Landsat satellite data are frequently used by regional and state officials to monitor and measure urban growth. Data acquired over the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1988 and 2011 illustrate the expansion of the population centers in a major economic region of the Upper Midwest.
In the 1950s and 1960s the region relied heavily on industrial activity. Automobile plants and grain mills dominated the economic growth of communities. The population of the greater Twin Cities area, including 334 smaller cities and townships, was approximately 1,482,030 in 1960. As the industrial plants declined, many people moved to the suburbs for retail jobs and lower living costs.
The slow decline changed with the growth of high tech, finance, and information technology industries. The many suburbs grew together and became known as the “Greater Twin Cities.” By 2011 the population had grown to 3,655,558. Improved transportation options facilitated the growth.
Planners and commercial analysts are using the Landsat data to mark the changes and to plan future transportation options and ways to accommodate the increased demand for services.