The U.S. Census bureau recently released data on daytime population changes. While these data are primarily intended to help with city planning and disaster relief efforts, they can also shed light on things like traffic patterns if you’re thinking about relocating to a new area. For example, if the daytime population of a particular city swells due to commuters, then traffic might be a major consideration, especially if you’re looking to live in an outlying area. So what do the data say? Well, the overall ‘winner’ is tiny (in terms of population) Lake Buena Vista, FL which grows by a stunning 192, 238% — to be fair, there’s only 16 permanent residents in Lake Buena Vista, while nearly 31, 000 Disney employees schlep into town each day to staff Disney World. But what about ‘normal’ cities?
New York City experiences the greatest growth in terms of the sheer number of people coming into the city each day (563, 000), but that’s only a 7% change (the population of NYC stands at ca. 8 million). The greatest daytime population growth for a major U.S. city on a percentage basis belongs to Washington, D.C. which swells 73.0% during business hours. Other major cities (= population > 500k) with large daytime population growth include Boston (41.1%), Seattle (28.4%), Denver (28.0%), Portland (23.0%), San Francisco (21.7%), Charlotte (21.2%), Houston (20.6%), Nashville (19.5%), and Austin (19.4%).
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that this is literally a two-way street… Every commuter that pulls into one town started the day in another. Thus, some cities experience a daytime decline as commuters head off to work elsewhere. For example, Aurora, CO drops 18.5%, whereas Arlington, TX declines 12.5% and San Jose loses 5.6 percent of its population during the day.
If you’re interested in looking the full data set, you can download it from the census bureau.