According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the megapolitian area known as the Texas Triangle which encompasses the Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas/Forth Worth areas and the many cities in between has reached 20,852,272, which means 1 in 16 people in the United States live in the Texas Triangle. Leading the growth in actual total numbers is the DFW Metroplex which has just under half million more people than the Houston area which had the second highest growth in population for the megaregion. Austin saw the greatest growth percentage over the last decade while San Antonio’s growth has been more modest but also more consistent.
The megaregion is even larger when you include the RPA definition of the Texas Triangle megaregion which also include Oklahoma City and Tulsa, which, while geographically are separated, both are linked to the Texas Triangle economically, bringing the new megaregion total to 23,239,722. For the purpose of this article however, we have not included Oklahoma City or Tulsa. We’ve collected additional data from Megaregions: American 2050 - Regional Plan Association, UC Davis, Univ of Texas Austin, The Economist, Long Star Rising, Fortune Magazine, US Census Bureau and the State of Texas among other sources.
Of the 10 other very large megaregions in the United States, The Texas Triangle and the Southern California megaregions are relatively compact compared to others which span multiple states. For example, while the Texas Triangle takes up only the eastern half of Texas, the Great Lakes megaregion spans Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and part of Canada. Likewise the Florida megaregion takes up almost the entire state.
Over the last decade since the last Census, the Dallas / Forth Worth Metroplex grew by roughly 18% with 1.1 million new residents calling the Metroplex home, bring the total population to just over 7.5 million as of 2020. The Metroplex’s catchment area that is served by its two airports, Dallas / Forth Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field, is almost 10 million, though not all of the catchment area is part of the Texas Triangle. The Metroplex’s GDP was $511 billion in 2019.
In that same period, Houston grew by 19%, or 1.1 million new residents also, now totaling 7.2 million. The greater Houston catchment area served by Houston’a two airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Houston Hobby Airport, now totals almost 10 million, though much of the catchment areas are not necessarily also part of the Texas Triangle. For example, Beaumont, TX is not part of the Texas Triangle, but is part of the greater Houston catchment area. The Houston area GDP for 2019 was $503 billion. Houston is also home to the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center and research complex in the world at over 35 square blocks.
For Comparison both the DFW Metroplex GDP and Houston area GDP are each individually higher than the countries of Iran, Sweden, Ireland, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates or Denmark. Texas’ GPD of $2 trillion would make Texas the 8th largest economy in the world if Texas were a country, beating out the likes of Italy, Brazil, Canada, Russia, Australia or South Korea.
Next up is San Antonio with a metro area of 2.5 million, which is a 19% increase from the last census. The greater catchment area is roughly 3.3 million and it has a GDP of $137 billion.
Austin grew by 29%, the largest percentage increase within the Texas Triangle, and now has a population of 2.2 million and a catchment area of 2.7 million with a GDP of $150 billion in 2019. Austin has seen large growth in the technology sector with nearly every major tech firm having a campus in Austin, everything from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay as well as many others. Insurance companies like Progressive Insurance also have large campuses in Austin.
Following the census, Texas should pick up anywhere from 3-6 new congressional seats in the House of Representatives if these census estimates are finalized. Growth rates across the Texas Triangle have continued to climb and other areas have seen significant growth as well. Beaumont and Corpus Christi have also seen gains in their populations but are outside of the Texas Triangle, as is El Paso, Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland, Odessa and other midsized cities around Texas. While the Census Bureau won’t conclude its count for another couple weeks, these are the bureau’s official estimates based on the current count which is nearly done.
So what does a megaregion of nearly 21 million have going for it? For starters, nearly every Fortune 500 company either is headquartered in the Texas Triangle or has major offices/facilities here. The collective GDP of the Texas Triangle is estimated to be at $1.5 trillion dollars. Two-thirds of Texas’ population lives within the Texas Triangle.
In transportation, two of the world’s largest airlines have major hubs here with American at DFW and United at Houston Intercontinental in addition to Southwest operating smaller hubs at Dallas Love Field and Houston Hobby. Union Pacific and BNSF both have large train yards and massive distribution hubs in both Forth Worth and Houston. Texas Central is on the way to build the first true high-speed rail network in the United States, connecting Houston-Dallas-San Antonio-Austin together with the first leg between Dallas and Houston taking just 90 minutes to traverse using the Japanese Shinkansen trains which are being imported from Japan. 2 of the top 20 worse traffic areas of the U.S. are also located in the Texas Triangle, with Houston at number 4 and Dallas at number 7.
And it’s only going to get bigger, according to some estimates, the Texas Triangle will swell to over 35 million by 2030. Houston’s is currently the nation’s 4th largest city, but by 2030 it is expected to pass Chicago to be number three. Both the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex and the Greater Houston area have seen major job growth. During the Great Recession of 2008-2010, both metro areas still added new jobs and residents. Helping to move everyone around, Texas spends more on freeway and road construction per capita than any other state, you can track current DOT projects here. Houston is home to the Katy Freeway, nation’s largest freeway at 24 lanes wide, and is part of Interstate 10 on Houston’s westside connecting Houston to the suburb of Katy. Interstate 45 in Houston is getting ready for a $7 billion expansion running from downtown north to the Sam Houston Beltway.
Within the Texas Triangle are significant military bases as well including Fort Hood in Killeen and Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Texas overall has a very large defense industry, where 15% of all US Defense spending occurs. And while the oil industry is taking a beating right now, the energy industry in Houston is still the largest in the nation with the largest portion of petrochemicals refined and where an increasing number of wind turbines are built or distributed from to be installed across Texas, which has more wind farms than any other state. Houston is home to all the major oil and energy companies in the U.S. other than ExxonMobil as is ranked as the most diverse city in the nation with 92 foreign consulates located in Houston, more than any city than than New York City, to represent their citizens interest who live in the Houston areas.
Dallas is the new crossroads of America, with more freight and passengers passing through the Metroplex than any other area of the United States. Hard to believe when you look at Los Angeles and New York with their large populations and ports of entry, but when you add in oil bound for Houston from Oklahoma and the Dakotas, American’s Airline’s fortress mega-hub at DFW Airport, general cargo on freight trains going both east and west, plus travelers from outside the area driving on Interstates 20 and 30 crossing the Metroplex which are the busiest mid-continent freeways in the nation, the figures really add up. Add to this, nearly every major financial institution now has large offices within the Metroplex, and you can see how the Metroplex can be attractive to many seeking a better life.
San Antonio’s and Austin are expected to grow into one another becoming one combined metro area by 2030 with a future population of 6 million. Defense, technology, government and healthcare are expected to be the leading industries with tourism becoming a greater player as cities like San Antonio’s capitalize on local historical sites such as the Alamo and the Riverwalk and the many old Spanish missions dotting the area. There is even talk of closing both cities’ existing airports and building a new international airport somewhere between San Antonio and Austin with a high speed train connecting to both city centers.
Driving the growth are good weather, low taxes compared to other states, more companies relocating to Texas from California and New York, ease of doing business in Texas, the cost of living is lower than the national average, the average income is higher than the national average and a state generally known to be friendly and laid back. In just 100 years, Texas has went from 3.8 million to 29 million, that’s a 740% increase.