In America, “big” cities don't necessarily boast a lot of square mileage, but mid-sized metros can be monstrous areas. Thanks to decades of policies encouraging suburban growth, and streetscapes designed to accommodate more and more cars, cities that evolved in mid-20th century America tend to sprawl across massive tracts of land.
This phenomenon is on full display in a new set of infographics by RENTCafe, an apartment listings website. You can see how older urban areas, like Manhattan, Washington D.C., Boston, and Philadelphia compare to sprawling giants like Houston, Oklahoma City, and Jacksonville, Fla.
The Houston map above gives you a sense of how wonky metropolitan borders can be. The city limits are as jagged as a Christmas tree’s outline. Not to mention the fact that three of the country's top population centers—Manhattan, Chicago, and Philadelphia—can fit inside its borders.
Look how big Chicago is compared to the 747-square-mile Jacksonville, a city with almost 2 million fewer people:
It makes sense that Oklahoma City, with a population of more than 600,000, stretches over a bigger area than Pittsburgh, with its 305,000 people. But it’s huge compared to Philadelphia, which boasts almost a million more residents. The city’s sprawl issue has been linked to its obesity problem, and in 2007, the mayor introduced a health-conscious urban design plan to make walking around town a more viable option, like a new streetcar line and new sidewalks.
All images via RENTCafe