July 15, 2022

What’s the densest urban area in North America?

Well, you know it’s not us in YVR.  But we’re close.

Brandon Donnelly provides the answer via New Geography:


Toronto is number one. Los Angeles is number two. And New York sits just behind Winnipeg and Calgary. Huh?

The reason this is likely surprising to you is that when most people think of urban density they think of the urban core. And you are correct in thinking that the urban core of New York City is denser than the urban core of Winnipeg.

The difference here is that we are talking about “urban area” (or “population centre” in Canada). This is the continuously built up area around each major city. Think of it as the lit up area that you might see on a nighttime aerial photo.

More here.

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  1. Need the new statistics from the US 2020 census. Vancouver BC is the densiest city in Canada. There are differences between different CMA and need proper comparission statistics. Need much more work to be done. Need to look at the last 50 yrs population statistics.

    1. When this was published in New Geography in April the US statistics from 2020 for urban areas hadn’t been published. The Census Bureau plans to announce final urban areas based on the 2020 Census in December 2022.

      As Gordon noted, this data relates to continuously developed urban areas – not municipalities, and not CMAs which might include rural areas. While some cities are amalgamated to cover almost all the developed area (Calgary, for example), others like Vancouver are not.

  2. Mexico City is almost definitely on this top 10 list somewhere, possibly at the top. I don’t know how the urban core vs. urban population factors in, but a preliminary google has Mexico City at 6.2k people / km^2.

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