all the people of detroit could fit on the mall

It just dawned on me that there were considerably more people standing on the Mall in DC yesterday than there are people in the entire city of Detroit… I find that absolutely fascinating.

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6 Comments

  1. ol' e cross
    Posted January 21, 2009 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    As interesting as where Detroit could fit is what could fit in Detroit. This illustration showing Boston, Manhattan and San Francisco (from a recent Freep article) fitting neatly into Detroit, with room to spare, is a nice picture of the results of our region’s land use and infrastructure policies.

  2. Brackache
    Posted January 22, 2009 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    If Michigan had another Boston in it, I’d have no where else to go to escape Boston.

  3. Robert
    Posted January 22, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Cool map find, Ol’ E Cross. It should be noted that Manhattan is an island and that San Francisco is located at the tip of a fairly narrow peninsula. If Detroit sprawl had run up against similar natural barriers on all or most sides within a few miles, it’s likely the city limits would have ended there too, and Detroit’s population density would resemble more those of the old coastal cities. Actually, more likely in that case, Toledo would have attracted the shipping and transportation, and we’d all be driving down there to watch the Toledo Tigers, Toledo Red Wings, and Toledo Pistons. The good news would be that we’d have the Detroit Mud Hens, and those Lions would be Toledo’s problem right now. I could live with that.

    On Tuesday, there were 3 visitors in Washington DC for every one resident. So at that moment the population in the district had practically quadrupled. In 2005 during the second Bush Inauguration, DC, the city with the most attorneys per capita in the world, consequently on that day also had the highest per capita suspects.

    In 1950, Detroit had well over two times its current population. Contrary to popular belief, those million or so missing residents didn’t move out of the city. They were all in fact last seen ordering the seafood linguini at Carl’s Steak House. That was the last that anyone heard from them.

  4. Robert
    Posted January 22, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    …what’s even more stunning in my opinion, Mark, is that the people standing in the National Mall Tuesday outnubered the combined total populations of Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota, three “red” states (which gave McCain 9 of his electoral votes).

  5. dragon
    Posted January 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Even more interesting (well maybe not), you could fit Ypsilanti inside Ford Field. And as a Huron fan(fuck Eagles) it sometimes feels like it.

  6. Posted January 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    a nice picture of the results of our region’s land use and infrastructure policies.

    Not all of that is current land use and transportation policy – a lot of it is a result of the age of the cities, and the eras in which each of them had their growth spurts.

    Look to 1900 as a convenient “dawn of the automotive age”.

    1. NYC – 3.4m
    5. Boston – 560k
    9. SF – 343k

    13. Detroit – 286k
    36. LA – 106k.

    Detroit grew in population 10-fold between 1900 and 1950 – the time when it was growing because of cars. Calling the socioeconomic structure of 1900-1970 “Fordism” is no coincidence; Henry Ford’s theory of “pay them enough that they can afford the product” built Michigan’s middle class by building MIchigan’s market for automobiles.

    A city that has its population spike because those people are building and buying cars is a city that will be designed from the ground up around automobiles. LA similarly exploded during and after WWII, when good access to cars was joined by Levittown-style manufacturing of subdivisions, so it too is a city built around detached single-family homes and automobiles.

    By comparison, NYC and Boston (and Chicago and Philly) are cities that grew to metropolitan critical mass before ready access to cars or even to single-family homes for the working class. Therefore, they’re cities that are built around proximity – put things close together, and you get density – and the mass transit systems that have to be created in order to keep that proximity from choking up the streets with cars. (I mean, more than they are.)

    So, yes, some of it is a result of regional fragmentation pulling people and industry out of the core cities over the last half century. But as Robert notes, there’s also a fair bit of “how far could they expand before hitting boundaries,” whether those boundaries were the Hudson River, the San Francisco Bay, or the Dearborn City Limits.

    But a lot of it too just has to do with the state of transportation technology and the housing finance markets at the time that the cities were growing. In no small part, NYC has density because it had density.

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