What’s the right geographic scale for urban planning and decisionmaking?
Over the last few decades, most scholars and policymakers have gotten used to thinking beyond the political boundaries of cities and have focused on the shared challenges and assets facing metropolitan regions. We recognize that housing choices, job opportunities, commuting patterns, and business investment decisions all cross jurisdictional lines, and that solutions to many of our most vexing problems lie at the metropolitan scale. The absence of metro-scale governance often frustrates the achievement of these solutions. But increasingly, city and suburban political and civic leaders are finding ways to work regionally.
Maybe we should be thinking even bigger.
In a new MetroTrends commentary, Henry Cisneros suggests that metropolitan regions can and should be working in partnership with other, nearby cities and metros with which their economic future is closely interconnected.
As a starting point for thinking at this larger, collaborative scale, he’s identified 18 dominant metropolitan areas, each of which is the hub for a larger network of metros. This approach yields a coherent urban system of 18 metropolitan networks made up of the nation's 100 largest metros.
Let’s take a look at these metro networks.
In the “Great Northwest Metros,” manufacturing jobs are expanding, while in the “Florida Triangle” they’re on the decline. For a low-wage worker, rents are considerably more affordable in the “Basketball Legacy Metros” than in the “Global Metropolis.” And residential segregation is a lot less severe in the “Northern Plains Complex” than in the adjacent “Midwest Heartland.”
Cisneros’s goal in naming and describing these networks is to encourage decisionmakers at city, state, and federal levels to focus more attention on the economic engines that will drive their prosperity in the decades ahead, and on the infrastructure investments needed to support not only growth, but also equity of opportunity and quality of life.
Comparing the performance of these 18 metro networks could spark new conversations about 21st century urban policy in an inter-connected nation.