Socio-Economic Projections for 2023 Regional Transportation Plans

From 2021 to 2023, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) led an effort to update population, household, and employment projections for Massachusetts and its metropolitan planning regions. Working closely with an advisory committee of regional and state agencies and other interested stakeholders, the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute (UMDI) and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) – both under contract to MassDOT – developed, tested and refined models incorporating the components of socio-economic changes throughout Massachusetts occurring now and projecting more than two decades into the future. UMDI’s work focused on population change (including birth, death, and migration rates) as well as employment trends and projections at the regional level. MAPC’s work focused on household growth and changes to the labor force, as well as development, land use availability and development capacities allowed by local zoning – all modeled to the municipal and sub-municipal level.

The Socio-Economic Projections Committee held many meetings covering statewide and regional demographic and employment trends, labor force availability and participation, housing, development, zoning and more. With data and input from the regional planning agencies (RPAs), the project team developed projections by region and community for each decade out to 2050. While other growth scenarios are possible and may be explored elsewhere, these figures – presented here in the form of spreadsheets (excel and pdf), along with detailed documentation (pdf) – represent an average spring/fall condition and a common, integrated, shared-trends set that is used for travel forecasting, applicable air quality conformity requirements, and “backdrop” conditions/projections for all the regional transportation plans (RTPs).

A note about population results: Population was initially projected by UMDI through a cohort component method at the municipal level. These results (published by UMDI) are a “trends extended” version extrapolating recent demographic trends without constraints and unaffected by land use and development factors. MAPC used these initial population projections (aggregated to the regional level) as input into household formation and land use modeling – which accounts for anticipated development, zoning constraints, and the impact of amenities on location choice. Therefore, MAPC’s resulting municipal “population in households” totals do not (and should not) match UMDI’s published municipal population projections, as MAPC’s consider more factors than recent patterns of births, deaths, and migration.

MassDOT does not directly use population in of itself for transportation planning purposes. Households (and their composition), combined with employment (and type), are the main drivers of transportation demand and are the focus of these projections for the RTPs. For further documentation, see the links below and the files in the Table of Contents:

Detailed documentation on UMDI’s projections process is available at: 

Contains detailed explanations, charts, etc. of UMDI’s long-term, “extended trends” population projections.

Projections FINAL for 2023 RTPs.xlsx:
This file lists total “trends extended” population by RPA and municipality, as well as total households and total employment (by place of work) for RPAs and their municipalities. Employment by “super sector” category is also included.

Contains “trends extended” population by age and sex in 5-year age groups for RPAs and municipalities.

MassDOT EMP Projections Methods.pdf
Titled “Massachusetts State and Regional Employment Projections,” this document provides UMDI’s specific methodology for producing projections used as input to MAPC’s land use and development/zoning based modeling.

MassDOT EMP Projections Tables.xlsx
This file includes state level labor force and employment by industry data from UMDI and is paired with the “MassDOT EMP Projections Methods” document above.

Detailed documentation on MAPC’s projections and allocation process is available at:

Titled “Massachusetts Regional Household and Labor Force Projections and Subregional Allocation Documentation,” this document explains the workflow between UMDI’s and MAPC’s projections and documents the land use allocation model used to produce the final “location choice” based projections at the municipal and sub-municipal level.

This file contains total households and household population by multiple cohorts for RPAs and municipalities.

Table of Contents

Help Us Improve with your feedback