The Possible Development of a San Antonio-Austin Mega-Region

There is some thought that the San Antonio and Austin metropolitan areas will eventually grow together and become one mega-region. I know some people that regularly commute to and from Austin and San Antonio for work and pleasure. A few people I know even make the commute daily for work. I have made several drives up and down I-35 to Austin for both business and pleasure. So, there are certainly economic linkages that have already developed between the two metropolitan areas. A few economists have even speculated that the Texas triangle formed by San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston will become a mega-region. I think this is too large of a geography for much economic integration to occur over the next couple of decades, but what about the development of a San Antonio-Austin mega-region?

Population growth in both San Antonio and Austin has been strong over the past decade and is projected to be strong for the next couple of decades. This growth in cities like San Marcos and New Braunfels, which sit in the middle of what would become the mega-region, has been even stronger and will continue to grow rapidly.

Based on my observations of growth in the region, I think the creation of this mega-region will occur over the next couple of decades, but I wanted to see if the population projections supported this. I pulled data from the Office of the State Demographer showing the projected population growth from 2015 through 2035 in all of the counties that would comprise the mega-region. The following table shows these projections, which support the conjecture that the mega-region will develop. (The Dallas-Fort Worth numbers are included only for comparative purposes.)

San Antonio-Austin Mega-Region
County Major City 2015 Population 2035 Population Growth Rate
Bastrop Elgin 80,780 115,997 43.60%
Caldwell Lockhart 41,100 54,485 32.57%
Hays San Marcos 182,893 308,142 68.48%
Travis Austin 1,111,829 1,407,810 26.62%
Williamson Round Rock 477,329 744,423 55.96%
Atascosa Pleasonton 48,451 63,491 31.04%
Bandera Lakehills 21,475 24,089 12.17%
Bexar San Antonio 1,839,926 2,331,743 26.73%
Comal New Braunfels 118,571 160,515 35.37%
Guadalupe Seguin 144,847 204,763 41.37%
Kendall Boerne 36,090 47,658 32.05%
Medina Hondo 49,158 62,562 27.27%
Wilson Floresville 46,488 61,693 32.71%
Total 4,198,937 5,587,371 33.07%
Dallas-Ft. Worth 6,907,216 9,059,825 31.16%

How economically integrated this region becomes is another question, though. In my opinion, just expanding the highways or adding new highways so more cars can travel back and forth will not facilitate more integration. It will be necessary to add rail between San Antonio and Austin with several stops in between and complementary rail service of different types at both ends of the region. It is also going to be vital that the development of the downtowns in both Austin and San Antonio continue. In other words, it will require an integrated, comprehensive transportation system throughout the region in order to achieve the large economic benefits from the creation of this mega-region.

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