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TheBostonian

Urban Cores

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For my own entertainment, I am interested in how people attempt to define what what an urban core is. Could you draw a circle on a map around Boston's urban core? Does the census has any way of defining it? How do you even determine what is urban in this area? Is it:

-Merely the financial district?

-All areas within walking distance of the subway system?

-Anywhere without single family homes?

-Where most people can walk to a convenience store?

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I'd say the urban core is the main financial district, any and all densely industrialized areas, and all residential areas with densities over 10 units/acre.

Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea, Everett, Revere, Malden?

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I'd say the urban core is the main financial district, any and all densely industrialized areas, and all residential areas with densities over 10 units/acre. 

Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea, Everett, Revere, Malden?

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Boston, if my math is right, has only 8.13 housing units per acre.

Boston has 48.4 square miles of land, multiplied by 640 acres per square mile. That gives me 30976 acres. There are 251,935 housing units, which I divide by 30976, ending up with 8.13 housing units per acre. Somerville has a little over 12 units per acre.

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I'd say the urban core is the main financial district, any and all densely industrialized areas, and all residential areas with densities over 10 units/acre. 

Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea, Everett, Revere, Malden?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

this is along the lines of what i'm thinking as well. when i think urban core i am thinking density.

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Boston, if my math is right, has only 8.13 housing units per acre.

Boston has 48.4 square miles of land, multiplied by 640 acres per square mile.  That gives me 30976 acres.  There are 251,935 housing units, which I divide by 30976, ending up with 8.13 housing units per acre.  Somerville has a little over 12 units per acre.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Wait, but aren't you not supposed to count non-residential areas into that? If you go residential neighborhood by neighborhood, its probly well over 15-20 units per acre (if you dont count areas like the financial district, etc.)

Anybody got some info on the whole units/acre thing? I've always seen it as neighborhood by neighborhood statistics.

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Did anyone read my post?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yes. But I'm looking for a better sense of what is urban than the census definitions, though they are one useful way to look at it.

"Wait, but aren't you not supposed to count non-residential areas into that? If you go residential neighborhood by neighborhood, its probly well over 15-20 units per acre (if you dont count areas like the financial district, etc.)

Anybody got some info on the whole units/acre thing? I've always seen it as neighborhood by neighborhood statistics."

It is a good point. Somerville is more densely populated than Boston because it is so purely residential, and Boston has large chunks of land where no one lives.

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As long as we do not adhere to standard definitions, we can talk about this forever.

Using Atlanta again as an example, it is considered by many to be a city, but since I grew up thinking Boston and NYC were cities, then Atlanta, to me, is really just a huge suburb!

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As long as we do not adhere to standard definitions, we can talk about this forever.

Using Atlanta again as an example, it is considered by many to be a city, but since I grew up thinking Boston and NYC were cities, then Atlanta, to me, is really just a huge suburb!

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Well I am most interested in people's subjective opinions. For example, nothing is more urban to me than the Sesame Street neighborhood that got into my head as a child.

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Well I am most interested in people's subjective opinions.  For example, nothing is more urban to me than the Sesame Street neighborhood that got into my head as a child.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You brought a smile to my face...

Dave Chappelle makes fun of Sesame Street pretty well...funny.

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Well I am most interested in people's subjective opinions.  For example, nothing is more urban to me than the Sesame Street neighborhood that got into my head as a child.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

heh, that sesame street neighborhood was always etched in my mind as well. when i was in dorchester looking at apartments, i couldn't help but relate it to sesame street. a diverse neighborhood with tons of kids sitting out on their front "stoops" and playing in the streets.

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Wait, but aren't you not supposed to count non-residential areas into that? If you go residential neighborhood by neighborhood, its probly well over 15-20 units per acre (if you dont count areas like the financial district, etc.) 

Anybody got some info on the whole units/acre thing?  I've always seen it as neighborhood by neighborhood statistics.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

going neighborhood by neighborhood is definately the way to go. some cities have very dense parts and then parts that aren't so dense, and so density figures for a city as a whole, especially one like boston, will not be representative of anything but an average...an average which includes the financial district, which might as well be an open field as long as we are discussing housing units. and "open fields" bring density counts way down.

technically, the math is correct at 8.13 units per acre. but assuming that usually 2 people or more live in a unit, then that is 16 people (or more) per acre, which is over 10,000 people per square mile (and probably a lot more for some areas). i dont know any place in america with this kind of density that wouldnt be considered urban, or part of an urban core to be more specific. only a handful of the biggest cities average over 5,000 people per square mile, and boston averages over 10,000...so if that isnt urban than i cant imagine anywhere that is...

maybe it would be better to consider 10 people per acre, rather than units, for what to classify as truly 'urban' in terms of density counts. this would bring the definition to slightly over 6,000 people per square mile, which is pretty dense. at least enough to be considered urban rather than suburban.

bostons population per sq. mile is over 11,000, so this well-exceeds the 6,000 ppsm mark of 10 people per acre. when it had 589,000 people it averaged over 12,000. and at its height (when it was well over 800,000 people total) it averaged over 16,000 per sq. mile....

hope someone found all this interesting

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hope someone found all this interesting

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Absoloutely. My family and friends would fall alseep if I starting talking about this stuff. But here is my haven. It is what I love about this forum.

Somerville has something like 18,000 people per sq mile. And the city is mostly 2 and 3 family homes, with really not too many apartment buildings. I still have trouble thinking of areas dominated by houses as urban, but it certainly is.

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Absoloutely.  My family and friends would fall alseep if I starting talking about this stuff.  But here is my haven.  It is what I love about this forum.

Somerville has something like 18,000 people per sq mile.  And the city is mostly 2 and 3 family homes, with really not too many apartment buildings.  I still have trouble thinking of areas dominated by houses as urban, but it certainly is.

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Absolutely, Somerville is one of the densest municipalities in the country, and Cambridge too. Of course I can never find a ranking of densities online anywhere, but I wanna say that Somerville is in the top 6 or 7 most dense in the whole US.

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Absolutely, Somerville is one of the densest municipalities in the country, and Cambridge too.  Of course I can never find a ranking of densities online anywhere, but I wanna say that Somerville is in the top 6 or 7 most dense in the whole US.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Among cities of at least 50k Somerville ranks 5th:

http://www.demographia.com/db-2000city50kdens.htm

Among all cities Somerville ranks 17th:

http://www.demographia.com/db-us90densdist.htm

Notice that 2nd of this list is a sliver of a town with a mere 0.2 square miles. Guttenberg, New Jersey, whatever it is, is right across the Hudson from Manhattan. That's an extreme case of how asbsurdly arbitrary city borders can be. Somerville is also just a dense area near the center of metro Boston that happens to be contained within the boundries of a city, making it a very dense city on paper. If you cut up cities like NY with hundreds of square miles into pieces the way metro Boston is, you'd have several more Somerville's with very high density. And I guess if you chopped up Houston or Atlanta you'd come out with suburban towns and maybe even semi-rural towns too.

This is why I am interested in how we can define metro areas and urban cores that do not necessarily correspond to all too often arbitrary borders. Consider state borders. Two of America's major population centers are the chains of metropolitan areas from San Francisco to San Diego and Boston to DC. (There are some wikipedia articles on the idea of the megalopolis, BosWash and SanSan, for example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalopolis ) It doesn't seem to make much difference that SanSan occupies just one part of a large state while BosWash spans several smaller states.

Borders mislead. Comparing the US to Germany doesn't get anyone very far. But comparing the US to the EU is suddenly more interesting.

And that's how I see it! B)

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Among cities of at least 50k Somerville ranks 5th:

http://www.demographia.com/db-2000city50kdens.htm

Among all cities Somerville ranks 17th:

http://www.demographia.com/db-us90densdist.htm

Borders mislead.  Comparing the US to Germany doesn't get anyone very far.  But comparing the US to the EU is suddenly more interesting.

And that's how I see it!  B)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

There we go, thanks for the links, I could never come up with anything searching Google for densities.

And I have to agree, borders are a huge misleader when it comes to comparing areas. Comparing places like the city of Charlotte or Houston to the city of Providence, or Boston is completely invalid, since Charlotte and Houston encompass so much more of their metro areas within their borders. Really, when one speaks of "boston", they should mean Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, etc, the "urban core" of Boston, not just the city limits itself.

Part of the problem is that in the northeast, when people say "Boston" or "Providence", they mean just the city limits itself. Other people around the country consider the whole metro areas more. We need to as well, and get away from the whole individual municapility thing.

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We need to as well, and get away from the whole individual municapility thing.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

i agree. we do. the boston area is much bigger than it would seem on paper to someone from the other side of the country. and even though L.A. is the country's 2nd biggest city, doesnt it include the whole county or something ridiculous like that...?

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i agree. we do. the boston area is much bigger than it would seem on paper to someone from the other side of the country.  and even though L.A. is the country's 2nd biggest city, doesnt it include the whole county or something ridiculous like that...?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yeah. LA is 469.1 square miles of land, according to census data at wikipedia. Boston: 48.4. Borders are bogus.

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Guys, density comes from the culture, but also from the borders.

I know how many people live in eastern MA, but I certainly don't want the city to become the expanded wasteland like LA is...

Who gives a crap what list certain cities are on...

What's great about MA is that it is all towns, and not some weird county structure.

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Yeah.  LA is 469.1 square miles of land, according to census data at wikipedia.  Boston: 48.4.  Borders are bogus.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

so i wonder if boston's boarders were expanded (not saying they should be) how much of its 5 million person metro would be included in a 400 square mile radius. i bet all of it would. and then that would make boston the secpnd biggest city in america, beating out L.A. which i think has around 4 million...

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You will probably think I am nuts, but I have crunched some of these numbers. The area within route 128 is less than 300 square miles and it contains about 1.8 million people. It makes me wonder how far outside Boston you have to include to get the 4-6 million metro population. I could have gone further, maybe to include all within 495, but it is very tedious. Of course my math could be way off.

If you want to compare:

Houston has about 2 million people over about 600 square miles. The approximately 300 square miles inside 128 contain nearly 2 million people.

---------------------------------------------

Boston pop. sq. miles

Boston 589,141 48.4

Border Cities

Cambridge 101,355 6.4

Somerville 77,478 4.1

Watertown 32,986 4.1

Brookline 57,107 6.8

Everett 38,037 3.4

Chelsea 35,080 2.2

Winthrop 18,303 2.0

Total border city population (sq. miles): 360,326 (29)

Boston plus border city population 949,467 (77.4)

Next Ring

Revere 47,283 5.9

Malden 56,340 5.1

Medford 55,765 8.1

Arlington 42,389 5.2

Belmont 24,194 4.7

Newton 83,829 18.0

Needham 28,911 12.6

Dedham 23,464 10.4

Randolph 30,963 10.1

Quincy 88,025 16.8

Total population of these "next ring" cities (sq miles): 481,163 (96.9)

Total population of Boston, border cities and next ring: 1,430,630 (174.3)

Remaining Cities within (approximately) Route 128

Lynn 89,050 10.8

Saugus 26,078 11.0

Nahant 3,632 1.2

Melrose 27,134 4.7

Wakefield 24,804 7.5

Stoneham 22,219 6.2

Woburn 37,258 12.7

Winchester 20,810 6.0

Lexington 30,355 16.4

Waltham 59,226 12.7

Braintree 33,828 13.9

Total population of remaining 128 cities: 374,394 (103.1)

Total population inside 128: 1,805,024 (277.4)

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