Still, report finds that sprawl here is not as bad as many places
Jobs are moving away from Tucson’s city center just as they are in 95 of 98 metropolitan areas analyzed in a report by the Brookings Institution.
Still, the nonprofit public policy institution found that Tucson sprawl is nowhere near as bad as nearly everywhere else. Tucson has the best-contained sprawl – for now.
The “Job Sprawl Revisited” report found that nationwide only 21 percent of jobs are located within three miles of big city downtowns and 45 percent of jobs are more than 10 miles from downtown.
Tucson is precisely average, with 21 percent of the jobs here within three miles of downtown, thanks to the University of Arizona; the Pima Community College Downtown, Community and West campuses; St. Mary’s Hospital; and the government sector. The 3-mile line is at Country Club Road, the south edge of South Tucson, Fort Lowell Road and Greasewood Road.
Despite Tucson’s sprawl, only 14.5 percent of jobs here are more than 10 miles out. The report found only six cities with smaller percentages: Bakersfield, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Des Moines, Iowa; Fresno, Calif; Las Vegas; and Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.
But since 1998, the 10-mile plus figure here has grown nearly 5 percentage points, from 9.6 percent, and the 3-mile count has dropped 3 percentage points, from 24.1 percent.
A look at the map reveals why the 10-mile-plus percentage remains comparatively low: That distance from Congress Street/Stone Avenue is Camino Seco to the east, Hardy Road (beyond Magee Road) on the Northwest Side and beyond commercial development to the west and south.
“Many of our jobs are closer in to town, contrary to perception,” said Laura Shaw, vice president of investor relations at Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities. “That puts us in a good position to attract a creative class that wants to live closer to town. From an economic development standpoint, we’re in good shape.”
The report found that only Milwaukee; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif. saw a percentage increase within three miles of downtown from 1998 to ’06 or both. The report lists Tucson among 53 cities seeing “rapid decentralization” of jobs.
But Tucson has 64.7 percent of its jobs between three and 10 miles from downtown – the highest percentage of cities studied.
“As those regions grow,” the report concluded, “will jobs become even more decentralized, as in Dallas, Atlanta and Charlotte?; or will they shift to a more compact form, as in Albuquerque, San Jose and Tucson?”
JOB SPRAWL REVISITED
How close are jobs to downtown?
Within 3 miles 3-10 miles 10-miles+
Nationwide 21.3% 33.6% 45.1%
Tucson 21.0% 64.7% 14.3%
Translation: Tucson is average within three miles; has the No. 1 percentage between three and 10 miles; only six cities have a lower percentage more than 10 miles out.
What that means: Tucson has well-contained sprawl, but the 10-mile-plus percentage has grown from 9.6 percent in 1998.
Source: Brookings Institution