Megapolitan America

A New Vision for Understanding America's Metropolitan Geography

By Arthur Nelson, FAICP, Robert Lang

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In popular imagination, America is the land of wide open spaces. But in reality, much of it is more densely populated than Europe. Two-thirds of the U.S. population lives on less than 20 percent of the privately owned land, clustered in 20-some megapolitan areas — networks of metropolitan centers fused by common economic, physical, social, and cultural traits.

The book draws on detailed data to map out the dramatic — and surprisingly positive — shifts ahead. Backed by hard numbers, Nelson and Lang argue for long-range planning that sheds outdated images and stokes the nation's economic engines. This is required reading for everyone who cares about America's future.



About the Authors

Arthur C. Nelson, FAICPArthur C. Nelson, FAICP, is Presidential Professor of City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah, where he is also the founding director of the Metropolitan Research Center, adjunct professor of finance in the David Eccles School of Business, and the founding co-director of the Master's of Real Estate Development program.

Previously, Nelson served as the founding director of the Urban Affairs and Planning Program at Virginia Tech's Alexandria Center, where he was also founding director of the Planning Academy at Virginia Tech and co-director of the Metropolitan Institute. He also served on the planning faculty at Georgia Tech, where he was founding coordinator of the certificate programs in land development and urban policy.

Nelson has conducted pioneering research in smart growth, public facility finance, economic development, and metropolitan development patterns. He has written more than 20 books and more than 300 other works.

Among his planning books are Growth Management Principles and Practices (with James B. Duncan), noted as one of the 25 most important planning books in the first quarter century of the American Planning Association, Urban Containment in the United States (with Casey J. Dawkins), and Planner's Estimating Guide.

Robert E. LangRobert E. Lang is a professor of sociology and the director of Brookings Mountain West at the University of Nevada–Las Vegas. He is also the director of the Lincy Institute at UNLV. In addition, Lang is currently a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a fellow of the Urban Land Institute, both in Washington, D.C. In 2008, Lang was a Fulbright fellow at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. In 2006, he was a visiting distinguished professor at Arizona State University. Lang was also recently a planning and development fellow of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a distinguished visiting fellow of the University of California–Riverside.

Prior to joining UNLV, Lang was a professor and director of the Urban Affairs and Planning program at Virginia Tech in Alexandria, Virginia, and served as the founding director of the Metropolitan Institute.

Previously, he was director of urban and metropolitan research at Fannie Mae in Washington, D.C. Lang has also served as an editor on several academic journals, including Housing Policy Debate and the Journal of the American Planning Association.

Lang's work includes the books Edgeless Cities: Exploring the Elusive Metropolis (2003) and Boomburbs: The Rise of America's Accidental Cities (2007). He is also coauthor of three edited volumes on the census titled Redefining Urban and Suburban America: Evidence from Census 2000. Lang's most recent book is The New Politics of Planning (2009).

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Date Published
Aug. 1, 2011
APA Planners Press

Table of Contents

Foreword by Armando Carbonell

Prologue: From Cities to Megapolitans
The New Kid in Town: Megapolitan Areas and Clusters
From Megalopolis to Megapolitan
The Evolving Megapolitan Idea
Progression of Thought
Organization of Megapolitan America

Part 1: From Cities to Megaregions
City and Metropolitan Form
Concentric Ring or Monocentric City and Metropolitan Form
Sector City and Metropolitan Form
Multinuclear or Polycentric City and Metropolitan Form
The Extended Metropolis
Megaregions and National Regions
Summary Observations

Part 2: Megapolitan Convergence
Soft-Nosed, Self-Organized Planning
The New Metropolitan Governance: Tied to Federal Formula
The Business of Megapolitans: Cooperating on Economic Development
The Megapolitan Footprint: Managing Land and Water
The State and the Megapolitan: Conflict and Convergence

Part 3: Defining What Is Megapolitan
Metropolitan Evolution
The Metroplex Model
Urban Realms
The New Metropolitan Form
Metropolitan and Megapolitan Commuting


"This book is part planning manual, part atlas, part reference guide, part call to action — all about the most important economic and social development taking place in the country today. Arthur Nelson and Robert Lang's description of the nation's 'megapolitan' regions will change the way we think of the economy and how we all have come to live. Let's hope it also changes the way we act in the future."

—Bill Bishop, author of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart

"This is an extraordinary book. It completely and — in my largely lay judgment — correctly reorients our thinking about where our cities and communities are going both physically and in terms of actual living. What an extraordinary contribution to our thinking on these issues. This should be required reading — and I rarely say that — for every governor, mayor, legislator, city council member, Chamber of Commerce member, and, indeed, citizen!"

—Michael K. Young, President, University of Washington