Drumbeat of Growth: How Much Have Austin’s City Limits Expanded?

Austin skyline 2015

Just as the Austin City Limits Music Festival has grown from its inaugural year of 2002 to 2015, so too have Austin’s city limits.

In celebration of the ACL Music Festival, which is Oct. 2-4 and Oct. 9-11 this year, we decided to dive into the data and figure out just how much Austin’s city limits have grown during the festival’s 14 years of existence. The growth numbers supplied by Austin’s city demographer, Ryan Robinson, are pretty eye-opening.

From the year of ACL’s birth to this year, the land area of Austin has expanded 17.7 percent, or 48.5 square miles. That square mileage is equivalent to the size of the entire city of Fargo, ND.

ACL Music Festival

Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2014
ACL/Nick Simonite

The land area of Austin now measures 322.5 square miles, making it one of the physically biggest cities in the U.S. Back in 2002, Austin covered 274 square miles.

The expansion of Austin’s city limits is even more impressive from 2000 — two years before ACL launched — to 2015. According to Robinson’s data, the land area of Austin increased by 57 square miles during that period, or 21.7 percent. That jump in square mileage is equivalent to the size of the entire city of Daytona Beach, FL.

Addition by Annexation

“Land area expansions are, of course, the result of annexations, and our overall population growth owes about 35 percent of its growth to annexation,” Robinson says.

Will Austin keep expanding so dramatically by annexation? Maybe not, according to Robinson.

“My sense is that our overall annexation policy and philosophy may be changing. There seems to be a bit more pushback than what there was in the past,” he says.

Here are a few other ways we sliced and diced the historical spread of Austin’s city limits.

Austin City Limits Infographic

Infographic Embed Code:

2000 to 2010

Land area in 2000: 265.1 square miles
Land area in 2010: 307.5 square miles
Percentage increase in land area: 16%
Square miles added: 42.4
Addition equivalent to: Entire city of Eugene, OR

1990 to 2015

Land area in 1990: 226.3
Land area in 2015: 322.5
Percentage increase in land area: 42.5%
Square miles added: 96.2
Addition equivalent to: Entire city of Milwaukee, WI

1900 to 2015

Land area in 1900: 16.5
Land area in 2015: 322.5
Percentage increase in land area: 1,855%
Square miles added: 306
Addition equivalent to: Entire city of New York City, NY

Below is a year-by-year and decade-by-decade look at how Austin’s city limits have changed, along with the city’s population and population density. And to celebrate the ACL Music Festival, we’ve included photos of how Austin looked during each year of the fest.

Editor’s note: Population figures were provided by the City of Austin and may differ from figures available from the U.S. Census Bureau.



Austin skyline 2015


Land area: 322.5 square miles
Population: 900,701
People per square mile: 2,793


Austin 2014

Flickr/Dave Wilson

Land area: 318.5 square miles
Population: 878,733
People per square mile: 2,759


Austin 2013

Flickr/Larry Miller

Land area: 309.8 square miles
Population: 855,215
People per square mile: 2,485


Austin 2012 skyline

Flickr/Marcus Calderon

Land area: 308.1 square miles
Population: 832,326
People per square mile: 2,701


Austin 2011 skyline


Land area: 307.8 square miles
Population: 812,025
People per square mile: 2,638


Austin 2010


Land area: 307.5 square miles
Population: 790,390
People per square mile: 2,570


Austin 2009

Flickr/Michael Calderon

Land area: 301.8 square miles
Population: 774,037
People per square mile: 2,564


Austin 2008

Flickr/Adriano Aurelio Araujo

Land area: 299.9 square miles
Population: 750,525
People per square mile: 2,503


Austin 2007

Flickr/Clay Leben

Land area: 297.6 square miles
Population: 735,088
People per square mile: 2,470


Austin 2006

Flickr/Brian Birzer

Land area: 295.7 square miles
Population: 718,912
People per square mile: 2,431


Austin 2005

Flickr/Steve Santore

Land area: 294.2 square miles
Population: 700,407
People per square mile: 2,381


Austin 2004

Flickr/Evan Bench

Land area: 290.9 square miles
Population: 692,102
People per square mile: 2,379


Austin 2003


Land area: 278.6 square miles
Population: 687,708
People per square mile: 2,468


Austin 2002


Land area: 274 square miles
Population: 680,899
People per square mile: 2,485

Pre-ACL Era


Austin skyline 2000


Land area: 265.1 square miles
Population: 656,562
People per square mile: 2,477


Austin skyline 1990

Phantom Productions

Land area: 226.3 square miles
Population: 465,622
People per square mile: 2,058


Loop 360 construction 1980

Construction of Loop 360

Land area: 128.9 square miles
Population: 345,890
People per square mile: 2,683


austin 1970

Robert Miller/TexasFreeway.com

Land area: 81.4 square miles
Population: 251,808
People per square mile: 3,094


Austin 1960

Gregg Klar

Land area: 55.8 square miles
Population: 186,545
People per square mile: 3,343


Austin 1950

University of North Texas Libraries

Land area: 37.9 square miles
Population: 132,459
People per square mile: 3,498


Austin map 1940

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Land area: 30.9 square miles
Population: 87,930
People per square mile: 2,850


Austin 1930 map

University of Texas Libraries

Land area: 20.4 square miles
Population: 53,120
People per square mile: 2,603


Austin 1920 map

University of Texas Libraries

Land area: 16.5 square miles
Population: 34,876
People per square mile: 2,114


Austin 1910

University of Texas Libraries

Land area: 16.5 square miles
Population: 29,860
People per square mile: 1,810


Austin map 1900

University of Texas Libraries

Land area: 16.5 square miles
Population: 22,258
People per square mile: 1,349

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John Egan

John Egan is the former editor in chief of LawnStarter.com. Now, he is a freelance writer extraordinaire. He lives in Austin, Texas.