Home » Brooklyn Has The Highest Density Of Gas Stations While Having Among The Lowest Density Of Car Owners

Brooklyn Has The Highest Density Of Gas Stations While Having Among The Lowest Density Of Car Owners

Brooklyn Gas Ts2
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Most places with governments (looking at you, Antarctica) run a census or other data-gathering efforts to understand the lay of the land and how society is working. The U.S. does a pretty good job of that, and has data on everything from where the water is terrible, to where you’re most likely to get a weird tropical disease. The government also keeps tabs on things like where all the gas stations are, and where people own the most cars. Compare those two statistics, though, and you find a weird hiccup in New York.

The matter comes to our attention courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. When they’re not monitoring your working habits, those diligent public servants are out counting gas stations. Really, I’m not kidding. They’ve determined that Kings County, New York, has the highest density of “establishments that are primarily gas stations (with or without a convenience store).” There are apparently 2.95 gas stations per square mile in the area. Never heard of Kings County? I’m Australian so neither had I. It’s better known as Brooklyn—that place that comes up all the time in sitcoms as a punchline I’ve never understood.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

You see, Queens County is where Queens is. Bronx County is the Bronx. Manhattan is actually New York County. And Brooklyn is Kings County. If you were curious, Staten Island is Richmond County [Ed note: No one is curious – MH]

Now here’s the weird thing. As noted by one Paul E. Williams from the Center for Public Enterprise, that’s a bit odd, as he believed Brooklyn to have one of the lowest rates of car ownership in the nation. Indeed, statistics do exist to support that. As suggested by Washington lawyer Ryan Radia, you can head over to Census.gov, and dial up table B08201— for the American Community Survey 5-year estimates. Run the numbers, and you’ll find 55.3% of households in Kings County, New York have no vehicle. That places it eighth in the nation. Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska tops the charts, with 85.9% of households having no vehicle.

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As you might expect, other New York counties rank highly too, like Queens (11th, 36.7% with no vehicle), Bronx County (6th, 60.2%) and New York County aka Manhattan (2nd, 77.9%). Indeed, Queens comes third in the nation in gas station density too, with 2.50 per square mile. New York County comes 6th with 2.34 gas stations per square mile, while Bronx County comes 7th with 2.3 gas stations per square mile.

It’s some kind of weird joke, right? The places with the least rate of car ownership have the highest amount of gas stations per square mile. I mean, after all, it’s New York. They’re walkin’ heah, right?

Well, yes and no. Even though the rates of car ownership are low, there’s still a ton of people with cars. Even if a smaller fraction of households have a car, there’s still a ton of households. The high density of gas stations is actually a co-factor of the high density of people. The high density of gas stations in Brooklyn also makes sense as New York County/Manhattan is rapidly losing gas stations due to the high value of land.

According to those Census statistics, there are 997,957 households in Kings County, for example. Sure, 55.3% of them don’t have a car. But 44.7% of them do have a car, and some of them have several. The stats tell us 350,730 households have one car available, and 76,825 have two cars available. That’s over half a million cars before you start counting the households with three or more cars available. The vast majority of those cars need gas, and thus, you get tons of gas stations.

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Basically, if you take a sample of 100 households, fewer Brooklyn households would have a car compared to a similar sample from, say, Boston or Chicago. But if you actually go to Brooklyn, there are a ton of households, and that means a ton of cars regardless.

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There are a lot of gas stations in Brooklyn; this map is non-exhaustive. Credit: Wex Online

So yes, certain counties of New York have lower-than-typical rates of car ownership, and some of the highest concentrations of gas stations in the country. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Even if fewer people own a car on average, New York’s counties tend to have a heck of a lot more people in them. And they love gasoline. Hopefully, that adequately untwists this mind-bender for you.

Image credits: Adrian Susec via Unsplash, Wex Online via Screenshot

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D-dub
D-dub
3 months ago

Kinda surprised this wasn’t already posted in the comments, or even used in the post itself.

https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/heatmap.png

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
3 months ago

How old those gas stations are vs what the car ownership level was when they were built is probably part of it too

Last edited 3 months ago by Chartreuse Bison
OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
3 months ago

Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska tops the charts, with 85.9% of households having no vehicle.

I would guess Kusilvak Census Area households have as many vehicles as any other US household, but few in Kusilvak require DMV registration.

Lightning
Lightning
3 months ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

I live in Alaska and have been in villages like those in Kusilvak Census area. The vehicles used in those communities are ATVs (4-wheelers) and snowmachines (what Alaskans call snowmobiles), which are not counted as “vehicles” by the Census.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
3 months ago

As the owner of two cars in Brooklyn, I can say firsthand that NYC is not the car-hating metropolis that it tries to come off as. Manhattan might be, but if I’m traveling between the outer boroughs, driving and parking is almost always the better way to go than the train. There’s surprisingly few incentives to reduce the number of cars you own like in other cities like San Francisco with all their residential permits

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
3 months ago

But while gas stations fill that void in other parts of the country, NYC is especially known for the bodegas or corner stores that are *everywhere*. You don’t need gas stations to fill this role because they’re lots of better alternatives

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
3 months ago

As a veteran of alternate side parking in Brooklyn, I can tell you for certain that per square mile there are plenty of cars in Brooklyn, and the gas stations aren’t exactly evenly distributed. In fact, every so often, somebody tries to fit a few more cars into Brooklyn and the whole place comes to a screeching halt.

As for this “ If you were curious, Staten Island is Richmond County [Ed note: No one is curious – MH]” Staten Island is really part of New Jersey.

Steve Lee
Steve Lee
3 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

New Jersey doesn’t want Staten Island either.

John
John
3 months ago

As the old joke goes, “No one drives in New York City, there’s too much traffic.”

Last edited 3 months ago by John
John
John
3 months ago

As someone who’s family hails from Staten Island, I can confirm that no one was curious.

Gordon Mitchell
Gordon Mitchell
3 months ago

Is gas even how these places make money? Cigs, booze, snacks is probably what most patrons are doing there I would think.

DadBod
DadBod
3 months ago

All gas stations make their money off snacks, booze, etc, the gas is incidental. But like the article says, there are tons of cars in Brooklyn

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
3 months ago

Also, aren’t there a lot of people that commute into the various boroughs of New York City? They don’t live in the city, but presumably need to buy gas on occasion. I don’t find it odd that a city that attracts millions of daily commuters would have a lot of gas stations per capita.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
3 months ago
Reply to  Stig's Cousin

From the data I found, there are around 4 million people that commute into New York City on a daily basis (that is pre-COVID data; it is less now due to work from home). It is a fair assumption that many (most) are commuting by rail, but that is still a lot of additional cars on the road. There are also other non-commuter visitors as well (tourists, people visiting family, etc.). Not to mention cabs, Uber drivers, delivery drivers etc. who probably disproportionately do not live in the city.

It seems like there should be a lot of non-New Yorkers on NYC streets at any given time. I would be curious to know what percent of miles driven on NYC streets are being driven by NYC residents. I wonder if it is even half? It would be interesting to know that.

I still presume gas stations are disproportionate to New York’s effective population, but as someone already said, many of these are probably small stations with a few pumps. One Buc-ee’s presumably is equivalent to 25+ New York City gas stations.

Last edited 3 months ago by Stig's Cousin
AlterId
AlterId
3 months ago
Reply to  Stig's Cousin

That’s about the number I remember seeing too, although I’m not sure if that was just Manhattan’s daytime population (so around 2.5 million inbound commuters, tourists, etc) or all five boroughs. Regardless, it means that New York’s relatively low urban crime rate is even lower than reported because statistics don’t really measure crimes per person per hour or so. (Then again, including white-collar crime would bump the rate right back up.)

Dan Manwich
Dan Manwich
3 months ago
Reply to  Stig's Cousin

I know there’s a million reasons it shouldn’t and couldn’t happen but I would cherish the absurdity of building a Buc-ee’s in Brooklyn.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago

Even if less people own a car

Fewer, please. 🙂

Some of these gas stations may be there simply through inertia: they were built N years ago and have not disappeared or been repurposed. Lewin mentioned the decrease happening in Manhattan, but it would be interesting to see the average age of a gas station in Brooklyn. However, I think it would be tricky to sort the long-standing stations (that have been several different brands over the years) from the newly-constructed stations.

Mike
Mike
3 months ago

All this article does is demonstrate how statistics can be misleading. According to the Wex site you linked to, there are 9 (nine) gas stations in Manhattan, with only 2 of them below 110th st. For over 1.6 million people. Sure, most of those people don’t own cars, but for context: There are about 13 thousand yellow cabs (the only ones allowed below 96th st) and 2 gas stations.

Martin Ibert
Martin Ibert
3 months ago

As you correctly point out, it is meaningless to look at cars per household and petrol stations per square ~1.6-km-unit. If you look at petrol stations per unit of area, you should look at cars per unit of area too, and then of course it all begins to make sense.

77 Dodge Aspen
77 Dodge Aspen
3 months ago

Why not overlay ‘gas station density’ with ‘car density’ and see where BK lands?

Or, for grad students, ‘car density vs avg. time to nearest gas station’ to solve for urban vs suburban/rural traffic flow.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago

In the town I work in, there’s a four-way intersection with a gas station on each corner. I’ve only seen one other instance of this, but two of them went away.
Anyone else have a four-corner gas station intersection?

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago

No, but I have a friend who was a Lutheran minister in Corpus Christie, TX, home of Whataburger.

He said he could stand in the intersection his church was located at, look in all four directions the streets went, and each way, he could see a Whataburger.

10001010
10001010
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I once spent 6 mos in Corpus for work and can confirm that there are Whataburgers absolutely everywhere but you’re out of luck if you want a Jack in the Box.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Why would you want Jack In The Box when you could have Whataburger?!?

10001010
10001010
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Normally I consider them to be about the same but the whole time I was there JitB had a Sourdough Jack commercial that I swear played during every commercial break and I just really wanted one but at the time (around 15 yo) there wasn’t a single JitB within 50 miles of Corpus.

You know what else the Corpus area has a TON of? Dairy Queens, and not just your usual DQs but fancy ones with frescos painted on the walls and model trains on wall mounted tracks circling the whole restaurant and multiple dining rooms and fancy salsa bars. I ate a bunch of steak finger baskets while I was there.

AssMatt
AssMatt
3 months ago
Reply to  10001010

I used to see Sonic ads all the dang time and it really made me want to eat there but there wasn’t a Sonic in the state. Drove me nuts. I don’t understand how broadcast advertising works.

10001010
10001010
3 months ago
Reply to  AssMatt

Also had this problem 20 yo with Applebees and for years we felt we were really missing out. Then they finally opened an Applebees in Houston and it turns out we weren’t missing much.

Same can be said for In-n-Out.

DadBod
DadBod
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Because Whataburger tastes like dog food?

JumboG
JumboG
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Why would you go to either one?

Salaryman
Salaryman
3 months ago
Reply to  10001010

In Canada, we have that with Tim Hortons.

RKranc
RKranc
3 months ago

We’ve got one where there are three with a sleazy car dealer on the fourth corner (which was a station at some point.) Given how busy they all seem to be I doubt any are going away any time soon.

10001010
10001010
3 months ago

What about gas pump density vs gas station density? Most of their gas station only have 2 or 4 pumps whereas around here most gas stations have 8-20 pumps not counting Buc-ee’s which has like 100+ pumps or something like that. That’s what Brooklyn needs, their own Buc-ee’s to balance things out.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago
Reply to  10001010

A Buc-ee’s in Brooklyn. Now that would be funny.

Dan Manwich
Dan Manwich
3 months ago

I can’t post memes so please just imagine the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs chart with Brooklyn Buc-ee’s replacing self-actualization.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
3 months ago

Nothing says institutional synergy like a Sheetz next to a wastewater treatment plant.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
3 months ago
Reply to  10001010

I was going to point this out. I expect that pumps per sq. mile would be a very different map. Hell, Comal county, just north of San Antonio is home to one of the larger Buc-ee’s with a Love’s Travel station just down the highway. Between just those two stations, there are >200 pumps in one sq. mile.

Chronometric
Chronometric
3 months ago

Since you are from Australia, I will help. In New York City, “Gas Station” is slang for “Hookers and Blow”.

Last edited 3 months ago by Chronometric
Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
3 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

I thought it was also synonymous with “money laundering.”

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

When I think of a gas station in Brooklyn, I imagine the one that Vinnie Terranova worked at when he checked out after the Mel Profit mess.

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
1 month ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

Geez, that is not too far off from weird extreme upper Midwest accents… can confirm I am one of them

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