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Phoenix Area Considered A 'Megaregion'

Commuting is a lot more than a daily hassle. It is a way to measure economic growth and needs of a growing population. Phoenix is in a “megaregion,” an area where commutes are being used as a proxy for economic activity, according to Betsy Mason, National Geographic contributor and science journalist.

Mason studies maps and said that in Phoenix, people are not just commuting within the metro area, but also increasingly between connecting cities from Phoenix to Tucson and Flagstaff and even Page.

It is easier for people from Phoenix to understand what a megaregion is because people are used to traveling between where they work and live. As Phoenix continues to grow, its importance grows economically, Mason said.

“I think it’s probably in the best interest of Phoenix to strengthen the connections with the surrounding areas and become a bigger economic engine,” Mason said.

As spending for infrastructure and transit needs increase, being part of a megaregion means investing in the areas between cities becomes as important as within the major Phoenix metro area, she said.

One curious find, according to Mason's research, is while the Phoenix megaregion spans from the northern to southern part of the state, the town of Morenci stands alone as a megaregion, driven primarily by the economic impact of the Morenci mine, which keeps the town fairly self-contained.

Heather van Blokland was a host at KJZZ from 2016 to 2021.