Sunday, September 27, 2009

McDs as Density Indicator

It's interesting to make connections between mapping and healthy communities. In this case it's not just health in terms of people (such as this correlation between parks and obesity) - but factoring in local business, access to fresh/healthy food, and even the idea of non-drive through oriented business. The always fantastic Strange Maps offers a slice of this view, using a map of 'The McFarthest Place' in the contiguous United States. This map case a look at geographical distribution of McDonalds of which there are 13,000 or so in the US.

:: image via Strange Maps

From Strange Maps: "This map is the brainchild of Stephen Von Worley, who got to thinking about the strip malls sprawling out along I-5 in California’s ever less rural Central Valley: “Just how far can you get from generic convenience? And how would you figure that out?” His yardstick for that thought experiment would be the ubiquitous Golden Arches of McDonald’s – still the world’s largest hamburger chain, and to cite Von Worley, the “inaugural megacorporate colonizer of small towns nationwide.” That’s not the whole story: like other convenience providers aimed at the motorised consumer such as gas stations and motels, McDonald’ses have a notable tendency to occur on highways and, specifically, to cluster at their crossroads."

Having grown up in North Dakota, where a 3-4 hour one-way drive isn't uncommon for a quick 'day trip' it's not a surprise that this McFarthest Place comes from that general vicinity of the upper Great Plains - in this case South Dakota amidst the badlands. The exact coordinates are on the post (N 45.45955 W 101.91356) leaving a 145 mile drive to McDonalds (which probably sounds pretty good if stranded in the desolation of the Badlands for a week or so). I've roughly shown this on the map below - and it's also interesting to see how it is equidistant the parallel freeways.

:: image via Google Earth (additional info added by L+U)

The lack of people, coupled with large land area, leads to a specific indication of the density of the US - obviously as the marketing muscle of McDonalds to interject themselves in close proximity to population centers. A quick glance at the map will obviously lead you to some of the less dense areas of the country: More: "This map moreover demonstrates that the spread of McD’s closely mirrors the population density of the Lower 48, the most notable overall feature of which is the sudden transition, along the Mississippi, of a relatively densely populated eastern half to a markedly less populated western half of the country. Some notable ‘dark spots’ in McDensity east of the Mississippi are the interior of Maine, the Adirondack region of New York state, a large part of West Virginia, and the Everglades area of southern Florida."

It may be the best bet if you want to get away from it all - to get as far away from the McDonalds. I actually remember seeing something like this for Wal-Mart as well - which probably has a totally different set of socio-economic markers on location.


  1. Jason, here is the link to the Walmart growth map you mentioned.

  2. Thanks Adam. I know I posted on it at one point but for the life of me can't find it on the blog.


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