The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2002

He's Not Mediocre-He's Just Average II

From the Cabalmaster:

If you were preparing population statistics for, say, the San Francisco Bay Area, would you count San Francisco as “urban” and everything else as “suburban”?

EVERYTHING else? Including Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley and Richmond?

If so, then a promising career at the Wendell Cox Consultancy may await you -- and you can explain to us some of the things we’ve found on “Demographia.”

We opinionated Transitcabalists admit that deciding which parts of the Bay Area (or other “ploycentric” metropolitan regions) should be classified as “urban” and “suburban” is not straightforward. Counting Oakland as “suburban,” for example, seems senseless, but we acknowledge that one might make a strong case for including San Jose among the “suburbs.”

But we also think that “Demographia” is remarkably weak (and more than a bit lame) in this respect when it comes to the three largest Japanese metro areas.

The “Demographia” page that shows “suburbanization” in the Tokyo region ( doesn’t even bother to define the Tokyo metropolitan region. However, the urbanized area contains the following “major” centers:

Tokyo (23 wards): 7.9 million
Yokohama: 3.4 million
Kawasaki: 1.2 million
Chiba: 0.9 million

The officially-defined urbanized area (within a 31-mile–50 km–radius of Tokyo station) houses about 30 million people. The “urban” share is 26 percent if based on Tokyo alone -- or 45 percent if based on Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki and Chiba. Since this page presents only percentage comparisons, it’s difficult to discern the doings of the “Demographia” denizens.

It would be possible to argue against the inclusion of Kawasaki as “urban,” on grounds that much of the land area consists of suburbs which were developed relatively recently. However, we can‚t imagine why anyone would dream that Yokohama is a “suburb.”

It is also possible to argue that several smaller cities should be counted as “urban” because they are old enough and have a sufficiently “urban” character.

This “Demographia” page that shows suburbanization in the Osaka region does define the metropolitan region -- “Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto” prefectures ( Hyogo prefecture includes Kobe, and Kyoto prefecture includes . . . well, Kyoto:

Osaka: 2.5 million
Kobe: 1.5 million
Kyoto: 1.4 million

Obviously, the logical “urban” share of population (within the “official” 31-mile–50 km–radius of Osaka station) would more than double in size if Kyoto and Kobe were included. Again, we do not understand the “logic” of classifying Kobe and Kyoto as Osaka “suburbs” -- and again, we don’t know whether “Demographia” does or not. At least two smaller cities would be difficult to classify as “suburbs” for historic reasons: Himeji (west of Kyoto) and Uji (just southeast of Kyoto).

The “official” definition of the urbanized area: a 31-mile (50 km) radius from Osaka station. “Demographia” uses a different definition without explanation (as usual).

“Demographia” also has a Nagoya suburbanization page ( Here, the “official” definition is a 25-mile radius from Nagoya station . . . and Demographia’s definition is “Aichi Prefecture.” Hmmm. Three cities that for historic reasons would be difficult to classify as “suburbs” are Okazaki, Seto and Toyohashi.

The “radii” that we’ve mentioned above are determined by the government based on the size of the “commmuter shed.” These “radii” have been expanded as the “commuter shed” has expanded.

(Perhaps the denizens of “Demographia” have a natural tendency to shy away from a metropolitan-region “definition” that is based on a railway station . . .)

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