Urban Areas, Redefined

Around the world, urban areas have new names -- micropolis, aerotropolis and city-region. But are they cities?

"Ask someone from Lebanon, New Hampshire; North Lantau New Town, Hong Kong; or Padua, Italy, if they live in a city and most would probably say no. Yet, as parts of a 'micropolis,' 'aerotropolis' and 'city-region' respectively, their home towns count as urban."

According to the U.S. Office of Management and budget, four towns in Vermont and New Hampshire are a micropolitan statistical area. "With populations of between 10,000 and 49,999 and a centre - Hanover, New Hampshire - of at least 10,000 inhabitants, the towns are socially and economically integrated." Like Fairfax County in Virginia, and Arvada, Colorado, North Lantau New Town in Hong Kong is an aerotropolis, built around an airport. "Aerotropoli are created when the communities surrounding an airport fuse economically and socially, if not administratively, changing the original dependent or satellite relationship with the big city served by the facility. So in the Chicago area, while residents of the northern suburbs still gravitate to its attractions for work and entertainment, those living around O'Hare, in places such as the former Hoffman Estates subdivision, commute to their own business parks, shop in their own malls, organise their own police forces and take college courses at their own branches of Illinois' state university."

Europe has its own definition for urban areas: the city-region. The Metrex Network of European Metropolitan Regions and Areas counts 120 such areas across the continent and says that between 50 and 60 per cent of Europeans live in them. In Italy's Veneto city-region (Venice, Treviso and Padua)local activists are pushing for official recognition of and coherent planning area. "Most important is improving direct transport links between its three cities since the nearby section of the Milan-Venice-Trieste autostrada is now paralysed not only by the long-distance traffic for which it was intended but also by locals commuting to the famed, small industries scattered through the region, weekenders queuing for access to beaches on the Venetian lagoon and shoppers on their way to the area's new hypermarkets and multi-plexes."

Full Story: Devilish Definitions

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