Megaregions of the United States
||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (December 2012)|
Megaregions of the United States are clustered networks of American cities whose population ranges or is projected to range from about 7 to 63 million by the year 2025. America 2050, an organization sponsored by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, lists 11 megaregions in the United States and Canada. Megapolitan areas were explored in a July 2005 report by Robert E. Lang and Dawn Dhavale of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. A later 2007 article by Lang and Nelson uses 20 megapolitan areas grouped into 10 megaregions. The concept is based on the original Megalopolis model.
A megaregion is a large network of metropolitan regions that share several or all of the following:
- Environmental systems and topography
- Infrastructure systems
- Economic linkages
- Settlement and land use patterns
- Culture and history
A Megaregion may also be known as a Megalopolis or Megapolitan Area. More than 70 percent of the nation's population and jobs are located in 11 megaregions identified by Regional Plan Association. Megaregions are becoming the new competitive units in the global economy, characterized by the increasing movement of goods, people and capital among their metropolitan regions. "The New Megas," asserted Florida (2006), "are the real economic organizing units of the world, producing the bulk of its wealth, attracting a large share of its talent and generating the lion's share of innovation."
The megaregion concept provides cities and metropolitan regions a context within which to cooperate across jurisdictional borders, including the coordination of policies, to address specific challenges experienced at the megaregion scale, such as planning for high speed rail, protecting large watersheds, and coordinating regional economic development strategies.
- Arizona Sun Corridor Megaregion (extends into Mexico)
- Cascadia Megaregion (Pacific Northwest; shared with Canada)
- Florida Megaregion
- Front Range Megaregion
- The RPA definition of this region also includes the geographically detached Wasatch Front.
- Great Lakes Megaregion (shared with Canada)
- Gulf Coast Megaregion
- Northeast Megaregion
- Northern California Megaregion
- Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion
- Southern California Megaregion
- Texas Triangle Megaregion
Though identification of the megaregions has gone through several iterations, the 11 identified above are based on a set of criteria developed by Regional Plan Association, through its America 2050 initiative - a joint venture with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Two historic publications helped lay the foundation for this new set of criteria, the book Megalopolis by Jean Gottmann (1961) and The Regions’ Growth, part of Regional Plan Association’s second regional plan.
The relationships underpinning megaregions have become more pronounced over the second half of the 20th century as a result of decentralized land development, longer daily commutes, increased business travel, and a more footloose, flexible, knowledge workforce. The identification of new geographic scales—historically based on increased population movement from the city center to lower density areas—has a long history; but unlike those that came before, the megaregion concept does not simply recognize and accept the anticipated pattern of growth as inevitable; the megaregion presents immense opportunities from a regional planning perspective, to improve the environmental, infrastructure and other issues shared among the regions within it. Gottman explains, "As the work of data-gathering and analysis progressed it became evident that the key to most of the questions involved in this study of Megalopolis lies in the interrelationships between the forces and processes at work within the area rather than in the trends of growth or the development of techniques. Thus the trend of population increase, easy to measure and perhaps to forecast approximately, provides less insight into the nature of the area than do the interrelations existing between the processes that caused the local population to grow, those that attracted certain kinds of people to Megalopolis, and those that supplied the swelling crowds with the means to live and work there. Many of these processes are statistically measurable and some of them can be mapped, but the degree to which each of them stems from the others or determines them is a much more subtle matter, and is more basic to an understanding of what is going on and what can be done about it." The most recent and only previous attempt to plan at this scale happened more than 70 years ago, with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Political issues stymied further efforts at river basin planning and development.
In 1961's Megalopolis, Gottman describes the Northeastern seaboard of the United States - or Megapologis - as "...difficult to single out...from surrounding areas, for its limits cut across established historical divisions, such as New England and the Middle Atlantic states, and across political entities, since it includes some states entirely and others only partially." On the complex nature of this regional scale he writes:
Some of the major characteristics of Megalopolis, which set it apart as a special region within the United States, are the high degree of concentration of people, things and functions crowded here, and also their variety. This kind of crowding and its significance cannot be described by simple measurements. Its various aspects will be shown on a number of maps, and if these could all be superimposed on one base map there would be demarcated an area in which so many kinds of crowding coincide in general (though not always in all the details of their geographical distribution) that the region is quite different from all neighboring regions and in fact from any other part of North America. The essential reason for its difference is the greater concentration here of a greater variety of kinds of crowding. Crowding of population, which may first be expressed in terms of densities per square mile, will, of course, be a major characteristic to survey. As this study aims at understanding the meaning of population density, we shall have to know the foundation that supports such crowding over such a very fast area. What do these people do? What is their average income and their standard of living? What is the distribution pattern of wealth and of certain more highly paid occupations? For example, the outstanding concentration of population in the City of New York and its immediate suburbs (a mass of more than ten million people by any count) cannot be separated from the enormous concentration in the same city of banking, insurance, wholesale, entertainment, and transportation activities. These various kinds of concentration have attracted a whole series of other activities, such as management of large corporations, retail business, travel agencies, advertising, legal and technical counseling offices, colleges, research organizations, and so on. Coexistence of all these facilities on an unequaled scale within the relatively small territory of New York City, and especially of its business district...has made the place even more attractive to additional banking, insurance, and mass media organizations. Thus have concentration snowballed.
The methodology for identifying the emerging megaregions included assigning each county a point for each of the following:
- It was part of a core based statistical area;
- Its population density exceeded 200 people per square mile as of the 2000 census;
- The projected population growth rate was expected to be greater than 15 percent and total increased population was expected to exceed 1,000 people by 2025;
- The population density was expected to increase by 50 or more people per square mile between 2000 and 2025; and
- The projected employment growth rate was expected to be greater than 15 percent and total growth in jobs was expected to exceed 20,000 by 2025.
Shortcomings of this method 
This methodology was much more successful at identifying fast-growing regions with existing metropolitan centers than more sparsely-populated, slower growing regions. Nor does it include a distinct marker for connectedness between cities.
While the report identifies megaregions that are shared between the US and Canada, and is presumably at least tangentially concerned with pan-North American issues, it does not clearly define their frontiers within Canada nor does it include Canadian population centres that are not adjacent to US megaregions. It includes Southern Ontario in the Great Lakes Megaregion but excludes the St. Lawrence Valley, despite the fact that Canadian geographers usually include them as part of one larger Quebec City-Windsor Corridor.
Outside the United States 
The close relationship between large linked metropolitan regions and a nation's ability to compete in the global economy is recognized in Europe and Asia. Each has aggressively pursued strategies to manage projected population growth and strengthen economic prosperity in its large regions.
The European Spatial Development Perspective, a set of policies and strategies adopted by the European Union in 1999, is working to integrate the economies of the member regions, reduce economic disparities, and increase economic competitiveness (Faludi 2002; Deas and Lord 2006).
In East Asia, comprehensive strategic planning for large regions, centered on metropolitan areas, has become increasingly common and has progressed further than in the United States or Europe. Planning for the Hong Kong-Pearl River Delta region, for instance, aims to enhance the region's economic strength and competitiveness by overcoming local fragmentation, building on global economic cooperation, taking advantage of mutually beneficial economic factors, increasing connectivity among development nodes, and pursuing other strategic directions.
|Megaregion||Counties||Area (sq. mi.)||Population 2000||Density 2000 (per sq. mi.)||Pop 2025/percent growth||2005 GDP (billions of US$)||GDP (2005) per capita (2000) (in US$)|
|Arizona Sun Corridor||8||48,803||4,535,049||93||7,362,613 / 62%||191||42,000|
|Cascadia||34||47,226||7,400,532||157||10,209,826 / 38%||337||45,500|
|Florida||42||38,356||14,686,285||383||21,358,829 / 45%||608||41,400|
|Front Range||30||56,810||4,733,679||83||6,817,462 / 44%||229||48,700|
|Gulf Coast||75||59,519||11,747,587||197||15,832,117 / 35%||524||44,700|
|Great Lakes||388||205,452||53,768,125||262||62,894,147 / 17%||2,073||38,500|
|Northeast||142||61,942||49,563,296||800||58,124,740 / 17%||2,591||52,000|
|Northern California||31||47,928||14,573,946||265||17,290,363 / 36%||623||49,000|
|Piedmont Atlantic||121||59,525||21,162,581||356||30,351,698 / 38%||486||23,000|
|Southern California||10||61,986||21,858,662||353||28,692,923 / 31%||1,037||47,600|
|Texas Triangle||101||85,312||16,131,347||189||23,586,856 / 46%||818||50,500|
|Megaregions (Total)||967||772,860||206,780,494||268||265,216,481 / 28%||9,199||44,500|
|Rest of Country||2,117||2,245,370||73,508,817||33||90,820,565 / 24%||3,235||44,000|
|United States||3,085||3,018,230||280,289,311||93||356,037,046 / 27%||12,434||44,300|
Cities not included 
See also 
- Amalgamation (politics)
- Combined Statistical Area
- Consolidated city-county
- Megalopolis (city type)
- Metropolitan Statistical Area
- Micropolitan Statistical Area
- Cities: Capital for the New Megalopolis.Time magazine, November 4, 1966. Retrieved on July 19, 2010.
- http://www.mi.vt.edu/uploads/megacensusreport.pdf "Beyond Megalopolis" by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech
- http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/handy/ESP171/Readings2/Megapolitans.pdf The Rise of the Megapolitans (January, 2007) by Robert E. Lang and Arthur C. Nelson. Retrieved on January 7, 2013.
- Regional Plan Association (2006). America 2050: A Prospectus. New York, NY: Regional Plan Association.
- Dewar, Margaret and David Epstein (2006). "Planning for 'Megaregions' in the United States." Ann Arbor, MI: Urban and Regional Planning Program, University of Michigan.
- Hagler, Yoav (2009). "Defining U.S. Megaregions." New York, NY: Regional Plan Association.
- Gottman, Jean (1961). Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States. New York: Twentieth Century Fund.
- Hagler, Yoav (2009). "Defining U.S. Megaregions." New York, NY: Regional Plan Association.
- Regional Plan Association (2008). America 2050: An Infrastructure Vision for 21st Century America. New York, NY: Regional Plan Association.
- "Megapolitan: Arizona's Sun Corridor". Morrison Institute for Public Policy. May 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-03.
- "When Phoenix, Tucson Merge". The Arizona Republic. 2006-04-09. Retrieved 2008-06-03.