Size matters – or so it is said. But when it comes to a city's population, bigger isn't necessarily better.
New U.S. Census Bureau estimates released last week show that Fresno's population grew by 6 percent between 2010 and 2017 – enough to keep it ahead of Sacramento to remain the fifth-largest city in California behind Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco.
A city's size has advantages, as population serves as one of the factors considered by state and federal governments for doling out dollars. A bigger population can serve as a magnet for a broader array of retailers who see a ready supply of potential customers, and for a greater diversity of employers who need a ready and willing work force. And, of course, there's the matter of bragging rights.
But size can also add to problems. Census estimates from 2010 through 2016 suggest that the bigger a city's population, the more congested it can get – and the longer it can take for people to get from home to work and from work to home.
Among California's six largest cities, Fresno had the shortest average commute times for residents getting to or from work – less than 21 minutes each way. By 2016, that had grown to 21.6 minutes, or a commute that took 3.8 percent longer each direction. But that was still the shortest commute time among the state's big cities – nearly two minutes shorter, each way, on average than for residents of San Diego, and almost 11 minutes shorter than San Francisco.
More than 54 percent of Fresno residents had commute times under 20 minutes; only 5 percent of Fresnans commuted an hour or more to or from their workplace.
By contrast, residents of other cities have more arduous – or at least more time-consuming – commutes:
- Sacramento: 43.5 percent commuting less than 20 minutes; 6.4 percent commuting more than 60 minutes.
- San Diego: 41.7 percent commuting less than 20 minutes; 4.5 percent commuting more than 60 minutes.
- San Jose: 30.7 percent commuting less than 20 minutes; 9.2 percent commuting more than 60 minutes.
- Los Angeles: 30.0 percent commuting less than 20 minutes; 12.6 percent commuting more than 60 minutes.
- San Francisco: 23.9 percent commuting less than 20 minutes; 14.0 percent commuting more than 60 minutes.