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Old 01-13-2013, 05:06 PM
 
Location: Mishawaka, Indiana
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What makes a town/city a suburb and what what enables it to be considered its own city?

I ask this because around many large metro areas there are towns that are considered suburbs to the large city in that metro area, but many of these "suburbs" are larger than "cities" in other parts of the country.

Does a suburb have a limit on how big it can grow until it is its own separate town/city?

Things get pretty crazy where there are several large cities bordering one another. Examples are Washington D.C., bordering Baltimore and Alexandria, both pretty sizable cities...neither are really considered suburbs of each other, also makes a difference that they are in 2 states and then you have D.C.. Others would be the Twin Cities of Minnesota with Minneapolis and St. Paul or the Twin Cities of Fort Worth and Dallas.

Still others that I wonder about are Aurora Illinois. The second largest city in Illinois by population is Aurora (197,000), but it sits right next to Chicago and by most people is considered a suburb of Chicago.

Maybe I'm asking a dumb question, any ideas?
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Old 01-13-2013, 06:02 PM
 
Location: Vallejo
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It's irrelevant to a Chicagoland suburb what the cities in South Dakota look like. What matters is its surroundings, not South Dakota. There's quite a few twin cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul, Baltimore-DC, even San Diego-Tijuana) and a decent number of tri-cities (San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Miama-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach).
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Old 01-13-2013, 06:22 PM
 
Location: Sault Ste. Marie, MI
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I've read that in metro areas, there is a difference between suburbs and satellite cities. I'll use Metro Detroit as an example, because that's how I learned about them. In Metro Detroit, the city of Pontiac is considered a Satellite City, because it predates the surrounding expansion of Detroit's suburbs into that area. It has it's own historical downtown, and it wasn't particularly tied to Detroit until somewhat recent times. Other surrounding communities, such as Troy, Bloomfield and Farmington Hills didn't exist or were only rural areas until Detroit's suburban development spread outside the city. Many of these cities and towns don't have their own downtowns, instead consisting mostly of strip malls and suburban homes.
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Old 01-13-2013, 07:26 PM
 
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What is a suburb is not a dumb question, it's just an unanswerable one. From a Census point of view, suburbs are the places within metropolitan areas that are not part of central cities. You have to be a little careful with that, because the Census usually names more than one central city. In the Los Angeles MSA (Los Angeles County) for example, not only Los Angeles and Long Beach are central cities, but so are Pasadena and Lancaster, because of commutes into them. The other 84 cities in Los Angeles County would be suburbs even though some of them, like West Hollywood, are more densely populated than Los Angeles city itself.

Some people look at suburbs as being where single family detached houses dominate the housing stock. A suburb under this definition could be a separate city, or it could be an area of a central city with suburban style development. Certainly Los Angeles, and even Chicago, has areas like this.

Historically suburbs were thought of as being white and middle/upper class, but that's certainly no longer universally the case, and probably never was. So you get, for example, a book about Monterey Park, California in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles that's called "The First Suburban Chinatown."

One tends to think of suburbs as places that people commute from. But today lots of people commute between suburbs and even sometimes to suburbs from central cities. Think of the famous Google buses from San Francisco to Mountain View. Palo Alto has more than two jobs for every employed resident. Is that a suburb or a new type of central city, and one that's not doing enough to house the people that work there.

Which of these meanings fits depends on what you're thinking about. is it "the city vs. the suburbs" or "suburban style development," for example.
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Old 01-13-2013, 07:28 PM
 
Location: Philaburbia
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Excuse me while I go pop some popcorn ... Should I go light on the butter and salt, or let it all hang out?
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Old 01-13-2013, 07:36 PM
 
Location: Mishawaka, Indiana
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Very interesting points. So let me ask another question related to this thread.

Do suburban towns/cities operate independently from their large city neighbor? Such as, do these suburbs have their own elected official and mayors and governing bodies just as large cities do?
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Old 01-13-2013, 07:42 PM
 
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There is a good reason that the Census Bureau uses commuting patterns to identify metro areas. It's a useful way of determining which cities are the economic centers of their local areas and which function more as suburbs. If a certain percentage (the Census Bureau's standards have varied over time) of the population in City A's vicinity works in the urban core surrounding City B, then City A is a suburb of City B. If B is a workplace destination for a large enough percentage of workers in the greater local area, then B is a principal city along with A, in a twin cities situation. If B gets enough influx of workers from areas not shared with A as suburbs, then B and A anchor two distinct metro areas.

Of course a key idea here is that there is no particular population range that automatically makes a city either a suburb or a principal city. It's entirely possible for large cities to have suburbs which themselves would be large enough to function as the hubs of small metro areas if they stood alone. Such a city becomes a suburb in the presence of a larger city because it functions as a suburb, serving to supply a population of workers to the larger city, rather than being a local region's primary economic center.
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:03 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ohiogirl81 View Post
Excuse me while I go pop some popcorn ... Should I go light on the butter and salt, or let it all hang out?
I'd go for a decent amount of butter, if you're going to go to the effort of eating popcorn, at least make it fun to eat eat. But all in moderation. Too much butter isn't just unhealthy, but just ruins a good thing. I'm going healthy tonight I have green beans on my plate and tofu, and um, beer(s); one's a stout!

Anyhow, back to the topic and hopefully not starting to that argument, there's been endless debate on whether suburbs refer to places outside the city limits or lower-density suburban development.

As to political boundaries, some suburbs incorporate into entities with the word "city". Places that aren't suburbs of anywhere that aren't that big also incorporate with the word "city" in it. Some of these suburbs might incorporate a large area and end up with more people than an independent city. In Long Island, the Town of Hempstead has more people and is denser than the City of Columbus, Ohio. But the Town of Hempstead is mostly an extension of New York City's development past its limits, while Columbus is its own thing. The Town of Hempstead has some of older center and newer employment centers but most of what is there is there because it is next to New York City. I assume Ohiogirl81 could inform us more about Columbus than I could.

Alexandria is adjacent to DC; it grew from 24,000 people in 1930 to 140,000 people today as a residential and commerical district interconnected to DC across the river. Baltimore is an old city not next to DC, with many miles separating it.
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:05 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
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Originally Posted by ColdAilment View Post
Do suburban towns/cities operate independently from their large city neighbor? Such as, do these suburbs have their own elected official and mayors and governing bodies just as large cities do?
Yes. That's why they're legally separate from their large city neighbor. The town I grew up in had an election for the supervisor (government set up a bit differently than a city but it still governed itself).
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:08 PM
 
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Well, the census has it definition of MSA, but it doesn't try to define "suburb". And commuting patterns aren't the whole story. The various towns around the D.C. Beltway and along the I-270 corridor are all considered D.C. suburbs, but for a time (and perhaps still) the commuting patterns were more suburb to suburb than they were suburb to city. Still, it's clear that D.C., and specifically the Federal Government, is a large part of their reason for being.

The industrial suburbs of places like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (e.g. Norristown and Conshohocken) were job centers, but still suburbs. So commuting patterns aren't everything; these towns were dependent on their central city in a different way.

The New York area is a total mess. Is Jersey City a suburb of New York? How about Hoboken? What about Newark? Are the small towns adjacent to Newark suburbs of Newark? Where does West Windsor Township (roughly halfway between Philadelphia and New York) fit in? How about White Plains?

ColdAilment: Yes, to be a suburb (as distinct from "suburban" in character) a place has to operate independent of the city. Otherwise it's just part of the city. They can still be part of a larger entity, just not the principal city; for instance Silver Spring, Maryland is an unincorporated part of Montgomery County, MD and functions as a suburb of D.C.
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