Baseline 2050: Issues

Baseline 2050 provides an educated guess about where current trends are leading. It is included here to provide an indication of what the future would look like if current trends maintain. This picture of the future is useful because a stark contrast to the present can be visualized. Unlike Baseline 2020, however, which includes projections derived from detailed and complex modeling processes and that are part of formal planning processes, Baseline 2050 is not formally modeled. It is therefore lacking in quantified details about the future. Instead, it is a general interpretation of one likely future based on current trends and behavior.

The most critical issue associated with Baseline 2050 is the likely presence of serious constraints to growth including air quality problems, water supply concerns, land availability, and money. Baseline 2050 is an important reminder to residents of the Greater Wasatch Area that the need to plan extends well beyond the year 2020.

The Greater Wasatch Area is projected to reach approximately 5 million people, a population roughly the current size of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Trips and vehicle miles of travel (VMT) are expected to grow at least as fast as population. This implies more than 10 million trips per day in 2050. Total VMT is projected to surpass 100 million compared to 40.7 million currently. The sheer number of automobiles will significantly reduce the mobility that has been present for the past 50 years. Average speeds would likely continue to decline to unacceptably slow levels even with significant investment in the transportation system. Without this investment the performance of the highway system would be far worse. Massive investment in roads could alleviate some of the congestion but would require more money than the public may be willing or able to spend. It would also require dislocations of businesses and homes that may be unacceptable. Without some significant changes in human behavior the system will get worse.

Air Quality
Population growth, economic development, and increasing urbanization will place additional stresses on the ecological system in the Greater Wasatch Area. Air pollution, which is viewed as a significant challenge and constraint to growth through 2020, is impossible to project more than 50 years into the future because technological innovation is likely to change the nature of air pollution problems. Over the last 20 years continuous technological improvements in automotive technology have been able to offset the additional air pollution burden from increased automobile travel. Where residents locate businesses, homes, and transportation infrastructure will significantly influence compliance as well. It is likely that well before 2050 wholly new transportation technologies will be available and render moot many of the current air pollution problems. If they do not, residents in the Greater Wasatch Area will need to change their behavior dramatically if they are to prevent the serious health problems and limitations to economic development that may be caused by polluted air.

Water supply and demand will likely change dramatically by the year 2050. The number of people demanding water increases steadily while the sources of supply are ultimately finite. It is extremely likely that residents of the Greater Wasatch Area will alter their consumption patterns dramatically as the price of water will increase to more accurately reflect the cost of providing it to consumers. Currently, nearly half of all culinary and secondary water supplied to the Greater Wasatch Area is used for summer watering. As the sources of supply become more scare and expensive, water conservation and landscaping practices will likely change dramatically.

Land Use
Additional land is projected to be utilized for residential and commercial purposes as the population increases. The urban portion of the Greater Wasatch Area is projected to quadruple from 320 square miles in 1995 to 1,350 square miles in 2050. For the entire area population densities are projected to increase from 72 persons per square mile in 1995 to 221 in 2050. More than half (273 thousand acres) of all irrigated agricultural land is projected to be converted to urban use by 2050.



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