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One of the things that The Matrix Reloaded  is famous for is the freeway chase scene:

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My understanding is that the world within the Matrix is organized into a single, massive civic and administrative district — Mega City.

In the screenshot above, traffic in Morpheus' lanes are going towards the city. Where are the other three lanes of traffic going?

  • Probably also to Mega City. The Matrix was designed to keep humans placated, so a simulation would probably need to be very close to the "real world" of the chosen time frame. A freeway would need to have both sides, but the "other" side would probably be coded by the machines to loop back to the city, with people's memories being modified accordingly. – Chahk Nov 30 '15 at 18:12
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    Out of curiosity, what's the evidence for everyone being in a single city? Is it established in the movies or some other source like The Matrix Online? There was that scene in Reloaded where Neo took the wrong door and ended up in a monastery in the mountains somewhere, and also all the scenes of the Matrix the Architect put up on the screens at 5:06 here including things like a big Buddha statue with mountains behind it at 5:08, ppl in traditional African garb at 5:24, Russian soldiers at 5:28. – Hypnosifl Nov 30 '15 at 19:23
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    It went in a loop – Valorum Nov 30 '15 at 19:41
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Out of Universe:

The Freeways and Their Numbers:

The freeways used in the movie don't exist: They were built specifically for the film. However, the signs tell us that they are the US Interstates 101 and 103, which might be the same road at the point where the action took place. Those numbers tell us a lot about what kind of roads they would be in real life:

  • Major interstate highways are assigned one- or two-digit numbers. North-South roads have odd numbers, with low numbers in the west, high numbers in the east. East-West roads have even numbers, with low numbers in the south, high numbers in the north.

  • Interstates that branch off major, long-distance routes are assigned three-digit numbers. The last two digits reflect the "parent" road from which they branch off; the first digit reflects the function of the secondary road. If the first digit is odd, the road runs directly to a city; if the first digit is even, it runs around a city in a "loop" or "ring road".

With this in mind, we can say that, in the real world, the 101 and 103 would be:

  • North-South roads in the far west of the state

  • Secondary roads that branch off of interstates 1 and 3 (which are major long-distance routes running North-South in the far west of the state)

  • Spurs that run directly into one or more cities.


In- and Out- of Universe:

The Fictional Location of Mega City:

The events of the Matrix take place almost exclusively in Mega City. This city is an amalgam of several real-world metropolises thrown together and mixed with fictional features. The main real-world inspirations were Sydney, Australia; Chicago, Illinois; and Alameda/Oakland, California.

  • Sydney: This was the principal filming location for the trilogy; with the exception of the highway scene we're talking about here, the entire franchise was shot in Sydney. Although the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge were digitally removed from the film, many other landmarks are visible, and signage occasionally displays British English - using "lift" instead of "elevator", "authorised" instead of "authorized", etc.

  • Chicago: The Wachowskis' hometown. In early drafts of the script, the city in which the story takes place was explicitly identified as Chicago, and most of the location names used in the films are references to places, roads, landmarks, etc, in Chicago. When Tank is giving Cypher directions to a phone in the first movie, the map on his screen shows Chicago's Lake Michigan shoreline.

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  • Oakland/Alameda: The filming location of the freeway scenes. The freeways are identified as the 101 and 103 in dialogue and on road signs. One sign seen onscreen says ""Whipple Ave ½, Woodside Rd 1½, Marsh Road 3¾". In real life, these roads connect to the real Highway 101 near San Francisco. Highway 101 is California's longest highway. It runs through San Francisco, which is the sister city and neighbor of Oakland/Alameda, and is notable for being the road which crosses the San Francisco Bay over the famous Golden Gate Bridge (although it doesn't pass through Alameda or Oakland).

If we want to speculate on the real location of Mega City, it seems most logical to assume that it is in California: in Reloaded, when Neo needs to get to the freeway from the Merovingian's mansion, he is told to fly "500 miles due south". The mansion is located in an enormous mountain range, surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Of Illinois, New South Wales, and California, only in California would it be possible to find huge mountains 500 miles north of the candidate cities.


In Universe:

Geographical Problems in The Matrix:

We don't know for sure if the Matrix is composed entirely of Mega City, or if other simulated cities exist. It is certain that all the pivotal events that take place within the Matrix in the films, aside from the visits to the Merovingian, occur in Mega City. Aside from the Merovingian and his cronies, everyone of import lives in either the "real world" (i.e., Zion and the subterranean warren of tunnels and pipelines) or Mega City. This would be odd if the Matrix included other cities.

However, there are possible indications that the Matrix does include simulations of other parts of the world:

  • There is an airport, which would be useless if the simulation was limited to one city.

  • While trying to track down Morpheus at the start of the first movie, Neo finds a newspaper that says Morpheus had eluded the authorities at Heathrow Airport. The real Heathrow is in London, so we seem to have three options here:

    • Mega City's Airport is known as Heathrow, and the newspaper wasn't referring to London

    • The paper was propaganda designed to fool people into thinking London exists

    • London does exist within the Matrix's simulation.

  • Neo also reads a story about Morpheus on a Lebanese website run by Hezbollah.

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  • In the first film, when Neo (as Thomas Anderson) is interrogated by the Agents, his passport appears onscreen, and his place of birth is listed as "Capital City, USA" (a computer screen seen in the same scene is slightly more specific, saying he was born in "Lower Downtown, Capital City"). This is immensely problematic for a number of reasons:

    • There is no "Capital City" in the US

    • The passport should tell us which state he lives in, but doesn't. This suggests that states don't exist in the Matrix's simulation of the US. This appears to support the idea that Mega City is the only city, because this state, if it exists in the Matrix, is the only state.

    • Obviously, the names "Capital City" and "Mega City" are different. I don't recall anyone in the movies using either name in their dialogue. This might be seen as confirmation of the theory that Mega City is the only city (i.e., Mega City and Capital City are one and the same, and "Mega City" is merely a colloquial term used by Redpills), or it could mean there are at least two cities (i.e., Mega and Capital), but there is a potential problem with the former interpretation, as we will see in our next point.

    • The use of the word "Capital" seemingly sets this city apart from others, and appears to imply the existence of other cities that are not the capital. However, that could be more propaganda designed to trick people into thinking there was a larger world around them.

    • More fundamentally, it seems to me that it would be difficult to fool the Matrix's inhabitants into accepting the simulation if there was only one city in it, and everyone's lives took place within this city. Imagine if no one you knew had ever lived in, or even visited, anywhere outside the place you live. No one moved in or out, no one went on vacation, no one ever went camping, or visited relatives elsewhere, or went on a road trip. Every life and death you knew of took place within an hour's drive of your home. You might have heard about events outside the city, in the present, or the near- or distant- past, but no one you knew ever saw the places where these events took place. No business or holiday trips to Rome, or Washington D.C., or New York, or London, or Tokyo, or Hawaii. The world would begin to feel claustrophobic and false very quickly, especially for anyone with a sense of wanderlust. You would read about the great explorations and journeys of Marco Polo, Columbus, Lewis and Clark, da Gama, Balboa, Magellan, etc, but you had never even left your hometown, or known anyone who had.


Conclusion:

The freeways run into Mega City, which is probably Capital City. As to where you would end up if you took the freeways out of town, we simply don't know. There are two possibilities, as I see it:

  • You would find yourself on a ring-road or loop around the outskirts of the city, with no way to reach other roads. This would mean the Interstate numbering system works differently in the Matrix than it does in the real world; this would support the theory that Mega/Capital City is all there is.

    • This might be confirmed by the fact that in at least one instance, we see an exit ramp and overpass that don't go anywhere. You might say "it still was under construction", but if this were the case, the exit - named "Paterson Pass" - wouldn't be listed on other signs already.

    • On the other hand, they might have wanted to save money on construction, and this was simply a minor goof, similar to the speed limit sign facing the wrong direction:

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  • You would be able to drive to other destinations, either on the same freeways, or by accessing the primary interstates from which they branch off. This would obviously imply that the Matrix simulates at least some other areas of the world, but we don't know how much.
  • Further reinforcing Alameda being an inspiration, those highway scenes were filmed on the decommissioned Alameda Point Navy Base. – FuzzyBoots Nov 30 '15 at 21:00
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    Wow, Wad. Do your fingers hurt after typing out these amazing answers?? – Praxis Nov 30 '15 at 22:43
  • Did anyone by chance had a look at all the locations mentioned on the signs and their distances? I can't remember seeing any that is more than a couple of miles away... – PlasmaHH Oct 12 '16 at 9:50

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