1.2 Distance and Scale

Ask: Are all miles “equally” distant?

Step 1: Go to the ArcGIS Online map, Distance and Scale, above to launch the map.

Distances can feel more substantial or smaller because of cultural similarities, transportation connectivity, telecommunications, and more.

Acquire: How far can you get?

Step 2: With the Details button underlined, click the button, Show Contents of Map (Content).

Step 3: Check the box to the left of the layer name, Drive Time From Boston (60, 90, 120 minutes).

  • Q13: Which major city in New Hampshire can you reach in less than an hour?
  • Q14: How long would it take to get to Providence, R.I.?

Explore: Are we taking the long way around?

Both Manchester and Worchester are at the outer edge of the 60-minute drive time zone. However, as the crow flies, it is 38 miles to Worchester and 48 miles to Manchester.

  • Q15: What city located less than 50 miles from Boston (as the crow flies), but cannot be accessed in a 120-minute drive (hint: water contributes to the time).
  • Q16: Why is travel time so long?

The other forms of transportation, such as water and air travel, might change travel time and accessibility.

Analyze: How is population density related to travel time?

Step 4: Click the button, Bookmarks. Select BOS-MHT/WOR.

Step 5: Turn on the layer, Population Density – Census Tracts.

Step 6: Compare the Population Density and Drive Time layers by turning them on and off.

  • Q17: What is the relationship between the drive time and population density?

Act: How do highways affect travel time?

Step 7: Turn off the layers, Drive Time from Boston (xx xx xx Minutes).

Step 8: Change the transparency of the Population Density – Census Tracts layers to 50 percent. From the Details pane, click the Content button. Click the three small blue dots and hover your pointer over the word “Transparency” to open a drop-down list. You can modify the transparency to see an active layer below the top layer. Set it to 50 percent.

Step 9: Click the button, Bookmarks. Select Traffic.

  • Q18: How are major roads and population distributions related?
  • Q19: Would travel be faster through a more densely populated or less densely populated area? Explain.


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Human Geography Lab Manual by R. Adam Dastrup, MA, GISP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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