Definitions can be important when looking at things such as statistics.
A simple comparison of city populations can result in quite different figures. For example, what is the population of Seattle?
The Wikipedia article opens:
Seattle is a seaport city on the west coast of the United States. It is the seat of King County, Washington. With an estimated 713,700 residents as of 2017, Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America.
Okay, so 713 thousand people. About half the size of Adelaide.
Well no, at least not in the terms Australians generally use. The info box on the right hand side of the article says there are 3 million people in the Urban area, 3.7 million in the Metro (metropolitan) area, or 4.5 million in the Combined Statistical Area.
In other words, depending on how you measure it, Seattle is double the size of Adelaide, and possibly on a par with Melbourne, which Wikipedia says has a population of 4.7 million, citing ABS figures that use the Greater Capital City Statistical Area.
We have to be careful what we’re talking about: just an arbitrary area, such as everything within a government boundary, or the entire metropolis, or something even bigger?
Definitions vary, but (at least on Wikipedia):
- the City often refers to just the central local government area;
- the Urban area generally seems to includes contiguous development;
- the Metro area may have gaps and may include additional areas within commuting distance
- the Combined Statistical area, or Greater Capital City Statistical Area (an ABS term), could be useful — but like a government boundary, potentially could be arbitrary if the local statistics agency doesn’t keep up
Another example: London
The City of London is a small subset of the Central Business District, a government area with a population just 9401 people.
Greater London the government area controlling London and its suburbs, with a population of 8.8 million.
The Urban area of London has a population of 9.8 million.
The London “Metro” area, defined as all of the above plus the surrounding commuter zone which includes parts of numerous nearby counties, has 14 million. If we applied a similar methodology for Melbourne, I suppose that would include out to Geelong, Melton, and so on.
So if we’re trying to compare, perhaps the best figure to use against Melbourne’s 4.7 million is London’s urban area of 9.8 million, or Seattle’s 3 million.
At least, that’s what I think I’ll use unless convinced otherwise.
Going to the City
In Australian English, even use of the word “City” can be confusing.
When a Melbourne local says “I’m going to the City”, they are generally referring to Melbourne’s Central Business District.
In some contexts, it might mean the City of Melbourne council area, which includes the CBD, parts of North Melbourne and Royal Park, Carlton, Southbank, Docklands.
And if you’re wondering, the resident population of the City of Melbourne is about 136,000, but with total daytime population (mostly made up of visitors) of about 900,000 people.
Oh, and if you think population is complicated, you should see density.
I’ll leave it there. I’ve got to catch a train to Melbourne. I mean, to the City.