U.S. CitiesCity-Data Forum Index
Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Urban Planning
 [Register]
Please register to participate in our discussions with 2 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
View detailed profile (Advanced) or search
site with Google Custom Search

Search Forums  (Advanced)
 
Old 01-20-2013, 07:53 PM
 
1,015 posts, read 1,541,509 times
Reputation: 746

Advertisements

Quote:
Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
Didn't I just say that any objective definition would be likely to fail? As Justice Stewart said about obscenity, I know it when I see it.

What do you call a populated area which is largely economically independent of any central city (though located within the metro area of one), with the built form of automobile suburbia?

What do you call a populated area with an urban built form (downtown area, high density housing) which is economically dependent mostly on nearby areas with a suburban form (though also to some extent on a central city)?

What do you call a populated area with an extremely urban form which is almost wholly dependent on an adjacent central city?

What do you call a former train suburb which no longer has a train, whose downtown has decayed to uselessness, and now has a highway running through it?

For that matter, what do you call a train suburb? It has the downtown and the higher density, but IMO it's certainly a suburb.

What do you call a small farm town which is now a location on a commercial strip, and where the farms have become subdivisions?

What do you call a mill/factory town which relies on the central city (down the river) to provide a market and/or further transportation for its wares? What do you call that same mill town when the mill closes and commuters fill up the housing?

Do traditional distinctions matter? People talk about Hoboken, NJ as opposed to "the suburbs", despite Hoboken being basically a bedroom community nowadays. On the other hand, Norristown and Conshohocken PA (both with a similarly urban form) are typically considered suburbs.
It seems to me that you're avoiding defining a suburb because some people use suburb as a term of opprobrium. But suburbs still exist, whether you're willing to use "the S word" or not. And people who don't like suburbs won't like them regardless of whether you call them suburbs or something else.
Quick reply to this message

 
Old 01-20-2013, 08:01 PM
 
9,520 posts, read 14,819,994 times
Reputation: 9769
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlite View Post
It seems to me that you're avoiding defining a suburb because some people use suburb as a term of opprobrium.
I'm avoiding defining "a suburb" because I have trouble finding a consistent definition. "Suburban built form" is easier to define, though you have to distinguish between different varieties of such.

Quote:
But suburbs still exist, whether you're willing to use "the S word" or not. And people who don't like suburbs won't like them regardless of whether you call them suburbs or something else.
I'm willing to use the term; I just think it's unavoidably imprecise. I can tell you a few things I think suburbs are not
1) Neighborhoods within a central city, despite the unfortunate traditional "streetcar suburb" term for some of them.

2) Large urban areas which grew up together separated by a state line or a river or some such thing. (Minneapolis/St Paul, Philadelphia/Camden, LA/Oakland, NYC/Jersey City, etc)

3) Farm towns not really located near any large city. Same for college towns not located near a particular city, mining towns, etc.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-20-2013, 08:02 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
45,987 posts, read 41,937,844 times
Reputation: 14804
Quote:
Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
For any objective definition of "suburb" you can come up with, there are going to be hard cases-- Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia, and to a lesser extent the other Beltway cities. King of Prussia, Pennsylvania -- IMO, if your definition excludes King of Prussia, it's failed. Hoboken, NJ -- a small dense place with urban form but net out-commute.
As for some of your hard cases (Alexandria, Arlington and Hoboken), none of them are outlying; they're all almost adjacent to the center of the metro. My computer's dictionary defines suburb as:

an outlying district of a city, esp. a residential one.

Arlington is partially an extension of the DC's business district across the Potomac, Hoboken is an old industrial port city that has turned into a urban bedroom community for white-collar Manhattan workers. Alexandria is arguably a suburb, an inner-ring suburb with some very old parts at that. These discussion always lead to an oversimplistic either/or instead of a sliding scale.

Outlying areas of a metro are generally lower density, though not always as memph's shown in his rather thorough list of counterexamples.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-20-2013, 08:09 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 17 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,992 posts, read 102,554,590 times
Reputation: 33058
Quote:
Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
I'm avoiding defining "a suburb" because I have trouble finding a consistent definition. "Suburban built form" is easier to define, though you have to distinguish between different varieties of such.



I'm willing to use the term; I just think it's unavoidably imprecise. I can tell you a few things I think suburbs are not
1) Neighborhoods within a central city, despite the unfortunate traditional "streetcar suburb" term for some of them.

2) Large urban areas which grew up together separated by a state line or a river or some such thing. (Minneapolis/St Paul, Philadelphia/Camden, LA/Oakland, NYC/Jersey City, etc)

3) Farm towns not really located near any large city. Same for college towns not located near a particular city, mining towns, etc.
I agree with this.

Could we possibly agree that suburbs are areas outside of a major city, without regard to form? That would put an end to endless discussions about suburbs being or not being served by transit; having or not having multi-family and/or rental housing; having or not having lower density than the principal city; having or not having a downtown; having or not having employment opportunities beyond retail at the local 7-11; form of political organization (city, town, township, unincorporated, etc) being irrelevant.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-20-2013, 08:10 PM
 
1,015 posts, read 1,541,509 times
Reputation: 746
[quote=nybbler;27860784]I'm avoiding defining "a suburb" because I have trouble finding a consistent definition. "Suburban built form" is easier to define, though you have to distinguish between different varieties of such.
"Suburban built form" is a little awkward, but I don't really have a problem with it. I see suburbs principally in built form terms. Suburban built form, though, includes places within central cities that look like suburbs. I would agree that those places are not generally the historical streetcar suburbs, because modern suburbs are significantly less dense and look different.

Suburban built form as a category also excludes places outside the central city limits that are not suburban in character.

Just because something is complicated, because there are exceptions, doesn't mean that there can't be categories and analysis. If one took that stance, there would be no way to analyze anything in the human world around us.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-21-2013, 03:38 AM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
2,610 posts, read 3,760,401 times
Reputation: 1616
Here's a ranking of some city blocks by population density
A: Brampton, ON - Google Maps
B: Palmerston - Little Italy, Toronto, ON - Google Maps
C: Mississauga, ON - Google Maps
D: Brampton, ON - Google Maps
E: East York, Toronto, ON - Google Maps
F: Mimico, Toronto, ON - Google Maps
G: Leaside, Toronto, ON - Google Maps

Which ones would you call suburban, and based on what? Would density be a factor at all?
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-21-2013, 09:28 AM
 
9,520 posts, read 14,819,994 times
Reputation: 9769
Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
Here's a ranking of some city blocks by population density
A: Brampton, ON - Google Maps
B: Palmerston - Little Italy, Toronto, ON - Google Maps
C: Mississauga, ON - Google Maps
D: Brampton, ON - Google Maps
E: East York, Toronto, ON - Google Maps
F: Mimico, Toronto, ON - Google Maps
G: Leaside, Toronto, ON - Google Maps

Which ones would you call suburban, and based on what? Would density be a factor at all?

A: Suburban
B: Urban
C: Suburban
D: Suburban
E: Urban
F: Suburban
G: Suburban

A is easy: Typical modern suburban on small lots. Similar homes built on cul-de-sacs and winding roads, lawns, and of course attached garages.

B is also easy. First of all, its age rules it out from being a modern small-lot subdivision. Houses do not appear to be all by the same builder (though perhaps a small number of them) Duplexes, generally not a suburban feature (though many train suburbs have duplexes, so that's not definitive). Narrow street, sidewalk with no grass border (or maybe that's just a Canadian thing. In US suburbs, if there's a sidewalk there's invariably a grass border between the sidewalk and the road). Backing out, the road network is a grid. No attached garages, and driveways only where someone sacrificed their front yard for them. Front lawns are all landscape and no grass, though that could be a matter of age rather than form.

C is trivial. Modern suburban townhouse development. Same as A, only with attached houses.

D is also trivial. Small lot McMansion development. Same as A, only bigger houses.

E looks like Bayonne, NJ at first glance. It appears to be on a main straight road, and backing out shows a grid. Several different styles and ages of house, including some duplexes. Detached garages, and few of them. If you go off onto the side streets (e.g. Kings Park Boulevard) it appears more suburban, so perhaps this was a streetcar/subway suburb before it got swallowed into the larger city.

F certainly appears suburban (though not as new as A,C, and D); it could be any number of places in suburban NJ. Single family homes of 1 and 2 stories, driveways, relatively wide streets, relatively large lawns, etc. This one's on a grid, a bit unusual but not unknown.

G appears to be a wealthier version of F.

Obviously, density doesn't distinguish these; that doesn't mean density isn't a factor, just that there's overlap.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-21-2013, 10:18 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
45,987 posts, read 41,937,844 times
Reputation: 14804
Quote:
Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
F certainly appears suburban (though not as new as A,C, and D); it could be any number of places in suburban NJ. Single family homes of 1 and 2 stories, driveways, relatively wide streets, relatively large lawns, etc. This one's on a grid, a bit unusual but not unknown.
It's common for suburbs from the late 40s and 50s in Long Island to be built on a grid. Developers extended the grid of the older development and extended it. Most of these grids don't last for very long, intersecting another grid system.

https://maps.google.ca/maps?q=Linden...tates&t=m&z=13
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-21-2013, 12:35 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
2,610 posts, read 3,760,401 times
Reputation: 1616
Quote:
Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
A: Suburban
B: Urban
C: Suburban
D: Suburban
E: Urban
F: Suburban
G: Suburban

A is easy: Typical modern suburban on small lots. Similar homes built on cul-de-sacs and winding roads, lawns, and of course attached garages.

B is also easy. First of all, its age rules it out from being a modern small-lot subdivision. Houses do not appear to be all by the same builder (though perhaps a small number of them) Duplexes, generally not a suburban feature (though many train suburbs have duplexes, so that's not definitive). Narrow street, sidewalk with no grass border (or maybe that's just a Canadian thing. In US suburbs, if there's a sidewalk there's invariably a grass border between the sidewalk and the road). Backing out, the road network is a grid. No attached garages, and driveways only where someone sacrificed their front yard for them. Front lawns are all landscape and no grass, though that could be a matter of age rather than form.

C is trivial. Modern suburban townhouse development. Same as A, only with attached houses.

D is also trivial. Small lot McMansion development. Same as A, only bigger houses.

E looks like Bayonne, NJ at first glance. It appears to be on a main straight road, and backing out shows a grid. Several different styles and ages of house, including some duplexes. Detached garages, and few of them. If you go off onto the side streets (e.g. Kings Park Boulevard) it appears more suburban, so perhaps this was a streetcar/subway suburb before it got swallowed into the larger city.

F certainly appears suburban (though not as new as A,C, and D); it could be any number of places in suburban NJ. Single family homes of 1 and 2 stories, driveways, relatively wide streets, relatively large lawns, etc. This one's on a grid, a bit unusual but not unknown.

G appears to be a wealthier version of F.

Obviously, density doesn't distinguish these; that doesn't mean density isn't a factor, just that there's overlap.
B: I assume you're talking about the lack of a grass strip between the street and sidewalk. Typically older neighbourhoods don't have one, while new suburban development do since they have more space to work with.

D: They're actually semi-detached houses (I think that's what you mean by duplexes). One give away is the different coloured garages. Another give away is that the garages are arranged symmetrically, in this case in the middle of the building with front doors on either side, in other developments, the garages would be on either side with the two front doors in the middle. A single family home would have the garage(s) on one side of the house, and front door and maybe porch or window on the other side.

E: Yeah, there used to be a streetcar along Danforth Avenue about 1/2 mile away before it was replaced with a subway. I think most of the housing is pre-WWII but possibly over a couple decades.

F: It's a late streetcar suburb, the streetcar/interurban went down Lake Shore Blvd all the way to Port Credit, although by 1950 it only went up to Long Branch and stayed that way until today. The area was supposedly already planned out in 1890, so it's not too surprising it's on a grid.

This is what it looked like in 1942.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...Aerial1942.png

You still had some empty lots then, so the homes on the nearby streets were probably built between 1920 and 1950. It's mostly single family (though some have basement appartments), however there are a few post-WWII triplexes:
Mimico, Toronto, ON - Google Maps

Anyways, that doesn't necessarily preclude from being described as suburban. Although there are some businesses on Royal York 0.3 miles away, it's not much, the closest significant retail is a main street style retail stretch that starts about 0.5 miles away. Also, even for the pre-WWII houses, probably a significant percent of households already had cars by the time they were built.

G: More or less, it didn't have streetcar service and most of the homes were built in the 30s and 40s. It was planned as an upper middle class model town in 1912, but residential development took a couple decades to get started, mostly after the industrial area to the East was developed and a bridge was built to better connect the area to Toronto. Car ownership among the residents was probably relatively high at that point, which is confirmed by this 1942 aerial photo showing all the houses with backyard garages or at the very least, driveways. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:To...Aerial1942.jpg

There's a few semi-detached homes and with apartment (post-WWII I think) buildings and street oriented retail on some of the busier streets, but it's mostly single family homes.
Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-21-2013, 12:58 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 17 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,992 posts, read 102,554,590 times
Reputation: 33058
Here in Colorado, the older areas, both urban and suburban, have the grass strip between the sidewalk and the road, while the newer areas do not have said strip in residential areas, in general. You do see the strips in residential areas with "feeder streets", e.g. main roads usually w/o houses on them (sometimes backing) in residential areas. Sometimes in commercial areas the strip isn't grass, it's gravel.
Quick reply to this message
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.


 
Please update this thread with any new information or opinions. This open thread is still read by thousands of people, so we encourage all additional points of view.

Quick Reply
Message:
Over $104,000 in prizes was already given out to active posters on our forum and additional giveaways are planned!

Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Urban Planning
Similar Threads
Follow City-Data.com founder on our Forum or

All times are GMT -6.

2005-2019, Advameg, Inc. · Please obey Forum Rules · Terms of Use and Privacy Policy · Bug Bounty

City-Data.com - Archive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 - Top