Is the Great Lakes region ready to start acting like a megaregion?

Only a small piece of land between Cincinnati and Dayton remains undeveloped, and many believe that remaining gap will disappear very soon. But the merging of Cincinnati and Dayton as one large metropolitan region is only part of the story, as shared regional identities with other large urban centers throughout the Great Lakes region becomes more pervasive. This and other regions like it around the U.S. are becoming even more centralized. More from The Week:

Though the concept has existed in academia for decades, planners are now looking at these dense corridors of population, businesses, and transportation and wondering if the megaregion may, in fact, be the next step in America’s evolution. With renewed interest and investment in urban centers and the projected growth of high speed rail, megaregions could easily become home to millions more Americans.

The Northeast corridor, for example, could receive up to 18 million more residents by 2050, according to estimates from the Regional Plan Association. And the region encompassing major cities in Texas including Houston and Dallas could see a spike from roughly 12 million to 18 million people in that same time, the association says.

And where population goes, economic growth is not far behind. The Northeast corridor would be the fifth largest economy in the world, with the Great Lakes megaregion at ninth and the Southern California megaregion outpacing Indonesia, Turkey, and the Netherlands as the 18th largest, according to 2012 estimates from real estate advisory RCLCO. The problem is, there are challenges to making these networks hold together. Unlike megaregions in Europe and Asia, for example, the United States has traditionally shied away from large umbrella governing organizations which surpass state borders.

This Up To Speed link is meant to share perspectives from around the world that may be of interest to our readers. We do not necessarily agree or disagree with the views and perspectives shared in those stories.

  • Jasomm

    Given the changes in population and cultural, and the geography – the best way to administrate the US might be to create 5 separate nations(?) within a union to manage military, and commerce. This would be much more democratic, and result in better infrastructure within those regions. The first congress had about 1 representative for every 40,000 people (only a fraction of those could vote), and now we have 1 representative for every 740,000 people (many more of which are eligible to vote). To actually have a responsive representative that you could access now we would need about 2500-3000 people in congress. Perhaps regionalized federal government could be another route.

    • I’ve never really liked the massive Midwest grouping. I think there are two very separate and distinct regions within the Midwest. The first is the Great Lakes (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin) and the second is the Great Plains (Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas).

    • Matt Jacob

      I’ve always liked this one personally.

    • Matt Jacob

      Although I’d selfishly like to add KY to “Midwest Great Lakes” for Cincinnati and Louisville’s sake.

    • I like that one too. It seems far more accurate and relevant to me. With regard to the Great Lakes, both Pittsburgh and Louisville would make sense to include, but if you’re going strictly by state lines then this is how you’d have to do it. I’d also say that Minneapolis might be more Great Lakes than Great Plains, but that’s more debatable than Pittsburgh and Louisville.

    • Matt Jacob

      Yes state lines are arbitrary and create problems. Looking at the megaregion map, it seems that western PA and western NY have pretty good cases for MGL grouping.

    • EDG

      There’s a neat show called “How the state’s got their shape”

    • Jasomm

      I was grouping major city regions with similar cultures, and including 100+ miles of hinterlands for resources. KY is a tricky one since it could group with several neighbors. Just figured a major river makes for an easier international border.

    • Jasomm

      Along with Cultural groupings, I imagine a Chicago hub and spoke system of high speed rail would be most advantageous to cities in this map. especially if they bulk up their metropolitan rail connections… Therefore these regions would be uniquely linked together and would function well as a uniquely governed state.

    • Jasomm

      That could work too. The way I drew it up was trying to include several major Cities and supportive agriculture and natural resource lands to support them.
      If the KY, TN, AL, and MS become an independent nation it would be one of the poorer ones in the western hemisphere, and I imagine it would eventually need to be annexed by one of it neighbors, and/or require international peace keepers to constantly intervene.

    • matimal

      You’re suggesting the wholesale rewriting of the U.S. Constitution. Can’t we think about this question in less than revolutionary terms?

    • Jasomm

      It depends how many problems you really want to fix. We could become a much more functional federal government with the passage of a group of amendments that change the way campaigns and elections work, and how legislation is passed and implemented. But it will still come back to the fact that the US has too many people in different cultures to have reasonably represented in congress even if the our governing system where redesigned to try and do that… better would be better. but I’d try to find optimal and take small steps toward that.

    • matimal

      People are represented in Congress, not cultures. When there ARE attempts to represent groups as in the gerrymandering of districts to get ‘safe’ black districts it just leads to the creation of ‘safe’ white districts. Safe districts representatives are often the most ideological and ridiculous in Congress because their only political competition will be in the primaries. A congress of cultures is a disastrous idea. It’s exactly the opposite of what we should be doing politically in the U.S. The U.S. shouldn’t be attempting to create ethnic members of congress, it should be attempting to turn people who put their ethnic identities before their citizenship into more fully engaged Americans.

    • Jasomm

      Long time since I’ve looked at this conversation…
      I think my original intent has been way misconstrued after re-reading this. In no way am I saying it makes sense to have cultures/ethnicities/races/religions become a basis for gov’t representation. I am saying that

      1) representative governments should have interactions and responsiveness between the populous and its representatives. The country is much larger and populated now, and already overly bureaucratic, so adjusting the population:representative ratio might only make things worse.
      2) the geography of the country and the people in it will inevitably begin to regionalize. This is just an inevitability looking throughout history. The values and priorities of people in different regions always begin to coalesce and start to resemble unique nations/cultures. It IS possible to have a functional union of various nations, but not if they are represented unequally, or the federal gov’t is unresponsive to their needs.

      This is mostly a though-exercise, and not a serious proposal. Im just wondering aloud if the similarities that connect the US are becoming outnumbers by the differences, and how this could be reconciled.

    • matimal

      The U.S. has always been a series of regional societies and economies. It was never one thing. That’s why we have a federal system of sovereign state and branches and levels to prevent one gaining a political advantage of the others. The regional patterns of America aren’t in any way new.

  • charles ross

    One good step forward would be more support for regional organizations, like a tri-state Port Authority with similar scope to OKI. It seems like OKI is focused on highways only. Toledo seems to have a relatively functional port authority ( http://www.toledoportauthority.org ) that works with airports and seaports. The one around Cincy is mainly concerned with real estate development, although they have done some coop with the regional river ports ( http://www.cincinnatiport.org/transportation-logistics/partners-resources )

    • EDG

      OKI is just a reflection of its members. MORPC is doing much better things.

    • A tri-state port authority is an excellent idea.

  • Matt Jacob

    Cincinnati sits in an interesting spot regionally. Besides the Cincinnati-Dayton corridor that most of us have been focusing on, we’ve also got a pretty high number of larger cities clustered around us. Pulling the efforts of Louisville-Indianapolis-Cincinnati together could be an even better idea, rather than being one of the endpoints of the 3C (Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland).

    • EDG

      Yeah, we really have no relationship with Cleveland and no lake frontage.
      Add Columbus and Lexington to the grouping we should be in.

    • Matt Jacob

      Agreed, I think the 3C idea was more based on it all being in a single state and therefore simpler to implement

  • matimal

    Cincinnati’s greatest economic strength is its location between the old manufacturing centers of the Great Lakes and the new manufacturing centers of the South. The departure of Toyota and the presence of DHL show this. GE Aviation may be headquartered in West Chester and it buys or manufactures some of the parts it uses from Great Lakes factories, but it’s new manufacturing facilities are being built in North Carolina and Mississippi. The many small and medium sized manufacturers in the Cincinnati area offer a place to combine the design and production skills still centered in the Great Lakes and the mass production now increasingly located in the South. I don’t think Cincinnati should tie itself to a declining Great Lakes region alone. It should leverage it’s position to ‘catch’ investments, companies, and skilled professionals as they leave the Great Lakes, but before they get to Nashville or Charlotte.

  • Knuckles Mutatis

    Considering the Great Lakes Megalopolis has long-been the largest and most populated of all in the US (more than 59 million people), it is long overdue that the region started to recognize its position of potential influence and power, step up, and stop letting others define it.