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View Poll Results: Most big city feeling of the group?
Montreal 32 22.54%
San Francisco 53 37.32%
Philadelphia 57 40.14%
Voters: 142. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 04-18-2013, 01:30 AM
 
Location: Tokyo, Japan
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I suppose depending on what you look at all three can make a case. I've been to all three, although admittedly my memories in Montreal take me to a time when I was really young and didn't care for such things, so my perspective is entirely useless on this matter.

Anyhow, fast forwarding more than a decade later and after seeing Philadelphia again over the previous weekend and having spent a ton of time in the Bay Area (rarely Oakland or East Bay though) I can sort of see this being an interesting comparison.

Some things to compare them on when factoring in "big city feel" are density, structural density, road and sidewalk sizes, intensity of pedestrian activity, condensed versus expanse (yes two opposite things that depending who you're talking to can sway to a question as such), extent of public transit coverage, built up feeder/bedroom communities, aerial views, culture regarding relative proximity ala "takes 45 minutes to go downtown and we only live 15 miles away (sorry, something I picked up and never forgot in Chicago)", and so on. Feel free to add in anything you'd like so long as it pertains to this topic and only this topic.

We hardly ever compare Canadian cities to our own, honestly with people having reached a somewhat agreed upon general consensus all over this board for the pecking order it's nice to twist and mix things up that we could all benefit (learn) from.
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Old 04-18-2013, 07:26 AM
 
Location: The City
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Three great cities, none feel as large as say Chicago - the next up

To me Philly and SF are very close - some aspects favor one or the other and would be hard pressed to argue too much about one or the other as the answer here. SF has some visual vantage points that make it feel larger, Philly driving through say from he sports complex to NE Philly on the streets feels like a larger expanse as SF can feel quicker to traverse the streets whereas the rowhome continuity just feels like it extends for much longer, the 12 or so mile drive South to North is one that would probably take 60 minutes on the city streets in Philadelphia whereas the roughly 7 miles in SF can make end to end feel smaller. Now viewing SF from a place like Alcatraz provides a vantage point and visual scale that has no comparable vantage in Philly for example. Philly is the bigger city and if explored in totality feels very large in continuous footprint, moreso to me than SF

Montreal feels a little smaller than either, to me very close to the Boston feel on size if that makes sense.

Also I would think both SF and Philly have many locales that are 15 or less miles and require 45-60 minutes to get there. The Schuylkill for example from Conshy/KOP to CC is awful most of the day and evening, generally between 45 and 70 minutes, worse on Friday afternoons especially.Not sure on Montreal honestly as I really have spent the majority of my time in the core and not really driving around so my thoughts on Montreal come with a limited view.
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Old 04-18-2013, 08:18 AM
 
Location: East Boston, MA
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I think Philly feels a bit larger than SF at the urban core, but the metro areas are comparable with SF's possibly feeling a little larger. I've spent time walking around the central neighborhoods of either city and Philadelphia feels a good deal larger. Not by an extreme margin (they're still the same category of city), but a noticeable amount. Philadelphia is flatter and the dense urban core seems to extend further from a pedestrian perspective. In San Francisco, once you leave the Financial District, San Francisco is bounded by hills both large and small as well as the bay. The sharp rises in elevation play with the built environment enough to break up the continuous stretches of streetwall and density. This is very apparent in places like Forest Hills, Bernal Heights, Ashbury Heights, etc. If nothing else, the hills and water set up boundaries that I think make San Francisco feel a bit more intimate. They have the opposite effect on the suburbs where the hills and water force denser development outward making suburban San Francisco feel like it stretches on forever.

The entire metro areas are very different in layout so it's tougher to compare. I say SF's may feel a bit larger due to the density. Geography (the Bay and the hills) restricts development to limited areas so suburbs a good distance from central SF are much more urban than many distant suburbs of Philadelphia. At the same time, you also have completely undeveloped land immediately adjacent to some of the Bay Area's urban centers which creates an illusion that you've left civilization. Nowhere is this more true than in Western Marin county and South of the city in the vicinity of Pacifica where the city gives way to undeveloped mountains and woods. It's an interesting contrast. While Philadelphia's burbs don't, for the most part, have the density of the Bay Area's 'burbs, there aren't any places (of the same scale, at least) that just give way to untouched, undeveloped land nearly as close to the city center as you'll find in the bay area.

Montreal feels quite a bit smaller in every aspect. To me, it feels closer to the size of a city like Baltimore at the center. Definitely a larger city, but not as big as SF or Philly. It has some dense urban neighborhoods surrounding a sizeable urban center, but it then starts to quickly fade into suburbia. The metro area feels very small. When I go to Montreal, I approach from the South East usually using Highway 10. It's amazing how you drive through what seems like endless stretches of farmland until you turn a corner (still surrounded by farmland) and all of a sudden the Skyline comes into view. This is pretty typical of many Canadian cities. Still, in my experience, there's not really a comparison between these three when it comes to size. Montreal feels quite a bit smaller because it is quite a bit smaller.
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Old 04-18-2013, 08:32 AM
 
Location: In the heights
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It felt lto me like Philly, then San Francisco, and then Montreal though all sort of felt pretty close. I think part of it might be some sort of latent association of urbanity with certain forms of grittiness that's contributing to this sort of gut reaction along with more rational observations of how bustling a city is. The one part where Montreal differs a lot from the other two is having as big an exurb/suburb footprint as development levels off much more quickly in Montreal compared to the other two. The city's streets are bustling though and good parts of it have a level of activity that is less common in the other two cities.
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Old 04-18-2013, 08:43 AM
 
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In all honestly when cities try too hard to look SO nice it can be dense but not as dense as a grittyer city. Like Boston, very dense, but the posh don't strick you like Philly and SF which has grifiti, and is super dense. Clean cities can't really focus on density, because there focusing on cleanliness, which is good. I just feel Philly and SF does density better and heavier, and its striking, while Montreal and Boston does it clean and noticeable, but not quite on the other cities levels. So I would say:

Philly>SF>Montreal
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Old 04-18-2013, 09:05 AM
 
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Sorry, but I think that Toure's post makes no sense. The density of the built environment has nothing to do with cleanliness or even grit. You get clean dense cities and dirty spread-out cities. Boston is both cleaner and denser than Jacksonville, to name a random example.
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Old 04-18-2013, 09:23 AM
 
Location: The City
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Some aerials

This misses basically all of Northest Philly

Philadelphia Aerial | Flickr - Photo Sharing!


Philadelphia | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Philly from 30,000 feet | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
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Old 04-18-2013, 09:26 AM
 
Location: The City
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San Francisco Aerial View (West) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
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Old 04-18-2013, 09:47 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toure View Post
In all honestly when cities try too hard to look SO nice it can be dense but not as dense as a grittyer city. Like Boston, very dense, but the posh don't strick you like Philly and SF which has grifiti, and is super dense. Clean cities can't really focus on density, because there focusing on cleanliness, which is good. I just feel Philly and SF does density better and heavier, and its striking, while Montreal and Boston does it clean and noticeable, but not quite on the other cities levels. So I would say:

Philly>SF>Montreal
This makes absolutely no sense.
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Old 04-18-2013, 12:58 PM
 
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Montreal
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