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How Large and Dense Are Canadian Cities? A Visual Comparison

So, certain parties have recently let me know that some of my blog posts are slightly too nerdy for the general populace. Considering how much I love extra complex analysis this isn't surprising. However, my goal is to bring GIS to the general public, and I don't want to miss that goal due to some excessive detail. Therefore, I've tried to make this week's blog post by focusing on something that we've all thought about, but never mapped:


Why this is an interesting question is that there is lots of information on how big or populated a Canadian city is (for instance here), but the units: square kilometers and persons per square kilometers are not so comprehensible to your average human.

Second, its hard to relate these data without an comparison, so what if Vancouver has 5,491 people per km2, what does that actually mean and look like and more importantly how does that compare to say, Regina?

After some noodling around on the interwebs trying to answer this question, I stumbled on this excellent website which allows for country to country comparisons of size . And then I realized what I had to do: Show the true size of Canadian municipalities by using Vancouver as the lucky comparison town.

What I've done then, is simply overlay Vancouver (respecting projections and the such) on various Canadian cities to show how huge and comparatively underpopulated they are compared to my favorite city. I've presented the results below: you can click on each thumbnail to get a larger version for your viewing pleasure.

The coolest part of this little project was, at the outset, I had no idea how small Vancouver was compared to some other Canadian cities. Or more to the point: how big are other Canadian Cities! You'll also note that Ottawa and Halifax are slightly odd. That is because they are regional municipalities that encompass A LOT of underdeveloped space. Comparing areas and densities to these monsters isn't really an apples-to-apples comparison, so I've tried to chop them down to size using some older municipal boundaries.

All data sources are from the current Census of population. Also if you notice any errors or omissions let me know and I'll update the maps quickly. Happy map viewing!


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