City-Data Forum What defines how large or small a city 'feels?' (fit in, apartments)
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01-01-2017, 06:43 AM
 Location: Towson, MD 2 posts, read 1,195 times Reputation: 10

I've been thinking about how some cities feel larger than other, and wanted to figure out the criteria for why this is.

It's obviously not just geographic area, as that would put NYC and Kansas City, MO together [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...ities_by_area].

It's partly population, since the cities with smaller populations tend to have a smaller feel than those with larger populations [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...by_population]. However, a city's population could be spread out over a large area, making it not 'feel' as large (like Anchorage).

I have two other theories that are a bit more interesting...

The first is percent of the country. So, NYC would be a little less than 3% of the country ((8,500,000 / 300,000,000) * 100 = 2.83̅3̅), and then it would go down from there, as population goes down. This would initially seem equivalent to population, except that it could allow someone to compare the feel of cities in different countries. A 'big city' in Sweden will be very different that a 'big city' in the US [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...ited_Nations)], so perhaps a percent, rather than simply how many people, would be a better statistic.

The other theory is population density. This would seem to make sense, as it's about how many people fit into a small area. A higher population density means that there are more people in a smaller area, so it should have a bigger feel, right? Part of what gives NYC its feel is its population density: imagine if NYC had only 4,250,000 people in the same area or if NYC's area was twice as large but with the same population and same distribution of that population.

Which of these do you think is correct, and what would the breakdown be for that theory in terms of huge city, large city, medium city, smaller city, small city, town, etc?

01-01-2017, 07:32 AM
 Location: Pennsylvania USA 400 posts, read 272,173 times Reputation: 379
Other than population, there are many other factors that determine a city's real size, such as proximity to other urban areas, higher education institutions, state and federal government bodies, major and minor league sports teams, airport and seaport freight volume, corporate headquarters, amenities, celebrities, and other factors. These all can boost a city. So, population isn't the only factor for determining true city size.

Also, urban area population defined by the US Census (search US Wiki Urban Population) is a much better measure of true city size because many cities have significant population just outside their city limits.

01-02-2017, 08:18 AM
 Location: Towson, MD 2 posts, read 1,195 times Reputation: 10
Quote:
 Originally Posted by g500 Other than population, there are many other factors that determine a city's real size, such as proximity to other urban areas, higher education institutions, state and federal government bodies, major and minor league sports teams, airport and seaport freight volume, corporate headquarters, amenities, celebrities, and other factors. These all can boost a city. So, population isn't the only factor for determining true city size.
So, I've been in one of those modes lately where I try to see what the 'utopian city' would be for me. If I'm looking for a big, but not overwhelming city, what should I look for besides population/population density that would add it to a potential list, ignoring other important factors?

Also, what do you mean by "state and federal government bodies?"

Quote:
 Originally Posted by g500 Also, urban area population defined by the US Census (search US Wiki Urban Population) is a much better measure of true city size because many cities have significant population just outside their city limits.
Are you referring to this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_area ? If so, coming from a suburb of NYC in NJ, I don't fully understand. While yes, I am part of the "New York metropolitan area," (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Yo...ropolitan_area), there is definitely a difference between where I am and the City. How can I be included in the NYC Urban Area population, if the feel is so different from that of the city?

01-02-2017, 12:54 PM
 Location: USA 2,753 posts, read 2,221,064 times Reputation: 2135
How busy a highway is and how the skyline / cityscape looks.

01-03-2017, 07:44 AM
 Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside) 12,436 posts, read 11,933,106 times Reputation: 10542
In my own experience, how large a city feels comes down to the size of its urban core. I define urban core to be the area inclusive of the CBD plus any walkable mixed-use neighborhoods that surround it.

This is why a lot of Sun Belt cites can feel smaller - once even broad city limits are accounted for and you compare metro to metro. In some extreme examples (like say Phoenix, or Oklahoma City) the first real ring of neighborhoods past downtown is essentially suburbia.

01-03-2017, 07:50 AM
 7,713 posts, read 4,572,099 times Reputation: 8423
Density of built form and amenities.

01-03-2017, 09:43 AM
 Location: Terramaria 774 posts, read 842,613 times Reputation: 910
To me the biggest cities have a sizeable core with many blocks of skyscraper canyons, a nice belt of mid-density with a mixture of rowhouses/townhouses/walkup apartments with many mom-and-pop retail establishments along with an occasional highrise and some industrial areas (imo the signature portion of what defines a city), followed by some "semi-walkable" zones dominated by bungalows/craftsman with main streets (think streetcar suburbs), and then the true suburbs begin with the occasional edge city that are near circumferential highways, with commuter suburbs beyond those. IMO Parks and rivers serve as good buffers between those zones as described above.

That's why NYC/Chicago and LA feel large in different ways, the former with the traditional method while LA has numerous mini-downtowns besides its main one and then a city like Jacksonville, FL feels just mid-sized due to the exaggerated official boundaries, the lack of a solid ring of mid-density development with walkable neighborhoods, and enough sprawl to not make it feel small.

Some European cities feel large in different ways, mostly due to consistent dense development without the use of highrises, due to most buildings set directly back from the sidewalk, narrow streets, or a design where the buildings seem bigger due to more underground development, not to mention the highrises more commonly found outside of the historic centers (Paris, Milan, and Moscow come to mind). A sizeable metro/heavy rail network is also an important factor, where the towns lack them and the small cities look like the larger ones for a small area in the center, an then just a couple kilometers out, you're in the countryside, not to mention the lack of international chains in the small European towns and less English usage. Meanwhile, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and Miami still feel large due to the enormous sprawl despite the lack of a real transit system, just in the sun belt style.

01-03-2017, 12:28 PM
 29,944 posts, read 27,396,115 times Reputation: 18525
Population and structural density, daytime population
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