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Old 04-03-2009, 10:54 PM
Location: Colorado Springs,CO
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Large Cities-Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Miami, Boston, Pittsburgh, Denver, Cleveland, Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, Seattle, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Minneapolis.

Medium cities-Indianapolis, Milwaukee, San Antonio,Kansas City,Columbus, Toledo, Austin, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, Honolulu, Newark, Jersey City, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Fresno, Bakersfield, Wichita, Akron, Jacksonville, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Raliegh, El Paso, Salt Lake City ect.

Small cities-Pueblo, Springfield Illinois, Springfield Massachusetts, Worcester, Manchester, Cheyenne, Topeka, Dayton, Wichita Falls, Santa Fe, Harrisburg, Scranton, Charleston, Tacoma, Boise, Chattanooga, Clarksville, Columbia Missouri, Columbia South Carolina, ect.
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Old 04-03-2009, 11:53 PM
Location: Newtown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
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Good idea for a topic. I was even thinking about talking about something like this but you beat me to it!

I would put the minimum requirement for a large city at 300,000, provided it has a metro area of at least 1 million. To call a city mid-sized would probably make it at least 50,000 people, and a small city would be less than that. Of course, these numbers vary from region to region. In the Boshwash corridor a city of 100,000 is a mere suburb but in the mountain west it is a major regional center.
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Old 04-04-2009, 06:09 PM
Location: Southern Minnesota
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I live in a city of 7,000 - it's small, but still technically a city. Anything under 4,000 is a "village" in Michigan.
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Old 04-06-2009, 09:36 AM
Location: roaming gnome
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I think you gotta go with metro area also which includes people living outside that actually work and play in the city center...City limits can be very misleading. Density is a matter of choice of urban planning...generally pre ww2 growth and post ww2 growth. Even though many people commute longer distances into Atlanta...there is still that amount of people living there.
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Old 04-06-2009, 09:48 AM
Location: Concrete jungle where dreams are made of.
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I think a big city should have a CITY population of 3 million or more.
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Old 04-06-2009, 09:52 AM
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I think size should be based on metro area; otherwise it's nearly impossible to directly compare cities based on variations in the ways cities have or have not historically incorporated the surrounding area.
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Old 04-06-2009, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by uptown_urbanist View Post
I think size should be based on metro area; otherwise it's nearly impossible to directly compare cities based on variations in the ways cities have or have not historically incorporated the surrounding area.
I think this is a good point. I wonder which is more accurate to determine the "size" of a city. Is the metro area a good gauge or is the urban area. Personally I think the urban area is a better gauge of the city because its methodology also accounts for density, center area, etc. I would say, a small city: 200k-750k, medium:750k-2million, large:greater than 2million.

Of course also metro areas and GDP are also good gauges for border line cities to determine if they should go up to the next level or stay where they are. In the large city real you also have other designations like mega city, etc.
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Old 04-06-2009, 11:28 AM
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It's hard to define a large, medium, or small city simply based on population alone. Minneapolis, for example, has about 380,000 people, but it has much more in terms of diversity, education, arts, music, etc... than most cities of similar population (i.e. Raleigh, Omaha, Colorado Springs, etc...) and many with larger populations (i.e. Charlotte, Oklahoma City, Nashville, Indianapolis, etc...)
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Old 04-06-2009, 11:35 AM
Location: Somerville, MA
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I think defining the size of a city depends on a multitude of factors. City Limit populations should NOT be relevant at all! Here are my opinions on the combination of factors that should define a city's size...

1) population of contiguous urbanized area: The population of the contiguous urbanized area has two primary factors that define it. First, it has to have a relatively high population density (1,000 people per sq. mi is a good minimum) and a high concentration of mostly wall to wall (or close to it as not all cities buildings are QUITE wall to wall) buildings. In many cases, the urban area extends well beyond the city limits of the core city (like Boston, New York, Providence, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.) and in other cities, the urban area turns to suburban and rural while still within the city limits (i.e. Jacksonville) which is why the city limits are a nearly useless tool in measuring a city's size (every city's borders are different sizes and shapes).

It's worth noting that Contiguous Urbanized Area is NOT the same as metropolitan area. Most metropolitan areas consist of large chunks of rural and suburban area which is why they're less significant factors than urban area when measuring the size of a city.

2) Metropolitan Statistical Area. (NOT CSA). Metropolitan Areas depend heavily on the size and vitality of the core of the MSA. While large chunks of the MSA are not urban (or even suburban), the people in the MSA tend to rely on the amenities (cultural, educational, economic, entertainment, etc) of the core city in the MSA and therefore play a role in the size of the city, particularly growth in the portions of the city (i.e. hospital districts, CBDs, etc) that are vital to the people living outside the city as well. A larger MSA is going to be part of a larger city in most (but NOT ALL!) cases.

The problem with MSAs as a measurement are as follows. First, it does include rural and suburban areas which really aren't urban or large. Second, if the core cities is closer to other cities, the MSA will form "gray areas" where it's really difficult to tell where one city's metro area ends and another begins. Philadelphia and New York is a good example of this... though it's obvious where one city's urban area ends and the others ends, it's tough to tell which cities and towns belong in each's metro area (some could probably belong to both).

3) General "Feel" of the city- I know this sounds a bit weird, but it's a pretty accurate way to get an idea of how large a city is (sort of like a real-life "go with your gut" situation). This isn't the primary (or even secondary) way to tell the size of a city, but it helps when the first two ways produce a similar result. For an example of this, I'll use Philadelphia and Boston. Both cities have a similarly sized urban area and a similarly sized metro area, but when it comes down to it, Philadelphia just FEELS larger. Philadelphia is the larger city without a doubt , but numbers could lead one to think that this isn't true depending on what numbers you use to compare the two (I personally think it's partly because Philly's suburbs are still suburban but generally higher density than Boston's). In short, many times numbers just can't show the truth and the "feeling" is what you have to go on.

All that being said, my general categorization of Large, Medium and Small is as follows:

NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles

Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Detroit, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, etc

Minneapolis, Portland OR, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Jacksonville, San Antonio, Omaha, Kansas City MO, Albuquerque, Buffalo, etc

Small: Providence, Sacramento, Rochester, Madison, Worscester, Springfield, Syracuse, Boise, Baton Rouge, Columbia SC, Savannah, Charleston, Dayon, etc

Then you have a collection of "cities" that are really too small to be considered real urban areas and look and feel more like towns than cities. There are hundreds of these. to name a few,
Portland ME, Burlington VT, Newport RI, Portsmouth NH, Taunton MA, Harrisburg PA, Annapolis MD, Roanoke VA, etc.
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Old 04-06-2009, 12:45 PM
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^ Using your criteria, either Seattle should be considered medium sized or Minneapolis should be considered in the same tier as Seattle. For example, Seattle's urban area is 2,712,205 whereas Minneapolis has an urban population of 2,388,593. Kansas City (1,361,744), Charlotte (758,927), Omaha (626,623), Albuquerque (598,591), etc... have far less than both. Seattle has a MSA population of 3,344,813 and Minneapolis has an MSA population of 3,229,878. All the cities you listed are smaller than both. The city of Seattle has a population density of 7,085 whereas Minneapolis has a population density of 6,875. Again, all the cities you listed as medium sized are smaller.

Another factor could be Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP). Seattle is ranked 12th and Minneapolis is ranked 14th. None of the other cities you listed as being medium size made the top 20.

Last edited by BlackOut; 04-06-2009 at 01:05 PM..
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