Lessons learned from comparing city borders on Google Maps

A recent update to Google Maps added a new feature that Atlantic Cities readers will probably enjoy. When searching for a specific city (or county or ZIP code), the map displays a border along the city limits.

It’s a basic sort of addition, but one that provides a wealth of context. As we’ve previously written, the spread of cities often goes beyond these borders to a metropolitan or even “megapolitan” scale. And yet, for the purposes of governance, city borders remain important tools. Being able to easily see where those borders sit helps provide a deeper understanding of the scale of local conditions. And when compared to other cities, these maps offer at least an interesting lens to explain why cities are so very different.

To be able to see the entire extent of some of the larger cities of the world, I’ve zoomed out to the scale where one inch equals 10 miles. At this scale, New York seems almost quaint compared to huge places like Mexico City or Sao Paulo. And look how small Paris is!

Unfortunately, the border outline hasn’t been added to cities in China. But it is active in most other places, especially big cities. This slideshow features 15 of the biggest cities in the world at the same scale.

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