City-Data Forum City Population Rank If All The Same Size (difference, states, south)
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03-09-2015, 11:31 AM
 Location: Seattle, WA 2,945 posts, read 3,603,938 times Reputation: 3248

Quote:
 Originally Posted by jbcmh81 I really wish people would read the thread. The water penalty doesn't exist if one actually looks at the numbers. The bias is against cities with very large city boundaries, not those with geographic limitations. The size of the city also really didn't matter all that much. There were examples of small-medium sized cities moving up significantly. The determining factor of the ranking is not geography, size or layout, but rather the current city boundary size. Almost all the cities that dropped have larger than average boundaries. In fact, two out of the 3 cities you mentioned (including your city of SF) as being biased against moved upwards in the ranking, so I don't understand how you think they're being punished by this measurement.
No, I just did basic math to prove how inaccurate the OP's numbers are. I'll use my location, Seattle, as an example of how misleading the numbers are.

OP gives Seattle a population of 835,829. OP states that he calculates these numbers by the following process:

"8 miles from the center is about 201 square miles, and since that's closest to the average city boundary size, that's what I used for the ranking. Here are the top 50 largest cities by population in 2010 at that size, along with the actual ranking."

So all OP is doing is taking a radius of 8 miles from a city center. This OBVIOUSLY leads to misconstrued numbers for linear cities like Seattle which is placed along a narrow isthmus. To CORRECTLY calculate Seattle's population within a 200 square mile boundary, I have simply added Seattle's neighboring cities:

Population numbers:

Seattle: 652,405 [83 square miles of land]
Bellevue: 133,992 [31 square miles of land]
Kirkland: 84,000 [17 square miles of land]
Shoreline: 54,790 [11 square miles of land]
Lynnwood: 46,485 [7 square miles of land]
Montlake Terrace: 20,674 [4 square miles of land]
Renton: 97,003 [23 square miles of land]

So if I were to expand Seattle's city boundaries to incorporate neighboring cities, Seattle would have a total of 176 square miles of land with a population of 1,089,349, putting Seattle at #13 on OP's list.

BUT given that basic math proves that OP's numbers are incorrect or inaccurate, I wouldn't use his list at all for the basis of actual population numbers. Clearly, OP's list doesn't take into account geographic limitations since I simply added Seattle's neighboring cities and arrived at a much higher population count UNDER 200 square miles.

03-09-2015, 11:51 AM
 160 posts, read 192,669 times Reputation: 215
This is a really interesting metric. I think most methodology for measuring metros, be it city proper/U.A./M.S.A/C.S.A have their problems, being useful for some purposes, misleading for others. To me, this is an interesting snapshot of metros at the intermediate between city proper/MSA designations. As with all such comparisons some metros will benefit, others will be short-changed, but it does give us some insight into the relative urban/suburban/exurban composition of the metros listed.

Just glancing through, a few things that jumped out at me:

Boston, DC, and Baltimore really move up, which I would expect, but not quite so dramatically. And while it's not a complete surprise that older denser cities would benefit, Vegas and Denver both move up pretty dramatically as well, which would not have been my first guess. (Minneapolis, as well, which I missed at first glance).

Houston slips slightly, but still a bit more than I would expect; would have thought it would have remained top ten. San Francisco and Seattle move up, but not as much as I would have thought. I would have imagined San Francisco solidly top ten as well, and Seattle close, at least top fifteen. Also surprised to see Atlanta didn't move up more, and Dallas almost out of the top twenty.

The other thing that surprised me is that Philly stays so close to Chicago over 200 sq miles. Would have thought that Chi would have been significantly further ahead, though if I'm not mistaken, Philly benefits from having some of it's most populous near 'burbs included within the boundaries, while at 200 sq miles (like NYC and LA) you're still well within the boundaries of Chicago proper, let alone Greater Chicagoland. If I'm not mistaken metro Philly/metro Chi have similar relative densities (I think. I could be mistaken), but Chicagoland obviously has a much larger footprint.

Just a couple observations on my lunchbreak. Again, interesting breakdown of the stats. Thanks for posting.

Last edited by LiveFrom215; 03-09-2015 at 12:15 PM..

03-09-2015, 11:56 AM
 Location: Seattle, WA 2,945 posts, read 3,603,938 times Reputation: 3248
Quote:
 Originally Posted by LiveFrom215 This is a really interesting metric. I think most methodology for measuring metros, be it city proper/U.A./M.S.A/C.S.A have their problems, being useful for some purposes, misleading for others. To me, this is an interesting snapshot of metros at the intermediate between city proper/MSA designations. As with all such comparisons some metros will benefit, others will be short-changed, but it does give us some insight into the relative urban/suburban/exurban composition of the metros listed. Just glancing through, a few things that jumped out at me: Boston, DC, and Baltimore really move up, which I would expect, but not quite so dramatically. And while it's not a complete surprise that older denser cities would benefit, Vegas and Denver both move up pretty dramatically as well, which would not have been my first guess. (Minneapolis, as well, which I missed at first glance). Houston slips slightly, but still a bit more than I would expect; would have thought it would have remained top ten. San Francisco and Seattle move up, but not as much as I would have thought. I would have imagined San Francisco solidly top ten as well, and Seattle close, at least top fifteen. Also surprised to see Atlanta didn't move up more, and Dallas almost out of the top twenty. The other thing that surprised me is that Philly stays so close to Chicago over 200 sq miles. Would have thought that Chi would have been significantly further ahead, though if I'm not mistaken, Philly benefits from having some of it's most populous near 'burbs included within the boundaries, while at 200 sq miles (like NYC and LA) your still well within the boundaries of Chicago proper, let alone Greater Chicagoland. If I'm not mistaken metro Philly/metro Chi have similar relative densities (I think. I could be mistaken), but Chicagoland is obviously has a much larger footprint. Just a couple observations on my lunchbreak. Again, interesting breakdown of the stats. Thanks for posting.
Look at my analysis above. OP's numbers are incorrect. San Francisco/Seattle and other water-locked cities are clearly misled by OP's radial calculation.

03-09-2015, 12:00 PM
 Location: The City 21,959 posts, read 30,846,027 times Reputation: 7495
Quote:
 Originally Posted by GatsbyGatz Look at my analysis above. OP's numbers are incorrect. San Francisco/Seattle and other water-locked cities are clearly misled by OP's radial calculation.
not sure misled. Think just another way to evaluate things - none are perfect.

SF really seems odd to me. the numbers you posted for Seattle would sort of make sense with an average density around 5K +/- ppsm

I am curious to see more of the calculation here - it would seem water has to be a factor, as would be parks, industrial space, airports, refineries etc.

03-09-2015, 12:02 PM
 Location: Miami Beach, FL/Tokyo, Japan 1,699 posts, read 1,483,103 times Reputation: 699
Miami is conspicuously low even though if we use the metric UA, or even MSA/CSA it tends to be one of the top 5 or top 10.

Maybe it's because the city is shaped like a rectangle, it does far worse when a circle radius is applied to it. In contrast I noticed Minneapolis being "bigger" on this list. Which is the opposite you feel when you visit both cities, Miami feels much larger. Probably this is due to Minneapolis being a river city and it spreads like a circle.

03-09-2015, 12:06 PM
 Location: Seattle, WA 2,945 posts, read 3,603,938 times Reputation: 3248
Quote:
 Originally Posted by SDPMiami Miami is conspicuously low even though if we use the metric UA, or even MSA/CSA it tends to be one of the top 5 or top 10. Maybe it's because the city is shaped like a rectangle, it does far worse when a circle radius is applied to it. In contrast I noticed Minneapolis being "bigger" on this list. Which is the opposite you feel when you visit both cities, Miami feels much larger. Probably this is due to Minneapolis being a river city and it spreads like a circle.
OP's radial calculation is a flawed measure and can only work for cities that have a population laid out perfectly around the city center. For any city that has it's city center located not at its center (Seattle, San Francisco, Miami, etc.) this form of calculation is completely wrong and misleading.

03-09-2015, 12:29 PM
Quote:
 Originally Posted by GatsbyGatz Look at my analysis above. OP's numbers are incorrect. San Francisco/Seattle and other water-locked cities are clearly misled by OP's radial calculation.
What do you mean the numbers are wrong? You just don't like the metric being used, which is understandable because it clearly hurts Seattle more than other cities.

I am with the others that think the radius tool is an interesting measurement, doesn't necessarily mean that list is the definitive "biggest, densest cities list".

Btw, LA would be "hurt" by this metric as well with the Santa Monica mountains being snack dab in the middle of the city's circle - plus the city's western oriented growth means many of the densest tracts on the Westside are left out and lower density suburbs and neighborhoods like Alhambra and Eagle Rock would be included.

Like many posters said, no metric is 100 percent perfect. This is still a very interesting thread.

Last edited by munchitup; 03-09-2015 at 12:57 PM..

03-09-2015, 12:39 PM
 Location: Chicago 2,357 posts, read 2,016,629 times Reputation: 2181
Quote:
 Originally Posted by LiveFrom215 The other thing that surprised me is that Philly stays so close to Chicago over 200 sq miles. Would have thought that Chi would have been significantly further ahead, though if I'm not mistaken, Philly benefits from having some of it's most populous near 'burbs included within the boundaries, while at 200 sq miles (like NYC and LA) you're still well within the boundaries of Chicago proper, let alone Greater Chicagoland. If I'm not mistaken metro Philly/metro Chi have similar relative densities (I think. I could be mistaken), but Chicagoland obviously has a much larger footprint.
Yes and no. I'd have to look at a map, but, if the OP used city hall as Chicago's center, the circle might have extended into some of the western suburbs like Oak Park and Cicero, while still losing other further out parts the city. A bit less than half of the circle would also be the lake if city hall was used.

03-09-2015, 12:40 PM
 Location: Minneapolis 1,704 posts, read 2,632,411 times Reputation: 2325
This is a very interesting list that I'm sure the OP is not intending to be taken as cold hard facts of life. I'm obviously not surprised to see a lot of anger especially from Miami, Seattle, and San Diego posters, because this is City-Data and that's what always happens and this is a metric that isn't particularly kind to those cities. But come on, that doesn't mean it has ZERO VALUE AND WE MUST IGNORE IT, it's just a set of data that tells us something about how American cities compare to one another.

Regarding the water issue (which is also a mountains issue, I'm surprised no one has really brought that up): you're kind of getting worked up over nothing. I really don't mean this in a mean-spirited way, like I understand the reaction, it's not a dataset that reflects the complete picture of your city. However I don't see how it's any less accurate a picture than the monumentally skewed city proper definitions that people defend their cities with every single day on this website? Honestly it's considerably more accurate.

Every other day a thread comes along trying to compare Indianapolis to San Francisco because their city proper populations are about the same, or someone argues that Miami is not a major city because it happens to have small city limits. People don't tend to remember that the City of London has a grand total of 11k residents.

This at least is a metric defined mathematically. It's true that coastal and mountainous cities are at a disadvantage, but that's the fault of the coasts and mountains, not the data or methodology. The fact that Seattle is a linear city doesn't change the fact that more people live close to Denver's core. Again, that's not Seattle's fault, that's not the fault of bad methodology, that's simply the result of building a city where Seattle is built - which, let's keep in mind, is almost universally seen as an incredibly great location for a city to be.

To phrase it another way: If you took population measurements of the closest 200 square miles to downtown Seattle, I'm sure you would get a much bigger number, but you would also be including a TON of people who live much further from downtown Seattle than all the people included in this list live from downtown Denver.

What I really want to see is a population metric that uses like... density... change? Something like that? Change in density (per square mile)? Does that make sense? So for example, we define density classes Urban, Suburban, and Rural, and then the limits of the population zone would be the point where Urban becomes Suburban or Suburban becomes Rural. That's a very rushed and bad way of explaining this, but maybe someone else can help me out.

03-09-2015, 12:41 PM
 Location: Vineland, NJ 8,386 posts, read 9,964,665 times Reputation: 5230
Quote:
 Originally Posted by LiveFrom215 The other thing that surprised me is that Philly stays so close to Chicago over 200 sq miles. Would have thought that Chi would have been significantly further ahead, though if I'm not mistaken, Philly benefits from having some of it's most populous near 'burbs included within the boundaries, while at 200 sq miles (like NYC and LA) you're still well within the boundaries of Chicago proper, let alone Greater Chicagoland. If I'm not mistaken metro Philly/metro Chi have similar relative densities (I think. I could be mistaken), but Chicagoland obviously has a much larger footprint.
It's not really that surprising when you think about it. Posters have proven on many threads that the population gap between Chicago and Philly isn't that large if both cities are given the same land boundaries.
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