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"Urban" vs. "suburban"

King of Kensington

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Not feeling particularly articulate at the moment, but want to get the ball rolling. There are the obvious political definitions, i.e. 416 = City, 905= Suburbs or inner suburbs = Rest of Metro and outer suburbs = 905, but I'm talking more about urban form.

The Old City of Toronto is denser than every major N. American city besides New York and is somewhat similar to Boston and San Francisco in its dense compact city (with large highly educated/yuppie populations in the core) surrounded by huge metro area. New York is unique in terms of its density even "semi-suburban" Queens is denser than any other American city. Both New York and Chicago have very dense cores, with their poor neighborhoods tending to be quite far out, but these cities are so big that there is a fair number of "suburban" areas within their boundaries (i.e. Eastern Queens, Staten Island, and certain far-out neighborhoods like Sauganash and Edgebrook in Chicago).

With no disrespect to those living in these areas, I would say there are even a few "semisuburban" sections of the Old City - like Bloor West Village, North Toronto north of Eglinton, and the Beaches and Woodbine Corridor. I'm not implying those areas are cookie-cutter suburbia - suburbs have existed long before the 50s - but they feel removed enough to use that label (Of course, the Annex and Yorkville were "suburbs" at one point but they're too much a part of the heart of the city to use that definition now).

The old municipalities of York and East York are also a bit of a borderline case since they are pre-war suburbs (as are Forest Hill, Leaside and Kingsway Park - but these were developed as suburbs for the affluent) , and they have more "outer-city" than "suburban" levels of density.

I just hope nobody will insist that Yonge and Lawrence is "downtown." :D
 
Funny I remember people defending Leaside and even Don Mills from the "suburban" charge. But I guess this just isn't as contentious as the Downtown/Midtown (and sometimes /Uptown) debate.
 
There are different kinds of suburbs. Some suburbs are superior to downtown. Then there are suckburbs, which are inferior.
 
Okay - I am going to take the bait although I am not sure exactly what point you are even trying to make.
Are you trying to argue that urban versus suburban is really only about density? Only 8000 people live in the square mile of London - 360,00 work there. There would have been 10 times the resident population in the medieval period, but you can't tell me that The City of London has gone suburban on us. Obviously the density is there, but not in residential buildings... yuppie occupied or otherwise... Downtown Philadelphia was/is a donut with a sparsely populated core and a (relatively) more densely populated area immediately around it. That isn't a suburban area surrounded an urban one. Density alone does not capture the essence of what "urban" means. Perhaps a more multidimentional view of "urban" and "suburban" is in order.

Finally, as a Bloor West inhabitant I don't take offense - I laugh. I did not become less educated (or even less yuppie really) by no longer wanting to live in a small space in a downtown core BTDT - I grew up! People live outside the most central core for all sorts of reasons! People move around urban spaces, living in different areas as their needs/priorities change. It is important that different pockets of the city have their own characteristics - that doesn't make Toronto (or London which is a very good example) less of an urban city, it makes it a more mature, human city.
AmJ
 
I don't think I disagree with anything you say...I agree it's more than about density. My "don't take offense" was semi-sarcastic. Although I'm more of a "core" person myself, I very much appreciate the streetcar suburb. I grew up in Hillcrest/Wychwood; St. Clair West has that feel as well (and unlike the vast majority of streetcar suburbs it has a streetcar running along it!)

I'd like to hear more about this multidimensional urban vs. suburban definition.
 
I agree completely, kettal. My point is not to paint all "suburbs" with one brush.

Humewood-Cedarvale > Oakville by the lake > Thornhill-Markham > Thornhill-Vaughan
 
Well, there's also the matter of socio-political convenience, i.e. Leaside became most "suburban" as a means of pigeonholeing Jane Pitfield's home base in 2006...
 
^ Well, as a Leasider and a self proclaimed fan of David Miller, I say with all truthfulness that Jane Pitfeild was an excellent councilor and did many things for the community. She was very well liked here, and there was a reason for that. It was kinda understandable that she won the vote here.
 
The term semisuburban not does make sense. After all, suburban already means semi-urban.

The way I see it, suburban and urban are not two distinct terms. After all, the word "suburban" has "urban" in it, does it not? All suburbs do have certain urban qualities. If they were completely lacking in any urban qualities, they would not be suburbs. So you can't say that inner city Toronto is urban while Markham is not urban. It is more accurate to say that inner-city Toronto is more urban and Markham is less urban. After all, inner-city Toronto and Markham are quite varied within each of themselves, so I am not sure why so many people believe that there is a clear line between urban and suburban.

I consider density to be the primary attribute of urbanity. After all, what is the complete opposite of urban? What is non-urban? Non-urban is rural. And extreme low density, i.e. the lack of people and settlement, is the primary characteristic of rural areas. On the other side of the spectrum, all the most urban places in the world are also the densest. Higher density equals reduced distances, which means more mixed use, more transit, more walking, etc.

BTW, old Toronto is not as dense as old Montreal. All the old housing in Montreal was designed as apartments for multiple families. Toronto's single family houses cannot compete.
 
^ Well, as a Leasider and a self proclaimed fan of David Miller, I say with all truthfulness that Jane Pitfeild was an excellent councilor and did many things for the community. She was very well liked here, and there was a reason for that. It was kinda understandable that she won the vote here.

I know, I'm not disputing that--even I agree that a lot of the knocks Pitfield got were unfair. Just that those looking for an axe to grind, the Pitfield = Leaside = "suburbia" formula comes naturally. (And, if one wants to go further down that unfair road, there's the Leaside of Stephen Harper's childhood.)
 
I think that much discussion has already been hashed out regarding the physical layout of a human settlement. I think that where greater understanding is required is how humans experience space. After all our bodies and minds and much of the culture they have created were never designed to occupy space inhabited by more than a few hundred individuals. From this perspective you can imagine that any settled form is excting, bewildering, frustrating and unnerving for all of us. Urban and suburban are just words. I think we understand their meaning intuitively and yet they are essentially meaningless.
 
BTW, old Toronto is not as dense as old Montreal. All the old housing in Montreal was designed as apartments for multiple families. Toronto's single family houses cannot compete.

True, Toronto was largely a "city of homes" rather than an apartment city until after WWII (and ironically the population actually dropped in the Old City from the 1950s-1970s despite a bunch of high rises going up). Montreal is far more (Outer Borough) New York-ish in that respect.

What was the land area for Montreal pre-merger? I can't find it. I don't know if it's that's the case any more. Perhaps in "The Neighborhoods" but I'm pretty sure Toronto's downtown core is significantly bigger than Montreal's so it's hard to say.
 

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