AP Human Geography: Transportation and Scale

Activity: Explore how not all distances are equally distant in this geoinquiry which focuses on travel times from Boston, Massachusetts to nearby cities. Students will view population density in relation to transportation networks and see how this can impact travel time. Students will also explore the global pattern of road transportation, and how large population centers will have more roads and also more highways to improve travel times.


Connections can be made to a local context by having students go to page 9 of the Wyoming counties and towns story map, or by using this Wyoming Atlas app. Unlike Boston, population density is not a problem in Wyoming, but mountains may be!

  • Have the students click the Near Me button
  • The button will prompt them to type in a Wyoming town (or click on map to select a location) and then it will tell them which other towns are within 50 miles.
  • Then they can move a slider to increase the distance to 100 miles, then to 150 miles of their town.
  • Ask the students which town will take the longest to drive to? It might not be the one that is furthest away. What other factors, besides straight "as the crow flies" distance might affect how long it takes to get to other Wyoming towns?
  • Possible answers: reservoirs and lakes (road has to go around); mountains (road may have switchbacks and slower speed limits); canyons (roads may have slower speed limits). 
  • Sheridan, Wyoming is a good example with mountains. If students click on Sheridan with the Near Me tool and move the slider to 150 miles,  Moorcroft to the east is one of the furthest towns (148 miles), wherease the town of Lovell (to the west) is only 99 miles away. However, if students use Google Maps to find the drive time, Moorcroft is 1 hour 52 minutes (148 miles), but Lovell is 2 hours and 4 minutes (99 miles). This is because the Bighorn Mountains lie between Sheridan and Lovell, but there are mostly open plains between Sheridan and Moorcroft, as well as Interstate 90 with faster speed limits. 
  • Hulett, Wyoming is  another example with reservoirs.  If students click on this town in northeastern Wyoming with the Near Me tool, the results say that the town of Pine Haven is 35 miles away, and the town of Beulah is 38 miles away. However, if students use Google Maps to find the drive time, it's 43 minutes to Beulah (38 miles) and 48 minutes to Pine Haven (35 miles) because the road has to detour around Keyhole Reservoir. 

AP Human Geography benchmark: APHG:1.B. Major geographical concepts underlying the geographical perspective (scale, location, and place)


Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to visualize and analyze variations in the time-space compression.