Chart of the Day: Urban Density in Minneapolis & Other US Cities, 1900-1960

Here’s a fun chart (if blurry and too small) that shows historic trends around density and population growth in US cities, Minneapolis included. It’s from a 2001 paper by the Transportation Research Board that I found online about transit and land use, comparing the US and other countries around the world.

Here’s the chart, with Minneapolis highlighted (follow the arrows to the faded dotted line):

Density Trends Us Urban Areas

The x-axis is time, and the y-axis is the share of new homes that are single family. You can see that in Minneapolis, as well as just about every US city, built almost entirely SFHs as the 20th century progressed.

The relevant description, out of Chapter II, reads thus:

The importance of high population and employment densities for transit operations has been recognized for decades. This relationship had become evident by the 1950s when declining urban densities and transit ridership were coincidental in many older American cities (Levinson and Wynn 1963; Meyer et al. 1965). Meanwhile, many newer American cities were maturing without ever having attained the high densities traditionally needed for successful transit services.

As urban historians and geographers often point out, however, declining urban population and employment densities are not a post–World War II phenomenon, but a long-term trend observable in the United States for more than a century. Even earlier evidence of urban household decentralization can be found. The “bedroom” communities that sprang up along Boston’s commuter railroads in the mid-1800s and Manhattan workers commuting by steam ferry from “rural” Brooklyn two decades before are often cited as the beginnings of U.S. suburbanization.


If you’re interested in more, page through the whole thing online.

Oh, and just for fun here’s a bonus chart from the study:

Population Growth And Auto Ownership Us Cities

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One Response to Chart of the Day: Urban Density in Minneapolis & Other US Cities, 1900-1960

  1. David Markle
    David Markle November 28, 2018 at 11:15 am #

    And yet, Atlanta has made strenuous strides to improve transit. Any experts on Atlanta in the readership?

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