Daniel Kay Hertz of City Observatory recently shared this map of the Chicago metro area divided into equal thirds, each containing roughly 3 million people. Since I was curious how that would look for Minneapolis St. Paul, I set off to find some data. To create the map below, I needed Census tracts with population and geographic boundaries of cities and counties in the metro area – all data available from Minnesota Geospatial Commons. I did not use any fancy analytical tools to create the map. I basically selected Census tracts until I reached the target 1/3 population. This method allowed me to keep most municipalities in a single “ring” as much as possible, and also apply my own judgement as to which suburbs are 1st ring vs. 2nd ring vs. 3rd ring.
Since the 2010 population of the 7-county metro was just shy of a clean 3 million (2.87 million), each 1/3 is actually about 957,000 people. However, it was just announced that the 7-county metro reached 3 million people for the first time (based on estimated population as of July 1, 2015). Even though the map below is already dated, I don’t think the boundaries of each million people would shift too much, as each county in the metro is growing.
BONUS: I must reference this excellent streets.mn post by Nick Magrino, Measuring the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Area, and Getting Real with the Map. I strongly urge you to read it, whether you are new to streets.mn or perhaps missed it a year ago. It takes this type of analysis in a different direction, looking at how many people live in different sectors of the metro area, categorized by era/type of development (walkable grid vs. sprawl), and the implications that has on our metropolitics.