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Census: Gainesvilles urban population jumps 48 percent
City's growth outpaces rest of the nation
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Gainesville’s urban population grew to 130,846 in 2010 from 88,680 in 2000, a jump of nearly 48 percent, outpacing the rest of the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau released the new list of urban areas Monday based on 2010 census findings.

Overall, the nation’s urban population increased by 12.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, compared to the nation’s overall growth rate of 9.7 percent.

The Census Bureau defines an urbanized area as a “statistical geographic entity consisting of a densely settled core created from census tracts or blocks and contiguous qualifying territory that together have a minimum population of at least 50,000 persons.”

Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he further understands that an urbanized area also has a density of at least 1,000 people per square mile.

Gainesville’s urbanized area used to be mostly confined to Hall County, but it now extends into Forsyth County and, to a smaller degree, into Gwinnett and Jackson counties.

“It is important to note that while the city of Gainesville has a population of under 34,000, its urbanized area population is over 130,000, which means that Gainesville is actually larger for certain purposes like housing and employment, taxation and transportation,” Yamala said.

The urban boundaries “are used to determine program eligibility and funding allocations by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which primarily funds our roads and public transportation,” Yamala said.

Because it has grown, Gainesville “would see a little bump in terms of the transportation and transit dollars being allocated to our area,” he said.

The MPO plans to work with federal and state officials in the next few weeks to find out more about the new distribution formula.

At that time, area officials also could learn more about specific dollar increases, Yamala said.

The MPO handles transportation planning for Gainesville-Hall County, including the 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, which it finished last year. That document must be updated every four years to comply with federal air quality standards.

The organization also participated in developing projects for the transportation sales tax referendum on July 31. If it passes, Hall could receive some $300 million for regional projects over the next 10 years.

The county’s road projects get funding mainly from federal, state and local sources. The key local source is special purpose local option sales taxes.

Hall Area Transit receives 41 percent of its funding from the Federal Transit Administration; 10 percent, Georgia Department of Human Services; 8 percent, passenger fares; and 21 percent each, Gainesville and Hall County governments.

Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall Community Service Center, has said the bus service is facing a tough 2012-13 budget year, especially with rising fuel costs.

And now there is talk about fare increases as the Hall County Board of Commissioners explores ways of cutting costs in the county’s coming budget year.

Moss couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Gainesville is among 15 urbanized areas in Georgia, 16 counting the Tennessee border city of Chattanooga.

Seven areas are more populated than Gainesville and eight are less populated. Gainesville is close in population to Athens-Clarke County and Macon and Warner Robins.

Atlanta’s population is 4.5 million, according to the census.

The U.S. has 486 urbanized areas. The New York-Newark area continues to be the nation’s most populous urbanized area, with 18,351,295 residents.

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