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Old 07-20-2016, 02:44 PM
 
Location: The Windy City
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We were having a discussion a few days ago in the Dallas forum about how Dallas is definitely a big city, but it doesn't feel like one to most non-Texans.

What makes a city "feel" big?

To me, a big city needs to have the following elements for it to "feel" big:

1) Population
2) Walkable neighborhoods. I should be able to live, eat, sleep, shop, etc in my neighborhood
3) Public transportation. No, a bus system doesn't really cut it.
4) Selection of amenities. I should be able to have ethnic food, go see a play, go to the zoo, etc.
5) Density: I shouldn't have to walk 2hr, drive 20mi, or go across town to find a coffee shop, restaurant, or club.
6) Tall buildings to create a nice skyline

Places like NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, Philly, DC, and Boston definitely meet these requirements. Even smaller big cities like Nashville, Detroit, Denver, Seattle, and St Louis meet most of these requirements.
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Old 07-20-2016, 02:55 PM
 
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To me Dallas feels kind of like a big city in its own way. Not like Chicago or Boston.

St. Louis definitely has a small big city feel. It doesn't have the parking problems or the traffic issues of Chicago but does have some awesome urban neighborhoods that are walkable with decent lrt and bus transit.

Nashville is growing into a lot of different things but is still short on variety of walkable areas and public transit options.

Denver is a model city for its recent improvements to public infrastructure and does have a small big city vibe.

Its been a while since visiting Detroit but I've heard a lot is going on there. But I not heard anything about lrt or heavy rail construction.
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Old 07-20-2016, 03:52 PM
 
Location: The middle of nowhere
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This is highly subjective and the answer will greatly depend on what region of the country a person is from and what size place they are accustomed to.

Somebody from the Northeast who is used to dense, walkable cities will have a different answer than somebody from the South for whom Atlanta or Dallas is a "big city." I think the OP's list pretty much covers the basics. Charlotte, a place that not a lot of people on City-Data would consider to be a "big city" has most of those covered.

I get really annoyed when I hear people refer to OKC as a "big city" because it doesn't even come close.
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Old 07-20-2016, 04:34 PM
 
Location: Florida
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A big city has one way streets and is a PITA to find a parking space. I avoid them.
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Old 07-20-2016, 04:52 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 15 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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Public transportation includes buses. Denver and Boston are very similar in population. Denver is actually larger, as is Seattle.

http://www.denverpost.com/2016/03/24...m-accelerates/
http://population2016.com/population...n-in-2016.html
http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/cityplann...ndemographics/

Last edited by Katarina Witt; 07-20-2016 at 05:56 PM.. Reason: typo
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Old 07-20-2016, 05:02 PM
 
Location: Virginia Beach
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This question has no right answer because how/where you were raised in adolescence forms your opinion of "big"...

As a child--as in, before my 17th birthday, before I ever lived on my own or had my own anythings---I lived in 5 states. The largest city I lived in was LA, buthe we left when I was 6. Spent a full 12 years of my upbringing in Virginia. I grew up in the suburbs of both DC and Richmond. DC was the first big city I knew. Richmond seemed big to me; Memphis seemed big to me...

Then I grew up and lived and traveled on my own, and realized that Memphis and Richmond aren't that large. But the thing is, they aren't "small", either. I don't know that you can call any city with a Top 50 UA/metro ranking a "small" city, and it irks me to hear that on here...

Everything in life is layered. There is ALWAYS a larger/smaller city...

@lepoisson, question:

If population is what makes a city "big", what is the threshold? Are we going by municipal city limits, metropolitan area, urban area, or some other metric? What is the population threshold?

What if you aren't a huge city yet offer numerous walkable neighborhoods and amenities? For instance, I live in Jackson Ward, Richmond, which is greatly walkable and offers all of the amenities you mentioned. In fact, Jackson Ward is more urban and walkable than damn near every neighborhood in Atlanta, and it's not even the densest or most Urban hood in Richmond. Why wouldn't Richmond meet your criteria?

Detroit doesn't have mass transportation, but is it fair to say Detroit isn't a big city. Houston has very inadequate mass transit, but is it not a big city?

DC doesn't have a tall or large skyline, and I think anyone in fairness consider DC a big city...

Just illustrating how difficult this question is to answer...
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Old 07-20-2016, 05:16 PM
 
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IMO, Californians think of cities as "big" if the core is dense, tall, and of a significant area. San Jose, for example, suffers because, despite a large population, large geographic area, and a lot of political power in the county, it still very much feels and gets treated like someone else's suburb. But it's all relative. Someone moving from Sonora might be overwhelmed by the bigness of it.
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Old 07-20-2016, 05:53 PM
 
Location: The Windy City
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Quote:
Originally Posted by murksiderock View Post

@lepoisson, question:

If population is what makes a city "big", what is the threshold? Are we going by municipal city limits, metropolitan area, urban area, or some other metric? What is the population threshold?

What if you aren't a huge city yet offer numerous walkable neighborhoods and amenities? For instance, I live in Jackson Ward, Richmond, which is greatly walkable and offers all of the amenities you mentioned. In fact, Jackson Ward is more urban and walkable than damn near every neighborhood in Atlanta, and it's not even the densest or most Urban hood in Richmond. Why wouldn't Richmond meet your criteria?

Detroit doesn't have mass transportation, but is it fair to say Detroit isn't a big city. Houston has very inadequate mass transit, but is it not a big city?

DC doesn't have a tall or large skyline, and I think anyone in fairness consider DC a big city...

Just illustrating how difficult this question is to answer...
In most cases, big cities are categorized only by their population, or metro population. In some cases, certain neighborhoods in Chicago might have more amenities than other neighborhoods in NYC, but because NYC has the population, Chicago is considered less of a big city.

Richmond is walkable, but lacks the population to be considered a true "big city". It also lacks a major airport, and home to large corporations. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dallas and Houston have the population, but mostly lack the walkability and density.

You're right that it's a very cultural question. Most people from the East Coast would expect a big city to have a metro, tall buildings, and have a large population living downtown. The same isn't true for other regions of the country.
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Old 07-20-2016, 06:43 PM
 
Location: Metro Detroit
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtinmemphis View Post
...

Its been a while since visiting Detroit but I've heard a lot is going on there. But I not heard anything about lrt or heavy rail construction.
We just put in a light rail line down Woodward. It should be opening later this year. Lots of pressure to expand this to the suburbs and to add additional lines.
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Old 07-20-2016, 06:44 PM
 
4,478 posts, read 2,661,399 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katarina Witt View Post
Municipal population has little if any relevance to the size of a city. Boston, depending how you define it, is nearly twice the size of Seattle and more than twice the size of Denver.

As for the larger topic, a true big city will have large areas of high-density, walkable areas, good public transit, and a large core that includes all of the typical "downtown" items from tourism to shopping to offices and performing arts. This needs to be at the core of a metro beyond a certain size, which is subjective. Seattle is on the cusp of that in my opinion. San Francisco and Toronto are already there.
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