If We Were the World: The Houston Plan

Houston wins again! If the world’s current population — all 6.9 billion of us — were packed into a city as dense as Paris, or Singapore, or New York, or San Francisco, just look how piddly it would be. This handy chart from Tim De Chant’s Per Square Mile blog shows how sad, too: The Gateway Arch in St. Louis would probably get lonely, and the Minnesota Twins would lose their all their fans. But what if we all spread ourselves into a city with Houston’s density? Much better, this:


Lots more parking, feeder roads, and BBQ for everyone this way, no? Even out there in Ohio.

Images: Per Square Mile

30 Comment

  • Um, yay sprawl? :\

  • Who would want to live with 6 billion other people in a space the size LA, ARK, & MISS?

  • So, these pics are interesting to look at, but is there a point to any of this?

  • Where’s Hong Kong? Would we all fit in Connecticut in that scenario?

  • That sure is a bizarre way of showing urban density.

  • I don’t think this is something to be proud of.

  • Whenever there’s a comparison to land area, the square miles given is always in relation to either Texas or Rhode Island. In this case, with the exception of Paris, glad to see this still holds true.

    Of course, nobody cares about France anyways.

  • Hard to feel a sense of urgency regarding the idea of overpopulation after seeing that.

  • Clearly the world is overpopulated. We need more war and pestilence.

  • Heavy on the pestilence.

  • McFly: It is our density!

  • How I wish we could be more like Paris! If only we could persuade developers to build estates of cheaply built tower blocks in which to pack immigrants in a pressure cooker of poverty too. We’d get that density in no time.

  • What I’m getting out of this data is that we don’t have to live on top of each other. There’s plenty of space in the world.
    I don’t understand this need to live packed into as dense a small area as possible.

  • @ricemilitaryboy: Because there are a few other purposes the world serves other than a habitat for humans.

  • @ricemilitaryboy: Because there are a few other purposes the world serves other than a habitat for humans.

    Care to elaborate? I must have missed the world’s narrative of its purposes.

  • Indeed, Huntington, we need to leave space for the other ecosystems.
    I have French friends who dump on Paris all the time. Having never been there, I now have a visceral “I-45 AT RUSH-HOUR 24-7 WITH FLOOD ADVISORY” sort of understanding of the place.

  • What this also says is that mass transit in Houston is pretty hopeless. In a city with the density of Paris, it makes perfect financial sense to spiderweb the whole city with subways and commuter rail. In Houston, we’re just too spread out to make a truly useful mass transit system feasible.

  • HA-HA someone asked where Hong Kong is.

  • Jorge, where is HK on the chart, not in the world.

    The conclusion is all wrong. Paris “wins”.

  • From Dana-X:

    “Hard to feel a sense of urgency regarding the idea of overpopulation after seeing that.”

    Well the Malthusians have been wrong since Malthus.

  • This map helps me understand that the concern regarding overpopulation has more to do with natural resource drain than any shortage of physical space.

    It would be interesting to see a similar map for natural resource use (water, food, energy).

  • I did this very same study (sans the fancy graphics) years ago one day I was bored at work. Then the world’s population was only about 5B. Some people seriously should consider buying a TV.

    I was a little surprised, and people always doubted me when I told them, that the entire world could live in an area the size of Texas. While not the ideal land management strategy, it does point out that the over-population, scarce resource crowd (pun intended)that we’ve been listening to for the past four decades are just plain wrong. And not just about this.

  • @Huntington – all other resources in the world are for Human consumption…the fact that they exist in comfort is just so that our food tastes better….stressed out food always tastes just a little bit different & not quite right.

  • Just because all the people in the world can fit into a certain area does not mean that that land area is sufficient to provide food, water, and other natural resources.

  • I’d hate to see the taxi fare from el paso to houston just to get some cheesecake after dinner.

  • This is why Houston has a terrible mass transit system while more dense urban centers are much better. Houston was built around automobile traffic and suffers for it.

  • I wish they did Sao Paulo, Brazil. 19 million people. :)

  • @Flash
    These maps don’t say anything about resources, only land in terms of population density. It would be interesting to view maps of real land use of cities in terms of resources (e.g. water, farm-land, mining), as well as other charts showing things like commute time/person, energy use, pollution, etc.

  • @AWP, The Malthusians have been right in the sense that war, poverty, famine, disease, and natural disasters in poorly prepared regions have caused massive death, destruction, and suffering for a long time. Moreover, much of that death and destruction has been as a direct or indirect result of population growth and scarce resources. It will get worse with our larger population and the effects of climate change. From the other perspective though, technologies that give us sustainable energy and resources may indeed stave off the total Malthusian nightmare scenario. My bet would be lots more pain and death, but not so much that we end up in a world-wide dystopian future.

  • The map of Houston is scary!! Houston needs to do better at planning its land use, and work to improve our current infrastructure instead of building roads to know (newest Grand Parkway segment, etc.)