Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 109–129

Urban growth patterns and growth management boundaries in the Central Puget Sound, Washington, 1986–2007

  • Jeffrey Hepinstall-Cymerman
  • Stephan Coe
  • Lucy R. Hutyra

DOI: 10.1007/s11252-011-0206-3

Cite this article as:
Hepinstall-Cymerman, J., Coe, S. & Hutyra, L.R. Urban Ecosyst (2013) 16: 109. doi:10.1007/s11252-011-0206-3


Many regions of the globe are experiencing rapid urban growth, the location and intensity of which can have negative effects on ecological and social systems. In some locales, planners and policy makers have used urban growth boundaries to direct the location and intensity of development; however the empirical evidence for the efficacy of such policies is mixed. Monitoring the location of urban growth is an essential first step in understanding how the system has changed over time. In addition, if regulations purporting to direct urban growth to specific locales are present, it is important to evaluate if the desired pattern (or change in pattern) has been observed. In this paper, we document land cover and change across six dates (1986, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2002, and 2007) for six counties in the Central Puget Sound, Washington State, USA. We explore patterns of change by three different spatial partitions (the region, each county, 2000 U.S. Census Tracks), and with respect to urban growth boundaries implemented in the late 1990’s as part of the state’s Growth Management Act. Urban land cover increased from 8 to 19% of the study area between 1986 and 2007, while lowland deciduous and mixed forests decreased from 21 to 13% and grass and agriculture decreased from 11 to 8%. Land in urban classes outside of the urban growth boundaries increased more rapidly (by area and percentage of new urban land cover) than land within the urban growth boundaries, suggesting that the intended effect of the Growth Management Act to direct growth to within the urban growth boundaries may not have been accomplished by 2007. Urban sprawl, as estimated by the area of land per capita, increased overall within the region, with the more rural counties within commuting distance to cities having the highest rate of increase observed. Land cover data is increasingly available and can be used to rapidly evaluate urban development patterns over large areas. Such data are important inputs for policy makers, urban planners, and modelers alike to manage and plan for future population, land use, and land cover changes.


Land cover change Spatial patterns Urban growth Urban growth boundary Growth management Urban-rural interface Sprawl 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey Hepinstall-Cymerman
    • 1
  • Stephan Coe
    • 2
  • Lucy R. Hutyra
    • 3
  1. 1.Warnell School of Forestry & Natural ResourcesUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Puget Sound Regional CouncilSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geography & EnvironmentBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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