More than development. Norwalk redevelopment.

Demographics and Connectivity

As has been noted recently in The Hour, Norwalk has been losing population in the important economic demographic of young adults, and gaining in its senior population.  This is also a statewide problem, and, to a lesser extent, a national one.  But what the US and Connecticut are experiencing as a flu, Norwalk seems to be experiencing as cancer, losing 15% of its 18-34 year-olds in the previous census, and 21% of its 25-34 year-olds since 1990. 

The one area of the city they seem to be clinging onto — just barely — is the downtown.  As the triptych below shows, younger Norwalkers gravitate to the downtown, which also happens to be the site of Norwalk’s largest economic development initiatives. No doubt, the high price of housing has a lot to do with the exodus of Norwalk’s next generation, but, as the city’s decision-makers consider available strategies for getting them to stay, they should also remember that this is the same demographic that most favors transit, bicycling, and the walkable environments that characterize urban-style places.  National transportation statistics show that young adults are driving less.  And the National Association of Realtors is showing that Gen Y-ers are showing a strong preference for walkable communities.

The population that increased the most — older Norwalkers — also highly favors transit and walkable environments.  According to a recent study put out by the AARP, in the latest travel survey “older adults chose public transportation for a greater share of their trips…Transit use by people age 65+, as a share of all the trips they take, increased by a remarkable 40 percent between 2001 and 2009…”

Communities need to be concerned, however, with how this population accesses transit, since it is especially vulnerable when it comes to pedestrian fatalities.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Approaching the issue from a demographics perspective, it would seem pretty clear that Norwalk should be  getting on board with transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly environments…whether to better retain the population they’re losing, or to better prepare for the population that they’re growing.