the farmers stay and start organic farming to support our communities ! That's a start . Put a stop to massive apartments ! There's only so many jobs available here. Our younger people are leaving because rent is too high! Just because those from cities have the money to move here and buy w cash and raise the home prices is not okay ! We need a cap on how many homes a person owns in one county . that that goes also for rentals ! Give our younger people a chance to build a homestead and raise their family here !!!it seems people want more money and it becomes greed . All should have the chance to own a home and a piece of land .