Navigating the Texas Triangle
You don’t need an advanced degree to see that Texas is growing at a rapid rate. But if you want to understand how this growth affects a region — economically, demographically and ecologically — you might want to consult Billy Fleming.
Fleming, a master’s student in the School of Architecture’s Community and Regional Planning Program at The University of Texas at Austin, is becoming an expert in “megaregions” — large metropolitan regions that will account for 50 percent of the nation’s population growth and 66 percent of its economic growth during the next 45 years.
After winning the 2012 Dwight David Eisenhower Graduate Fellowship, Fleming set to work on data analysis of megaregions — looking at factors such as transportation and environmental concerns — and presented his findings to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Fleming’s focus: the Texas Triangle, anchored by Dallas/Forth Worth, San Antonio, Houston and Austin. The region includes five of the 20 biggest cities in the U.S. and 70 percent of Texans. And it’s only getting bigger. Consider this: In the next 40 years, the population of the Texas Triangle will grow more than 65 percent — an additional 10 million people — meaning 78 percent of Texans will be living and working within the Texas Triangle.
Planning at a megaregional scale makes sense, Fleming says. It allows leaders from multiple cities to share resources that could help insulate their regions from economic downturns and the fallout of natural disasters.
“By understanding the specific industries and processes that link our cities to one another,” he says, “planners and policymakers can better forecast or mitigate the next recession or large-scale natural disaster.”
In addition to his passion for civic planning, Fleming also has a strong sense of civic duty. This isn’t just a career, he says, “this is how I can help the community around me.”