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How to Calculate the Distance Between Two Cities

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Calculate Distance Between Two Cities

Currently, there are several different ways to calculate distances between two locations. These methods will depend on what you’re trying to determine, whether you’re hoping to get the straight-line distance or driving distance between two addresses. The information will also depend on the mapping details you’re using to determine the length: city names, addresses, coordinates, or other data points.

Hands Holding Map With Pin Locations

Standard Methods of Calculating Distance

There are a few standard methods of calculating the distance between two points or addresses on a map.

Great Circle Distance

This method of calculating distance is the shortest distance between any two points on a sphere. Typically, this method determines driving directions, offering the shortest route between two points. It is critical to note that the great circle distance differs from the straight line distance. Drive time and drive distance are also different concepts, with the drive time being the amount of time it would take you to drive from one location to the other. The drive distance is the geographic length of the journey. Typically, the drive time is longer than the drive distance; construction, traffic, and other delays can add time to the travel time.

Straight Line Distance

This definition includes the distance between two points without considering any geographic issues or obstructions that could be in the way. Many times, this distance measurement is called the line of sight. To calculate the straight-line distance between two points, draw a line between both cities and measure the line’s length.

Remember, as this measurement method doesn’t factor in significant disruptions or obstacles, the straight-line distance could include bodies of water, major infrastructure, or mountains in the calculation. As such, your straight-line distance between two cities will always become significantly shorter than the distance traveled to reach the destination (especially if you’re trying to compare this distance with the driving distance.

GPS Coordinates

GPS Coordinates

Different GPS devices will help users calculate the distance between two locations. A GPS device will triangulate the position using different signals from satellites and use these details to determine the distance between two points. Although GPS is relatively accurate, measurements can be affected by interference from trees or buildings. With the fluctuations due to the interference, GPS isn’t always 100% accurate.

Mapping Software

Many mapping programs will allow users to input location-specific data into the software. After inputting the data, users can use the measurement functionality to calculate the distance between two addresses on the map. Most distances will display in kilometers and miles over the line you establish or can help users determine the driving directions.


There are several ways to determine the distance between two cities on a map. The method you use to calculate this distance largely depends on the information you’re trying to resolve. All lengths are slightly different; some ways only consider the closest calculation, while others will include traffic and construction limitations on the drive. Knowing which method to use can help you ensure accuracy and efficiency.

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