The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


DC's daytime population is over a million

According to a US Census report, the District of Columbia's daytime population, including commuters, swells to over 1,000,000. The difference between DC's day and night populations is second greatest in the US.

Downtown DC.

The report dates from 2010 so the numbers are surely a bit different today. With DC's (then) nighttime residential population of 584,400, its 1,046,036 daytime population represents a 79% increase. Among US counties, only New York County (Manhattan) has a larger percentage increase.

Arlington looks much the same. Its 26% increase in daytime population is 13th largest nationally. That's higher than San Francisco on the list.

At the other end of the spectrum, two DC suburbs top the list of places with decreased daytime population. Dale City and Centreville in Northern Virginia both drop by over 40%, making them America's ultimate bedroom communities.

Montgomery County's Germantown is Maryland's top entrant on that list; it clocks in at #20, with a decrease of 31%.

Part of the explanation for this is simply where boundaries are drawn. For example, even though Houston has a large downtown with many commuters, it doesn't appear on the increased daytime population list because the City of Houston annexed so many of its suburbs that more of its commuters still technically live within the city limits. Likewise, Houston's Harris County is gigantic and more or less envelopes the entire metropolis, so there's little difference at the county level either.

Geographically smaller jurisdictions in large metropolitan areas are disproportionately more likely to show up in this data. So it's not a great comparison of commuting patterns across different metropolitan regions. But it's nonetheless interesting to know.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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Does this come as a surprise to anyone on the planet? Kinda the ultimate in 'duh' news stories.

It really would be nice if DC could annex surrounding communities like other cities do- it really is one giant metropolis, and putting governance all under one roof would make regional planning a hell of a lot easier and efficient. Of course, that would mean subjecting the entire region to the DC Council and Congress, so maybe the District's inability to do so is a blessing in disguise.

by Zeus on May 16, 2014 4:35 pm • linkreport

I actually replicated that calculation with more recent data: 2012 population: 632,323
2012 commuters (1-year average): 470,251
daytime population: 1,102,574

See downloadable "park acreage..." table at for file that includes (as separate tab) similar figures for 100 largest US cities.

by Abby on May 16, 2014 5:22 pm • linkreport

Does anyone not know this?

by Kane on May 16, 2014 5:51 pm • linkreport

@Zeus, I had the opposite thought: even annexing just Arlington and Alexandria would be enough to radically change the composition of the DC Council. Congress would still be a problem, but then again they always are.

by cminus on May 16, 2014 6:10 pm • linkreport

Abby's point is a good one. Most planners figure parkland ratio by resident population but it is more accurate to consider daytime population. DC does well either way but some other high-commuter cities like Atlanta and Pittsburgh -- and of course Manhattan -- show up as being even needier than traditionally thought.

by Peter on May 17, 2014 9:06 am • linkreport

Federal employees can't afford to live in the city. It's very simple. The Height Act has capped available housing and we are forced to live at the far ends of the Metro in order to financially afford our jobs.

by Redline SOS on May 18, 2014 12:44 pm • linkreport

The median federal salary ($75,000) is significantly higher than the annual wage ($58,000) required to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in DC.

by Scoot on May 18, 2014 1:03 pm • linkreport

A two-bedroom in a safe DC neighborhood costs at least $2,100/month.

by Babu on May 19, 2014 8:26 pm • linkreport

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