What Is The Great Lakes Megalopolis?

The city of Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan.
The city of Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan.

The Great Lakes Megalopolis is a number of North America’s metropolitan areas along the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes Region. The metropolitan area extends from the Midwest into Upstate New York and western Pennsylvania in the United States to southern parts of Quebec and north to southern Ontario in Canada. The Canadian part of the megalopolis is referred to as Quebec City-Windsor Corridor. The Great Lakes Megalopolis is North America’s largest and most populated metropolitan area. It has a population of approximately 59.1 million, which is estimated to reach over 60 million by 2025. The megalopolis overlaps with the Rust Belt, a once-highly industrialized area.

History of the Megalopolis

The region that is now considered the Great Lakes Megalopolis was partly outlined by French Geographer Jean Gottman as an emerging megalopolis in 1961 in his book “Megalopolis; The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the US.” The geographer had envisaged the coming up of several megalopolises in the US including from Chicago to Pittsburg (Chipitts), Boston to Washington DC (BosWash), and from San Diego to San Francisco (SanSan). Four years later, Herman Kahn, a futurist of the 20th century, spoke on the possible existence of three megalopolises by 2000 without giving reference to Gottman. In the 1960 and 1970s, Constantinos Doxiadis published books and reports on a possible growth of the Great Lakes Megalopolis. He considered Detroit as the megalopolis’ main urban center. In 2005, Beyond Megalopolis, a Virginia Tech Metropolitan Institute highlighted a similar megapolitan area in the Midwest megapolitan as among the 10 megalopolises in the US.

Economy of the Megalopolis

If the Great Lakes Megalopolis is considered as a single entity, then it is one of the largest economic units in the world. The region boasts of a gross regional product of over US$ 4.5 trillion. Its economy is almost equal to that of Japan. The region consists of five Great Lakes which are considered the largest lakes in the US. These lakes account for 20% of the world’s freshwater surface and collectively have a shoreline measuring 10,210 miles. Cargos of up to 200 million tons are shipped through the Great Lakes every year.

Tourism is one of the major economic activities in the region. Ship Cruise on the lakes is supported by the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition which is a joint venture between Canada and the US. The Great Lakes Megalopolis has some of the largest and economically diverse metropolitan areas including Chicago metropolitan areas (world’s 4th largest). The Chicago metro area is set to become the first megacity in the region and the third in the US.

Administration in the Region

The Great Lakes Megalopolis does not have a single administrative unit but rather different government jurisdiction. The different US states and Candian provinces that form part of the megalopolis have their respective governments. However, the coordination of economic and environmental strategies in the region is done jointly by the US states and Canadian provinces through the Conference of Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Governors and Premiers.


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