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Old Posted Apr 8, 2012, 10:23 PM
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From Metropolitans to Megapolitans

From Metropolitans to Megapolitans

Apr 07 2012

By Robert Lang

Read More: http://citiwire.net/columns/from-met...-megapolitans/

In a space as large as France, the Netherlands and Belguim combined, America’s megapolitans house more than 2.5 times as many people. In fact, they are more densely settled than Europe as a whole and, by some estimates, will house two-thirds of the U.S. population by 2040.

- It is true the average population density in the U.S.—about 100 persons per square mile—is roughly half that of Western European countries. But the comparison is misguided. The U.S. has a significant amount of densely settled urban areas scattered throughout. While megapolitans occupy only 17 percent of the continuous 48 states’ land base, America’s megapolitan clusters, as a group, form the world’s third most populous country, behind China and India.

- Megapolitans, as they are often referred to, are strings of metropolitan areas connected by shared transportation networks, labor markets and culture. The megapolitan clusters are metropolitan regions networked either by commuting, trucking, or commuter airlines and separated by less than 550 miles. Thus far, metropolitans view nearby regions as competitors rather than partners. In fact, only one metropolitan area has a regionally elected governing body: the Metro Council of Portland, Oregon, created in the 1980s. No other region has followed suit.

- Metropolitan partnerships can help secure a region’s vitality in the global economy. Phoenix and Tucson, for instance, can pool their collective assets and markets to produce a global gateway known as the Sun Corridor. Phoenix is a large-scale region with an international airport and global links. Tucson received the state’s original land grant university, and is home to the University of Arizona, which has strong research capacity in space science and optics and contains the main branch of Arizona’s medical school. Roughly speaking, Phoenix has the global access and Tucson has the technology.

- Local elected officials and business leaders in Orlando and Tampa are following suit to create the Florida Corridor — its goal to combine Orlando’s tourist economy and global connectivity with Tampa’s major port and industries tied to logistics. Cooperation among megapolitans such as Seattle-Portland or Chicago-Detroit-Cleveland-Pittsburgh becomes increasingly important as the federal government must ensure that taxpayer money spent on infrastructure improvements and resource-land management is not wasted. Our past proves a lack of planning at a broad level can produce inefficient outcomes, as is the case with several transportation infrastructure projects.

- While our cities and counties increasingly get on board with regional collaboration, this process requires a shift in the way we traditionally think about the many cities and counties that surround us. For instance, despite the strong objections by local officials and business leaders, Florida Gov. Rick Scott killed high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando. We can recognize his rationale was tied political discourse rather than disdain for regional collaboration. Nonetheless, his actions dampened the chances for regional integration between Tampa and Orlando and stifled their ability to compete against other megapolitans which have pooled their metropolitans’ talent and resources to create a single unified region.

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