Editor’s note: Read to the end of this post for an important update on the Streetsblog Network.
Many places that get categorized as “suburbs” are actually pretty urban. They may not be located in a central city, but they are compact, walkable places. But the inverse is also true: Large portions of nearly every American city are pretty spread out and suburban in character.
A new report from the Urban Land Institute [PDF] divides every metro area into a number of classifications based on density and other factors. You can click through ULI’s map and see whether they consider your neighborhood urban or suburban.
Frank Chiachiere at Seattle Transit Blog notes that ULI classifies almost all of Seattle as suburban, and he thinks that’s basically correct:
The report seeks to subdivide suburbia, using census tracts, into five categories — Established high-end, stable middle-income, economically challenged, greenfield lifestyle, and greenfield value — to reflect the diversity of communities that are often lumped together as “the suburbs.” The modern suburb, they argue, is a hodgepodge of very different housing and land-use types, a continuum that stretches from stately, tree-lined streetcar suburbs close to the center to the sprawling planned communities on the exurban fringe.
What’s interesting its that the report finds that there’s not much different between North Ballard and Bellevue: both are classified as “established, high-end” suburban communities. Seattleites might chafe at the comparison, but there’s something to it.