The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

15 February 2006

Smaller hole, bigger donut?

This Michael Bates "side note" carries more weight than you'd think:

I was at a political event a few weeks ago and met Tom Kimball, the head of economic development for Owasso. He told me that right now, about half the population of the metro area lives within the City of Tulsa, and half without. He said that it's natural for the center city to become an even smaller proportion of the metro area, and pointed to St. Louis as an example. I thought, but didn't say, that Tulsa tripled its land area in 1966 precisely to avoid getting hemmed in by its suburbs. I forget the exact number he quoted me, but I believe he suggested that Tulsa shouldn't complain about ending up at around a quarter to a third of the metro area population.

The city of St. Louis has much less than a quarter to a third of the St. Louis Metro population: St. Louis County alone, which has been separate from the city of St. Louis for 125 years or so, has three times the population of the city. What the Census Bureau considers the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area includes 2.75 million people; just over one million live in St. Louis County, and about 340,000 live in St. Louis City. This gives the city about an eighth of the metro area. More to the point, the city of St. Louis literally cannot expand: it's completely surrounded. Any population growth has to come within the original 61 square miles.

There's no particular rule of thumb for the proportion of the metro area population which lives in the central city: nearly two-thirds of the 1.6 million people in the San Antonio metro live in the city of San Antonio. (The figure in Oklahoma City is just under one-half.) Ultimately, what matters is the growth of the city relative to the growth of the suburbs. And this is a major issue in Tulsa, because the city isn't growing: the population of the city of Tulsa fell by 10,000 between 2000 and 2004. Not even St. Louis is shrinking that fast. For critics of Tulsa city government, who have suggested that the power structure is enriching Tulsa suburbs at the expense of city taxpayers, this could well constitute a call to arms.

Posted at 8:13 AM to Soonerland


A quarter to a third of the metro population? That's really high.

Fort Lauderdale is the center of a metro area (Broward County) with 1.6 million people (2000 figure; it's gone up a lot since then). However, Fort Lauderdale itself only had about 152,000 people then, about 9.3% of the metro area's population. Fort Lauderdale is not shrinking in absolute terms, but it is growing slower than its suburbs, especially the southwestern suburbs of Pembroke Pines and Weston. Fort Lauderdale is hemmed in by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and suburbs on the north, south, and west, so it cannot expand by annexation.

Posted by: timekeeper at 11:54 AM on 15 February 2006

St. Louis on the beach, basically. I suspect this describes most of the metro areas along Florida's Atlantic coast, with the exception of Jacksonville; it would certainly seem to be true for Miami.

Posted by: CGHill at 12:01 PM on 15 February 2006