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Posted at 4:52 PM ET, 06/16/2010

D.C. faring better than suburbs on growth

By Dan Malouff

Surprise! The 21st century isn't the same as the 20th.

Demographically speaking, that is, as this neat mapping tool makes clear. Click on any county in the United States, and the map will display lines indicating where residents of that county moved to or from in 2008. Black lines indicate people moving in, red lines people moving out.

Clicking on the counties of the Washington region yields interesting results. The District, Arlington and Alexandria have lots of black lines, meaning lots of people are moving into those places. On the other hand, outer suburbs such as Prince William and Frederick counties are covered in red, indicating people are leaving in droves. The middle suburbs are a mixed bag; Fairfax and Montgomery are doing okay, Prince George's, not so much.

Further out, a number of small towns are doing shockingly well. Cumberland, Md., which suffered a tremendous population decline in the 20th century, has as many black lines as red ones. It's not exactly booming, but it looks pretty stable. Affordable Hagerstown, Maryland's second-largest city in the 1960s, is seeing a big influx in residents from the expensive Washington suburbs. Not so long ago it was the other way around; in the 20th century people left Hagerstown for the Beltway.

Considering that in the latter half of the 20th century it was accepted as gospel that central cities and small towns would shrink as suburbs expanded, current growth trends are a shocking reversal. Of course some things are the same. The southern part of the country still grows at the north's expense, for example, but some things are definitely changing. The old American dream of a white picket fence and two-car garage in the suburbs is morphing to accommodate a wider range of urban and town living conditions. Suddenly, large numbers of people are opting out of the congested highways and long commutes of suburban living in favor of walkable urban communities where residents sacrifice home square footage for closer neighborhood amenities. Meanwhile, the affordability of smaller towns is once again making them attractive.

Whatever the reason, it is abundantly clear: We're not in the 20th century any longer.

Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at BeyondDC.com. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Dan Malouff  | June 16, 2010; 4:52 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network, Maryland, Montgomery County, PG County, Prince George's County, Virginia, development, economy, traffic, transportation  
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Comments

Cumberland is a neat little city that has long served as a base for weekend travellers exploring the colonial history and recreational bounty of the western Maryland, southwestern Pennsylvania and eastern West Virginia areas.
I guess a few travellers like what they saw, and decided to extend their stay.

Posted by: krickey7 | June 17, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

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