United States Geography

Most of America possesses urban areas that have grown in population and extent. In a few instances, the growth has been so great and the size of the core cities has become so large that major urban areas have merged and formed clusters of cities. The group of large cities extending from Boston (Massachusetts) to Washington, D.C., along the northeastern U.S. coast, is the clearest example. Another group of urban areas--more widely dispersed and containing smaller central cities--is found along the southern margin of the Great Lakes. Milwaukee (Wisconsin) and Chicago (Illinois) anchor this region in the west, and Buffalo (New York) and Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) do the same in the east. Southern California, from San Diego to San Francisco, is offered by some observers as yet another set of urban areas that will be merged by the end of the 20th century, as is much of east coastal and central Florida.

Most large urban places have developed where transportation routes connect with each other. Quite often it is the land-water connection that is important. Some urban centers are on a seacoast or large estuary. Others are on naturally navigable waterways. Still others are on rivers or channels that have been modified extensively just to give the cities water access. Other factors matter, of course: hinterland quality, proximity to alternative transportation, security, and even healthfulness of the local environment. However, where goods and people must transfer from one form of transportation to another, there are opportunities to process, exchange, manufacture, repackage, sell, and buy goods.

There are exceptions to this water orientation, such as Atlanta (Georgia), Denver (Colorado), and Dallas-Ft.Worth (Texas), but these, too, were on early transport routes of some kind. Atlanta, for example, located at the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains, had become a key inland center for railroad transportation in the South by the 1860s.

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Source: U.S. Department of State