21st Century Commuting

The ‘Megaregions’ aren’t coming, they’re already here.  Whether or not most people understand the concept in their daily routines, the Megaregions of the United States (areas defined not by state or even city borders, but rather by more intrinsic socio-economic similarities and shared concepts of place), are becoming a much clearer representation of how all Americans really live.  And while it may be difficult to visualize such abstract concepts as driving commutes and how such mundane affairs define new realities of space and connectivity, one group of scientists has done just that.

megaregions 1

(Image credit: Garrett Dash Nelson Alasdair Rae – Plos One)

Researchers Garrett Dash Nelson Alasdair Rae of Dartmouth College and the University of Sheffield, respectively, have highlighted, through their research, boundaries that we are seldom familiar with.  Boundaries defined not by what our textbooks have taught us, but boundaries based on money, and how we travel to get that money, to support our families, qualities of life, etc.

The image above highlights each megaregion with a different color.  And notice how in the image below.  Each of the 4 MILLION daily commutes that were computed are carefully traced back and forth, and create an intricate weave of how long some people travel to essentially live their lives.

This image below shows the incredible and again, oftentimes invisible cross-pollination between states:

megaregions 2

(Image credit: Garrett Dash Nelson Alasdair Rae – Plos One)


Notice on the image on the left, how there is considerable spillover from western Wisconsin into the Minneapolis/St.Paul region.  But even that pales in comparison to the New Orleans region in the first image, where there are so so many commutes from even more state borders, spilling into the New Orleans region.

You can find a LOT more information on this fascinating area of research here…and realize that you’ll never see maps the same way again.


Leave a Reply