I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that at least one item in this blog post will absolutely shock you. No, I’ll bet that several items in the following list will make your jaw drop. If you make it through the entire list of 23 shocking truths without so much as raising your eyebrow, please let me know. I want to know who you are…because you are obviously an even bigger urbanist-geek than I am.
Prepare to be shocked!
- The average low temperature in January in Lubbock, TX is colder than New York, NY. The historical average lows in January are 25.6 in Lubbock and 26.6 in New York. Yeah, I loved shocking New Yorkers with this little factoid when I lived in NYC (Lubbock is my hometown, so I know how cold it can get in the winter. Of course, the average high in January in Lubbock is 54.5, compared to 39.3 in NYC). If you still don’t believe me, just check the data for yourself here for Lubbock and here for New York.
- More people walk to work in Pittsburgh, PA than in New York, NY as a percentage of all commuters (11.3% in Pittsburgh, 10.3% in New York). And among the 100 largest cities, Pittsburgh ranks third in walk-to-work percentage. Boston is number one with 14.9% and DC is number two with 12%.
- IH-10 in Houston, TX is the widest freeway in the world, with 26 lanes in some sections.
- Minneapolis is the most densely populated large city (of the 100 largest cities) in the U.S. that is not on or near a major coastline. And in full disclosure, I’m considering Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD as being near a major coastline (the Chesapeake Bay), as well as Philadelphia (the Delaware River and Delaware Bay). This factoid is interesting for two reasons. 1) Most of our nation’s large, dense cities are next to oceans (NYC, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Miami, etc.) and 2) Minneapolis has done a great job of maintaining and enhancing its urban vitality.
- Miami International Airport has more international flights and passengers than any U.S. airport other than New York’s JFK International Airport. No surprise that JFK is number one in the U.S. in total international traffic. But it might surprise you that Miami ranks above even LAX, Chicago-O’Hare, or Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (the busiest airport in the world by total passengers).
- Dallas, TX has the most extensive light rail system in the U.S. With 85 total miles, the DART light rail system in Dallas is the longest network of light rail lines in the U.S. Yeah, this one surprised me too. Even as a native Texan. Honestly, I figured Portland, OR would have had a more extensive light rail system, but Dallas has created quite an impressive transit system. To be fair, the major transit system expansion going on in the Denver region will probably make Metro Denver number one in total light rail mileage in a few years. I haven’t done the math on this one, but I’d bet that Denver’s system will have more total miles pretty soon, and with a metro area population that is far less than half of Dallas-Fort Worth, it will be much more comprehensive, relatively speaking.
- More homes are being built in the Austin, TX metro area than in the entire state of Michigan. The Austin metro area (population of about 1.9 million) has had a higher number of building permits in each of the last three years than Michigan (population of 9.9 million). In 2011, the Austin region had 10,239 building permits, Michigan had 9,248. In 2012, Austin had 19,563, Michigan had 11,627. For 2013, Austin had 20,852, Michigan had 15,688.
- San Francisco, CA has a higher job density than New York, NY. San Francisco has 12,582 jobs per square mile. New York has 12,479 jobs per square mile.
- Hoboken, NJ is more densely populated than New York, NY. New York has 27,775 residents per square mile. Hoboken has 41,074 residents per square mile.
- There are only 2 aerial tramways in the U.S. that are primarily for commuters, the Portland Aerial Tramway and the Roosevelt Island Tram in New York. The rest of the trams are for recreational purposes only, most of them operating as ski lifts at ski resorts.
- Detroit is the only city in U.S. history to have reached a population of 1 million and then subsequently decline to less than 1 million. And Detroit actually came pretty close to reaching 2 million residents! In 1950, the city’s population was about 1.85 million. Today (as of 2013) Detroit had only 689,000 residents, nearly 63% less than its peak more than 60 years ago.
- Honolulu, HI has more high-rise buildings (buildings of 10 stories or higher) per capita than New York, NY. With 381 high-rise buildings and a population of 345,610 (2012 population), Honolulu has 110.2 high-rise buildings per 100,000 residents. New York has 5,469 high-rise buildings and a population of 8,336,697 (2012 population), an average of 65.6 per 100,000 residents.
- San Marcos, TX is the fastest growing city in the U.S. among cities with at least 50,000 residents from 2010 to 2013. Why? Well, it is a nice college town, with a fast-growing University (Texas State University, where I did my undergrad in Geography). But the main reason for San Marcos’ rapid growth is simply its location on IH-35 right in the middle of the high-growth Austin-San Antonio mega-region.
- Silicon Valley receives more venture capital funding than every other metro area combined. When it comes to the traditional finance industry (commercial banks, investment banks, etc.) New York is generally considered the global epicenter along with perhaps London and maybe Tokyo and Hong Kong. But, when it comes to venture capital, Silicon Valley is by far the champ. In fact, in Q2 2014, Silicon Valley received $7.1 billion in VC funding, about 55% of the total $13 billion in the U.S. as a whole.
- Virginia Beach, VA is the largest city in the U.S. with no downtown with nearly 450,000 residents.
- Since 2001, the Midland-Odessa region (population barely over 300,000) gained more jobs than the Oklahoma City region (population of more than 1.3 million). According to EMSI (Economic Modeling Specialists Intl.), Midland-Odessa gained 61,526 jobs from 2001 to 2014 compared to 60,748 jobs in Oklahoma City during the same period. Put in another way, Midland-Odessa is creating more jobs in absolute numbers than a major metro area that is nearly 4.5 times larger. Why? Because Midland and Odessa are in the middle of an unprecedented oil & gas production boom. And this is not to say anything bad about Oklahoma City. In fact, OKC (as the locals call it) has been widely praised for its major downtown revitalization efforts and its economic vitality.
- Leadville, CO is the highest city in the U.S. with an elevation of 10,152 feet. And with the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational use, Leadville may be the “highest” U.S. city in more ways than one!
- The oldest enclosed shopping mall in the U.S. – the Arcade in Providence, RI – is being converted into micro-apartments. In fact, the amount of downtown revitalization taking place in Providence is quite impressive. Check out this article by Alisha Pina of the Providence Journal for a good overview of the new investment pouring into Providence’s central business district.
- The Houston metro area has the largest system of ports in the U.S. ranked by total tonnage. Here’s the list of U.S. ports ranked by total tonnage.
- The busiest airport in the U.S. for air cargo is not New York’s JFK, or LAX, or Chicago-O’Hare, or even Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, the busiest airport in the world for passengers. The city with the highest amount of air freight is Memphis, TN thanks to the FedEx global “SuperHub” that is based at Memphis International Airport. Here’s the list of the world’s busiest airports ranked by total air cargo volume.
- Downtown Austin is the most important downtown in the U.S. among the 50 largest metro areas, relative to its surrounding region. Austin’s central business district contains a higher percentage of the metro area’s total employment (14.4%) than any other central business district in the 50 largest metro areas.
- Springfield, MO is the most centrally located metro area in the U.S. The mean center of population as of 2010 was located in Texas County, MO, less than 50 miles east of Springfield, MO.
- There is a city where parking spaces can cost $1 million. Seriously! Can you guess where? If you guessed New York, then you’re right. Check out this new residential building in New York’s SoHo neighborhood where you can buy a condo for $8.7 to $10.5 million and then add on a parking space for another million.
Do you have anything that can top the shockers on this list? Let me know in the comment section.