The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

Our Mission: Monkeywrench the Anti-Transit Forces

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Saturday, August 24, 2002


From the Cabalmaster:

One of these days, the Secret Worldwide TransitCabal might throw a "Wendellfest" at “Line’s End,” the pastoral (and, naturally, secret) TransitCabalist’s lair. We’ll see who can find the best example of mediocre analysis on Wendell Cox’s website.

Wendell boasts that “The Public Purpose” is “One of the National Journal’s Four Top Transport Internet Sites.” We opinionated TransitCabalists are not impressed -- and we become steadily less impressed with each essentially random visit.

“The Public Purpose” and “Demographia” are full of information and analysis. However, we think that the information is often poorly organized and presented. We also think that the analyses are usually superficial, one-sided, misleading, and sometimes, just plain meaningless. (Of course, we’re opinionated, but that’s what you expect from this blog, isn’t it?)

A “Demographia” table ( shows the 1999 population of the “Ville de Paris” at 2,125,246, and the area at 86.92 sq km (= 33.54 sq mi). The land area shown on this table -- excludes two large parks (Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes) which are located beyond the “outer” ring of “arrondisssements,” or districts (see:

Note that 1 sq km = 0.3844 sq mi, and 1 sq mi = 2.6015 sq km. So the “Mile Square Regional Park” in Orange County, CA (yes, there is such a place; it’s in Fountain Valley) might be renamed “2.6 Kilometer Square Regional Park” if this country ever adopts the metric system. If 10 SAEPT laureates gather there to shout . . . well, you know . . . the “population density” would be 10 SAP(tm)s per sq mi, but only 3.8 SAP(tm)s per sq km.

“Populstat,” which, we think, has much better information than “Demographia” -- and takes much greater care regarding attribution -- states the 1999 population for Paris at 2,125,100, and gives the source as “Etat de France 2000.” See: The Economist magazine gives the land area of Paris as 105 sq km [= 40 sq mi); this includes the two large parks (see:

Did we mention that, elsewhere on “Demographia,” the land area of Paris is stated at 105.0 sq km [= 40.5 sq mi]? See: (Those parks . . . according to Demographia, sometimes they’re “in” Paris; sometimes they’re not . . .)

The official French government website (see: states the population density of Paris at “20,000 inhabitants per km2” (= 52,000 per sq mi). Statistik Berlin (see: states the population density at 20,171 “persons per sq km” (= 52,474 pper sq mi). These figures include the two large parks.

Elsewhere on “Demographia” ( we found a page titled “Paris Population History: Analysis and Data, which contains the following passage:

“Paris Remains the Most Dense Major City in the Developed World: Nonetheless, Paris remains by far the developed world’s most densely populated major city, at 63,374 per square mile (24,450 per square mile [sic - he means “per square km”). Paris is [sic] approximately double the density of Tokyo, three times as dense as inner London and six times as dense as Greater London. Paris is at least 2.5 times as dense as New York [sic - we assume he means New York City].”

This, we think, is a prime example of weak -- and lame -- analysis.

Metropolitan “core” cities very greatly in land area, and in the “percent” of the total urbanized area that is contained within their boundaries. The City of Calgary (Canada), for example, includes virtually all of the urbanized area. The City of London, by contrast, includes just one square mile. Meaningful comparisons regarding “density” should be based on areas of comparable size.

If Wendell’s assertion is meaningfully true -- that is, related to something that can be observed in real life -- then we should NOT be able to find ANY Paris-sized chunk of the “Big Apple” with MORE than about 25,000 per square mile. (63,174 divided by 2.5 = 25,270; we’ve rounded to the nearest thousand. In metric terms, we should not be able to find any Paris-sized chunk of NYC with more than 24,450 / 2.5 = 9,780 sq km.)

As you’ll see, the MAJORITY of New York City’s population is housed in areas that have considerably MORE than 25,000 people per square mile. A convenient “Demographia” chart ( provides the following information:

Borough Pop (2000 census) Land Area (sq mi) Density

Manhattan 1,537,000 22 69,873
Bronx 1,333,000 42 35,219
Brooklyn 2,495,000 70 31,730
SUBTOTAL 5,365,000 134 40,037

Queens 2,229,000 109 20,453
Staten Island 443,000 59 7,513

TOTAL 8,008,000 302 26,517

(If you don‚t trust “Demographia,” see: You will find minor differences; we think these arise, on the part of “Demographia,” from 1.) rounding and 2.) sloppyness.)

Several facts become immediately obvious:

---The City of New York covers nine times more land than the Ville de Paris, and the three most densely-populated boroughs cover four times as much land.

---Brooklyn, The Bronx and Manhattan house 67 percent of New York City's population but account for just 44 per cent of its land area.

---Thinly-populated Staten Island accounts for nearly 20 percent of the city’s land area.

---Queens, which is relatively thinly-populated overall, accounts for 36 percent of New York City’s land area.

---The population density for Manhattan, The Bronx and Brooklyn combined is 40,000 per sq mi, 63 percent of the figure “Demographia” presents for Paris -- which covers just 1/4 as much land.

---Manhattan, with 66 percent of the “adjusted” Paris land area, has a significantly greater population density (WITHOUT adjustments such as subtracting Central Park . . .)

---There are some Manhattan neighborhoods with gross population densities exceeding 100,000 per square mile, and a number that exceed 200,000 per square mile. These are primarily on the Upper West and Upper East Sides, which are the highest income areas with the highest prices for flats in New York City.

---The combined population density for Manhattan and The Bronx is nearly 45,000 per square mile, 71 percent of the Paris figure (Paris covers little more than 1/2 as much land).

Portions of Brooklyn, Queens or The Bronx contiguous to Manhattan might form a “sub-region” with land area equal to Paris but with greater population -- that is, with greater population density.

We’ll conclude with the following opinion:

If “Paris is at least 2.5 times as dense as New York” typifies the analytical sophistication of “The Public Purpose” and “Demographia,” then people who quote these sites as “authoritative” jeopardize their own credibility by doing so.

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