Map Monday: Visualizing Twin Cities Sprawl, Density, and Change

Like many of the maps I find I came across a webpage via Twitter, hat tip to @stateofthecity. The webpage takes data from the Global Human Settlement Layer and runs it onto Google Maps. This is the result, Human Terrain by Matt Daniels (@matthew_daniels). I immediately panned to tool over to Minnesota and geeked out.

Something I particularly like is that this visualization tool lets us see the population change from 1990 to 2015 as well as compare side by side. I grabbed some screenshots but go visit the webpage yourself then zoom and pan around. Let’s start with a view of the wider area around the Twin Cities.


Central And Southern Minnesota

3D view of population density surrounding the Twin Cities

Central And Southern Minnesota Change

3D view of population change from 1990 to 2015

You can really see how Duluth has more or less been still compared to Rochester which has been rising with Mayo Clinic’s growth. On the change map Mankato, St. Cloud, and Fargo show up with growth booms of their own from 1990 to 2015. Eau Claire has been a bit quiet like Duluth.

The small towns of the state have been pretty stable, unless its a small town within a 1 hour commute shed to the Twin Cities and suburbs. Those small towns are showing growth.

Then we have the ring of sprawl growing up in the 3rd ring communities surrounding the metro area. The biggest gaps in this ring looks like the protected wealthy estates and horse harms of western Hennepin County. Growth is leaping right past that to Wright County’s small towns along Hennepin’s border. We’re going to zoom in closer to the metro counties now and rotate the view.

Twin Cities

3D view of population density of the Twin Cities and suburbs in 2015 from southwest to northeast

Twin Cities Change

3D view of population change of the Twin Cities and suburbs from 1990 to 2015

Zoomed in to the Twin Cities metro counties the Minnesota River valley and wildlife refuges scale and size shows up. Really a huge divide.

We can easily see the population growth that has happened south of the Minnesota River too. The total in 2015 is not a lot relative to the whole Twin Cities, but the growth in those counties is a lot. To me, it helps put in to pictures those counties’ upset about getting their share of transportation funding. “We’ve changed so much down here and have a lot more people, give us some!”

Anoka County and other northern communities show up as having a lot of population growth. Highway 65 needs upgrading because, we can see there are just a lot of people who’ve bought homes up there.

Fascinating how Woodbury’s squared shape shows up so strongly on the change map.

Over on the lower left side of the change map, all lined up, you can see the small towns in Wright County (Watertown, Delano, Rockford, Hanover) growing just outside the horse farms and estates of western Hennepin County.

Go check out the webpage. What else are you noticing?

Eric Anondson

About Eric Anondson

Born in St. Louis Park and lived there nearly 28 years but has been living in Hopkins since 2008. Eric's hopped around two years or so at a time in Loring Park, Laurel Village, Snellby, Whittier, and Golden Valley. He works in downtown Minneapolis. On Twitter as @xeoth.