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
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.
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.