Main | Thursday, December 04, 2008

Via StrangeMaps

StrangeMaps tips us to this 1983 graphic from the Dallas Morning News which shows the relative size and populations of some major cities. Obviously, the populations have increased for some of these cities, but like the StrangeMaps dude, I'm more fascinated by their relative sizes and densities.
What remains striking about this map, even though we’re talking about populations and surfaces of 25 years ago, are the relative population densities of the cities. Dallas and Houston are comparable to each other in population and both are in the same category, surface-wise, as London and New York. But the population of the latter two cities is roughly 6 to 8 times higher than either Houston or Dallas, indicating that these have a much lower population density. A possible explanation: the automobile (and the flat prairie they were built upon) has allowed both Texan metropolises to sprawl in ways unimaginable just over a century ago, and impossible even today in more constrained surroundings.

The two other European cities depicted here (apart from London, i.e. Amsterdam and Rome) have city centres that are smaller and more densely populated than their American cousins. About equal in size to Rome (and to each other) are Toronto, Montreal and Boston, but they are much less packed with people (2.6 million for Rome, between half a million and 1.2 million for the other cities). Chicago’s sprawl and density puts it somewhere between Dallas and London. DC and San Francisco are special, in that they are very constrained surface-wise (legally in DC’s case, physically by the Bay and the Ocean in San Francisco’s case). This ‘pressure cooker’ circumstance causes their populations to be much denser than in either of the sprawling Texan cities.

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