Megapolitan: Arizona's Sun Corridor

Thumbnail image for Megapolitan sun corridor.pngThe Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University released a report in May titled, Megapolitan: Arizona's Sun Corridor. The study examines growth challenges in one of the nation's most rapidly growing regions: the Tucson-Phoenix corridor. Poised to double in population from 5 million to 10 million by 2050, the region will grapple with the environmental challenges of accommodating rapid population growth in a fragile desert environment. Ensuring an adequate drinking water supply and mitigating urban heat island effect without the use of increased vegetation (which requires additional water) are two big challenges. Urban form is another important consideration; detached single family homes are by far the preferred development type in this region, but their proliferation will contribute to sprawled development and make transit options less viable.

The changing demographic and economic environment in the corridor is prompting researchers and leaders to think about how the corridor can one day become a significant economic, technological and cultural center, while growing in a sustainable way. At a recent workshop sponsored by the Sonoran Institute and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, planners considered the implications of this emerging megapolitan region with the report's authors and local transportation and community leaders.

Note: While the America 2050 initiative recognizes the Sun Corridor as a megaregion, Robert Lang's "megapolitan" definition, which refers to smaller metro pairs connected by overlapping commuting patterns, may be a more apt description. A chart on pp 22-23 of the Morrison Institute report presents a helpful breakdown of how America 2050's 10 megaregions are comprised of 20 smaller "megapolitans".

Some of the challenges and questions that arose in the workshop include:
  • There are few models for sustainable urban form in a desert environment.
  • With temperatures frequently soaring to the 100s, mitigating "extreme heat" is a big challenge. Added concrete and building surfaces traps heat at night compounding urban heat island effect.
  • The Tucson-Phoenix urbanized core has actually planned for enough water to sustain the population for the next 100 years. However development to the north and south of that core region will stress ground water supplies and reduce the core region's ability to recharge.
  • Most people come to Arizona by choice from elsewhere for its incomparable natural beauty and high quality of life. If these assets cannot be maintained, it stops being a desirable place to live.
  • A megaregion is more than just two metro regions growing together physically. What are the economic synergies and advantages that can be fostered by promoting the linkage between Phoenix and Tucson?
Download the Morrison Institute Report.