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)
Reply Start New Thread
 
Old 07-16-2014, 12:44 PM
 
1,709 posts, read 1,674,551 times
Reputation: 1838

Advertisements

Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
You did add many caveats to the original post, but what you were really asking here was not "can suburbs be cities" (since of course many are - Mesa, Arizona has over 450,000 people!) but "can suburbs be urban."

The answer is of course yes. Most "urban suburbs" tend to be places which were built out prior to WW2. However, there is nothing stopping modern day TOD and new urbanism from making urban areas in the suburbs. Indeed, the DC area is actually doing a pretty good job turning formerly suburban areas near transit lines into something which approximates a walkable urban core. It looks kinda bland and sterile compared to historic architecture, but it's better than nothing.

If you want urbanization, you must build transit first basically, and then the denser built structure comes. This is exactly what happened historically - the areas where subways were first built tended to not be particularly dense, but everything surrounding them tended to pretty quickly fill in over time. So I suppose this means you could urbanize segments of the suburbs (mostly formerly commercial/industrial areas where no one is around to complain and you only need to buy out a few property owners), but the bulk of it due to the way that development spread out everywhere will not change its fundamental form.
I guess you're right, though I really think I might have actually been asking "can suburbs be centrallized?" Like I said in the OP, I know that suburbs can be cities in the legal sense-their are already plenty of incorporated suburbs! I was tired when writing my post, so I'll rephrase my question-can suburbs be centrallized rather than dispersed as they commonly are? And can disconnected suburban developments/subdivisions be transformed into a cohesive, connected, and contiguous community, rather than a collection of subdivisions arranged piecemeal into a municipality?
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message

 
Old 07-16-2014, 12:59 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 41,959,650 times
Reputation: 14805
Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
If you want urbanization, you must build transit first basically, and then the denser built structure comes. This is exactly what happened historically - the areas where subways were first built tended to not be particularly dense, but everything surrounding them tended to pretty quickly fill in over time. So I suppose this means you could urbanize segments of the suburbs (mostly formerly commercial/industrial areas where no one is around to complain and you only need to buy out a few property owners), but the bulk of it due to the way that development spread out everywhere will not change its fundamental form.
I assume you mean rail transit specifically. The bolded is in many cases not true. For example, the Red line in Cambridge was in an already densely built up area (in the early 1900s). There were streetcar lines, but the entire Boston urban area of any density then had streetcars.



NYC is a mix: sometimes subways and the El's preceded development, in other cases it followed. Many older dense neighborhoods predate rapid transit. Los Angeles has neighborhoods nearly as dense as denser Boston or Chicago neighorhoods, but were built without subways (though the LA subway serves many of them now). They do have more parking and may not look traditionally urban but the resulting density is still as high as "traditional urban" neighborhoods.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 07-16-2014, 01:02 PM
 
Location: New York City
792 posts, read 506,163 times
Reputation: 346
I'm severely anti-suburb. I think it just contributes to urban sprawl and a whole host of environmental issues.

But that's beside the point. I think yes, suburbs can become major population centers in their area. Bloomington, Minnesota, right outside the Twin Cities and an hour or so north of my hometown has like 77k residents and it has the Mall of America, some corporate offices, so it is basically a self-contained city on its own.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 07-16-2014, 01:06 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
12,419 posts, read 11,923,391 times
Reputation: 10536
Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
I guess you're right, though I really think I might have actually been asking "can suburbs be centrallized?" Like I said in the OP, I know that suburbs can be cities in the legal sense-their are already plenty of incorporated suburbs! I was tired when writing my post, so I'll rephrase my question-can suburbs be centrallized rather than dispersed as they commonly are? And can disconnected suburban developments/subdivisions be transformed into a cohesive, connected, and contiguous community, rather than a collection of subdivisions arranged piecemeal into a municipality?
You can absolutely build a "town center" type thing in the suburbs where it didn't exist before. However, you'll have one of two things happen. If you build it with no significant residential, it will be surrounded by a sea of parking. So you might get a few urban-feeling blocks of offices and stores, but zero walkability once you get out of this area. On the other hand, if you build it as a true mixed-use place you'll probably be able to reduce the parking footprint, as many people will perform two out of three major activities (work, live, or shop) within the "new city." However, it will still interface relatively poorly with the unwalkable portions of the suburb however, as except for the closest homes autocentric families might find it just as easy to keep driving to the strip mall as utilizing the "new city." And of course people aren't going to abandon their homes just to move closer into the new town center either.

As to how to make the stereotypical subdivision more connected, I don't think there's many ways. I suppose cities could buy out portions of people's yards to allow small "pass through" alleys which allow quicker movement on back roads from one subdivision to another. I think many people would be opposed to this however.

I also am not sure it's really needed though. I mean, I live in a city where neighborhoods with only a few hundred people have distinct neighborhood identities due to topographical reasons. These add to the richness of the city in the way that flat neighborhoods with fuzzy boundaries and tens of thousands of people just can't compare to.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 07-16-2014, 01:10 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 18 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,996 posts, read 102,581,357 times
Reputation: 33059
Quote:
Originally Posted by mjlo View Post
Eh to me this goes back the argument about how the US counts population vs every other country on earth. Suburbs should exist as neighborhoods of the larger cities, instead of independent entities. They would not exist or have people commuting to and from them without the core municipality. Especially when you're talking about the suburbs of the western cities that are 300 sq miles, with 300k people in them. We should all go by the UN definition for counting city population which is consecutive tracks of urbanized land with 1000 people per sq mi. It would eliminate all of these cities that are top 100 which have sprouted over the last 50 years and have grown by default because of the region they are in. A full 3rd of the "top 100" cities in this country are just sunbelt suburbs. Also if the central cities governed the region you'd be far more apt to see responsible land uses and urban growth boundaries.
Good lord, what a thing to get fired up about! Maybe you could post a link about this definition of city population. I think you may find it's called "urban" population, which we do count with our MSAs and CSAs.

Looking at the top 100 cities by population: List of United States cities by population - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
1-33 are all what the vast majority of people would call "cities" in their own right.
34-66 (Pop. 510K to 294 K) have a few burbs, e.g. Long Beach, Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Riverside, CA (LA); Mesa,AZ (Phoenix); Arlington, TX (Dallas); Aurora, CO (Denver).
67-100 (282K-213K) are more suburban: Plano, Garland and Irving TX (Dallas)
Chula Vista, CA (San Diego)
Chandler, Scottsdale, Gilbert and Glendale, AZ (Phoenix)
Irvine and San Bernadino, CA (LA)
Chesapeake, VA (Virginia Beach)
North Las Vegas and Henderson, NV (Las Vegas)
Hialeah, FL (Miami)

21 out of the top 100 by population, not 33.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 07-16-2014, 01:14 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 18 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,996 posts, read 102,581,357 times
Reputation: 33059
Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
I guess you're right, though I really think I might have actually been asking "can suburbs be centrallized?" Like I said in the OP, I know that suburbs can be cities in the legal sense-their are already plenty of incorporated suburbs! I was tired when writing my post, so I'll rephrase my question-can suburbs be centrallized rather than dispersed as they commonly are? And can disconnected suburban developments/subdivisions be transformed into a cohesive, connected, and contiguous community, rather than a collection of subdivisions arranged piecemeal into a municipality?
Here's your logic fail, assuming the bold. Plenty of suburbs in metro Denver are " cohesive, connected, and contiguous communit(ies)". I'm not sure what a "contiguous" community is, anyway. The suburb I live in has plenty of community spirit. So do most all the Denver burbs. The big, bad, behemoth, Aurora, certainly is a city in its own right; it has everything most cities have including the University of Colorado health science center campus, which includes the U of CO Hospital, Children's Hospital of Colorado, a VA hospital, the medical, dental, physical therapy and public health schools of CO, and much more.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 07-16-2014, 01:22 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
12,419 posts, read 11,923,391 times
Reputation: 10536
Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
I assume you mean rail transit specifically. The bolded is in many cases not true. For example, the Red line in Cambridge was in an already densely built up area (in the early 1900s). There were streetcar lines, but the entire Boston urban area of any density then had streetcars.

NYC is a mix: sometimes subways and the El's preceded development, in other cases it followed. Many older dense neighborhoods predate rapid transit. Los Angeles has neighborhoods nearly as dense as denser Boston or Chicago neighorhoods, but were built without subways (though the LA subway serves many of them now). They do have more parking and may not look traditionally urban but the resulting density is still as high as "traditional urban" neighborhoods.
I was thinking mainly about NYC here, as modern day transit lines closely match population density. You only see high density near subway lines. Much of the rest of the city is dense by national standards, but still pretty low in density overall.



By national standards, something like 50,000 people per square mile sounds like a lot. But that's only around 78 people per acre, which might equal like 50 household units. While 50 townhouses on an acre wouldn't be kosher in most modern zoning, developers would generally one to put a lot more than 50 apartment units on one acre of land.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 07-16-2014, 01:30 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 41,959,650 times
Reputation: 14805
Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
I was thinking mainly about NYC here, as modern day transit lines closely match population density. You only see high density near subway lines. Much of the rest of the city is dense by national standards, but still pretty low in density overall.
Yes, I know that high density follows subway lines. But part of the reason is the subway covers city neighborhoods built up by 1930 or so. And the older neighborhood were denser. Some of those dense subway neighborhoods (including most of Manhattan and some of Brooklyn) were built up before any rapid transit and often denser than today (mainly from household size). There might also be a circular effect: the denser neighborhoods have zoning friendlier to infill development than the lower density ones, so the difference gets larger (my guess is that's true for Flushing).
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 07-16-2014, 02:05 PM
 
1,915 posts, read 2,049,276 times
Reputation: 2192
Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
I've been thinking about how cities expanded in the past versus how they expand in the present. In the past, cities grew from nothing and expanded by annexing farmland and constructing a continuous city grid. Nowadays, cities expand instead by annexing unincorporated suburban settlements and/or leaving new infrastructure development to private developers (who usually construct closed-off subdivisions connected to the rural road grid). It doesn't seem like cities really "grow" anymore, they just gain suburbs. The growth is quasi-independent from the town/city in question-it relies on that town for growth and economics, and yet still grows separate from the city itself as a private development rather than a fully infrastructurally integrated portion of the city.

Typing that thus led to this next, and more important train of thought. The question is, can suburbs be cities? Yes, they can be in the legal sense, they can incorporate and have their own services and schools and all that stuff. But can they be cities, in the sense that they are centralized (to some degree) concentrations of employment and residence, and serve as a economic, cultural, and possibly political center to a region of any particular size and population, with a "downtown" or otherwise central core area serving as a hub of activity?

I personally think that suburbs, or at least the modern car-centric suburb cannot be a city, simply because of its nature. First off, the car encourages decentralization, which is inherently against the nature of a city. Second, a city is a collection of people, and a community focused on cars instead of people cannot thrive as a true city, as a community of individuals, as it is not focused on those individuals (rather, it is focused on those individuals' transportation).

So what do you think? Can a suburb truly be a city? Can it turn into a city? Why or why not?

(Note: suburb for this post implies the modern postwar car-centric suburb. Streetcar suburbs do not qualify, as they usually have a centralized core of some sort. Also, "city" in this case means any kind of town, small and large, not just the big cities with metro areas of several million).
The best study of a suburban "city" you can have is San Jose, California, from 1950 to 1969. It did not allow unincorporated suburbs to grow around it, and even tried to annex already incorporated towns near it, succeeding on at least one occassion:

A. P. Hamann - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Hamann then directed an aggressive growth program for the city. Growing up in Orange County, Hamann felt that the development of that area, consisting of several mid-sized cities without a dominant city in the region, was a failure and worked to ensure that San Jose became the major city of Santa Clara County. Central to this project were "strip annexations"—Hamann and his staff would determine where new tax-generating developments such as shopping centers were likely to be built, and would annex small strips of territory around the property to ensure no other city could claim the property so that San Jose would receive the sales tax revenue produced by property when it was finally developed.

When industries decided to move into or expand in the area, Hamann would ensure they found a willing partner in the city. IBM wanted to move its research staff out of downtown to a dedicated facility to be sited on unincorporated land south of San Jose, but were being blocked by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Hamann simply had San Jose annex the proposed site and pushed the project's approval through the city council.

In addition to annexing unincorporated territory, Hamann's staff also annexed existing neighborhoods, including Cambrian Park, and one city. When the city of Alviso attempted to annex the new sewage plant to boost tax revenue, Hamann countered by having San Jose annex Alviso. A special city staff, known as Dutch's Panzer Division, executed 1377 annexations during his time in office—previous to Hamann's administration there had been a total of 42."
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 07-16-2014, 03:38 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
2,610 posts, read 3,761,439 times
Reputation: 1616
Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
Take Bellevue, Washington:

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Be...cf5482ead00765

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Be...cf5482ead00765

It has an obvious downtown, and appears to be walkable. No one would mistake it for downtown Seattle, and the surrounding residential outside downtown isn't dense at all, though it looks there are some big apartment buildings in downtown Bellevue. If Bellevue were somehow by itself it would to be a city with a clear center, just a rather low density one. It also looks like it has decent infill opportunities. The layout of the downtown area might be prewar, but the downtown isn't — in 1940 Bellevue had barely over 1000 people.

New Westminster, BC appears to have a downtown (though more shopping and residential concentration rather than lots of office) and is rather new.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ne...a8e918f64dfeee
I think Bellevue might be relatively similar to North York Centre or Etobicoke Centre in Toronto in terms of how populated they were in 1940.

North York Centre and nearby neighbourhoods had about 7,500 residents in 8.7 square miles in 1940. Today I think it's around 100,000 if not more.

Etobicoke Centre and surrounding areas had about 3,800 people in 19.6 square miles in 1940. This is the area more or less between Islington, Toronto's western city limits, Rexdale Blvd and the QEW. East of Islington and South of the QEW was already relatively developed as suburbs of Toronto. There's maybe around 100-150,000 people there now.

The actually downtowns (excluding lower density neighbourhoods nearby) are currently around 20,000 and 50,000 people I think.

Bellevue annexed a lot since 1940 so I think it was pretty similar to these places at that time.


This is Etobicoke City Centre in 1947.
Eloquent Systems Inc - JPEG 2000 Viewer
Basically the outskirts with a few half developed neighbourhoods. The current highrise area was mostly farm fields. The commercial area at Bloor and Islington didn't exist yet. There seems to have been a few businesses around Cordova and Dundas but not as many as today.

Today
https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.64350.../data=!3m1!1e3


North York City Centre in 1947
Eloquent Systems Inc - JPEG 2000 Viewer
You can see York Cemetery being built, as well as Sheppard, Yonge and Churchill Avenue and Finch. The area was kind of like those days' version of the exurbs, built along an interurban running along Yonge up to resort communities on Lake Simcoe. You can see similar communities further North like Thornhill, Langstaff, Richvale, Yongehurst, Sunset Beach and East Gwilimbury which were probably quite similar back then but very different today. Also unlike streetcar suburbs, many of Toronto's interurban routes weren't lined with near continuous retail, the development was much more scattered and low density with farm fields mixed in.

Today
https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.76156.../data=!3m1!1e3

East Willowdale and Bayview Village just East of NYCC
Eloquent Systems Inc - JPEG 2000 Viewer
You can see Bayview running across the map, as well as Sheppard and Finch. Western boundary of the image is Kenneth Ave.

Today
https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.77458.../data=!3m1!1e3

West Newtonbrook (Finch to Crestwood and Bathurst to Yonge roughly).
Eloquent Systems Inc - JPEG 2000 Viewer

Today
https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.78584.../data=!3m1!1e3

East Newtonbrook
Eloquent Systems Inc - JPEG 2000 Viewer
Looks like the Markham (NE) side of Steeles corners wasn't developed yet.

Today
https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.79215.../data=!3m1!1e3

Btw, other interurbans ran along Kingston Road, Lakeshore Road and another going through central Mississauga, then heading North to Georgetown then to Guelph. Another interurban ran from Hamilton to Oakville which was supposed to connect to the Lakeshore interurban but the gap between Oakville and Port Credit was never built. Scarborough Village, West Hill and Lakeview (Mississauga).

Might be interesting to see how different the aerials would have looked in 1940, since these areas tripled in population from 1941 to 1951 so probably a fair bit of that growth already happened by 1947.

This is the area along Yonge from York Mills to Sheppard in the early 40s.
http://jpeg2000.eloquent-systems.com...005_id0007.jp2

Last edited by memph; 07-16-2014 at 03:50 PM..
Reply With Quote 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.


Reply
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
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