Chart of the Day: Virginia’s Land Inventory



This 2010 Natural Resources Inventory data was published back in October but I haven’t seen anyone do anything with it, so… here it is. Key stats: Of Virginia’s 27.1 million acres of surface area, 1.3 million were developed between 1982 and 2010. Dig into the details, and you’ll find that cropland and forest are declining the fastest, while pastureland saw a small increase.

The silver lining is that — nationally, at least — the conversion of land to developed uses peaked in 1992-1997, and has been slowing ever since. As Payton Chung observes in Greater Greater Washington, “suburban sprawl” (i.e. scattered, low-density development) may have peaked 20 years ago. The slowing of sprawl may have contributed to the leveling off of Vehicle Miles Traveled in the mid-2000s. And there is every indication that land conversion and VMT have slowed even more in the current decade.



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4 responses to “Chart of the Day: Virginia’s Land Inventory”

  1. this may be an interesting visualization also.. a state map showing trends of geographic density ( i.e. has it has grown (or not) and a map showing the trend of suburban land-use expansions.

    when I hear of declining VMT – I think of two things – I-95 near Fredericksburg during twice daily peak hour computing (which has become legendary – one minor incident turns the whole thing into a steaming pile of… you know what..

    and the second – are the news/twitter reports down Hampton way which
    sound similar… virtually every morning and evening the news outlets down that way report “backups” and they name a landmark to where the backup backs up to…

    so a 3rd map… VMT in Va… and let’s see if we actually have declining VMT in NoVa and it’s exurbs and in HR and it’s region.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Larry makes a good point. Aggregating almost anything at the state level makes for a lot of mind numbing unintentional disinformation.

      It seems to me that the largest meaningful aggregation of data in Virginia is the region. Other than having the typical Richmond-centric bias that attends nearly everything coming out of the state government (i.e. the central region is too big), this is a good start –

      My personal belief is that Virginia will only start to thrive when we have some loss of power at the state level and a gain of power at the regional level.

  2. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

    I would hope the developing of land has slowed. Of course, land is developed for reasons other than providing housing, but at last check we had more vacant houses in this country than homeless people by an order of three.

  3. there’s no denying the role of roads in commerce. One of the things that differentiates first world countries from 3rd world countries is robust commerce infrastructure to include not just “roads” but a robust highly functional – network of roads. In some countries, there is no road between an Indianapolis and an Atlanta… you have to go to Richmond then Atlanta or worse.

    but also other commerce infrastructure such as rail, sea ports and air ports, as well as pipelines and electric grid and now internet also play significant roles with each of them individually being a deal-killer if not present.

    you could have all the roads in the world in Hampton but it’s the seaport that drives that economy.

    A company that, for instance, needs a lot of natural gas for a drying process… or another company that high speed internet access is vital… or a 3rd company looking for a place with underused lower skilled labor..or access to a rail spur..or a company that needs huge amounts of logs.. they need to be where those logs are available.

    the problem with advocacy groups is they often have narrow agendas and they end up taking something like roads and attempt to visualize them only in the limited context that they are concerned with and to be honest (and no intent to insult )- these are simplistic ways of thinking about things that are not so simple. Not to say effort should not be made – but to acknowledge that you’ll need to do more than lay out a criteria – that’s the easy part.

    It’s becoming part of our modern culture – to attempt to understand things in simple terms.. climate is an example.. education.. and transportation, smart growth, even the electric grid.

    it’s GOOD to think about ALL of these things but it’s a disservice even to our own selves to do inch-deep type analysis which I think we get, in part, from the way we receive our education these days. We do not teach real world problem solving and critical thinking in this country and it has become the key area where we lag other OECD countries in academics.

    Most high school types bound for college – steer away from complex math and science subjects for fear of getting bad grades and the humility of failing to achieve competency in difficult subjects.

    treating roads alone as some kind of “king” determinate of land development – for jobs and businesses is a different critter in my view than transportation and land-development for rooftops/residential, yet the context seems to be to try to understand commercial transportation needs in the same way we might perceive the benefit of transportation to settlement patterns.

    we recently had a major pharmaceutical distribution company considering locating their operation in the same area where CSX services a CVS distribution center – with about 200 jobs at stake and we lost out to the County south of us – Caroline – which does not have any significant difference in transportation – has the same CSX rail and the same I-95 but that company chose them. In the end, the transportation infrastructure was equal and the difference was 400K in incentives:

    to attempt to assign some kind of cost-benefit, return-on-investment “grade” to that company’s decision to locate in Caroline, indeed to locate in Virginia to roads is just a real stretch in my view but there is absolutely no doubt that access to a high quality interstate was a key issue.

    roads are like electricity and internet. no company wants to locate where there are transportation access issues but there is literally a world of options where transportation is already available.

    and perhaps I have gotten off on a tangent here and need some folks to bring me back to something I misunderstood…

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