Talk:United States admin level

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Township boundaries

At least in Ohio, townships and cities/villages don't overlap (except in the rare situations where they do). So I think we should draw the township boundaries so that they stop at the city limits, where the welcome signs would be. I've seen maps that indicate the townships' original (square-like) boundaries, but those are historical boundaries. They don't correspond to any current administrative jurisdiction. – Minh Nguyễn (talk, contribs) 10:18, 1 December 2010 (UTC)

So do they or don't they overlap? If they do in real life, we should map them that way. --NE2 12:34, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
There are only a handful of places in Ohio where townships actually overlap with cities or villages, usually only by a few parcels. They're the exception rather than the rule: the municipality wanted to annex the property for the additional taxpayers, say, but didn't want to run afoul of the township by taking away theirs. (In the overlapping areas, property owners would pay taxes to both the township and municipality, as they belong to both.) I just wanted to point out that the overlap was possible, but it's separate from the fact that cities and villages occupy former township land. – Minh Nguyễn (talk, contribs) 09:07, 2 December 2010 (UTC)
After some additional research, it looks like townships should be admin_level=7 and should exclude cities that have withdrawn using paper townships. Census maps like this one of Hamilton Twp., Warren Co. can be pretty useful for figuring out which cities have withdrawn. The scenario I mentioned above would be implemented by including the parcels in the city but excluding them from the city's paper township. But I'm not sure whether cities with paper townships should be admin_level=7 or 8. – Minh Nguyễn (talk, contribs) 09:08, 5 December 2010 (UTC)

Planning areas

The master planned city of Irvine, CA, uses "planning areas" (also referred to poetically as "villages" by the real estate marketeers) to denote large parts of the city, each with own infrastructure and a bit of character. There are about 30 in all, this number may slowly grow. I am planning on mapping these out as boundary=administrative + admin_level=9 unless someone stops me. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ponzu (talkcontribs)

I don't see these as quite the same as administrative boundaries, more like school districts or water management districts. Perhaps boundary=planning_area would be more suitable? Predominantly residential areas can of course be tagged landuse=residential as well. --NE2 06:01, 6 April 2011 (BST)
If I map them as boundary=planning_area, this would be the first example of such usage. And given the number of master planned communities around the world, it may not be of use to anyone else. I think my city is pretty unique for California, can't speak for the world. Check out this document (incl. the map): http://library.municode.com/HTML/13239/level3/ZOOR_DIV9PLAR_CH9-0GE.html Doesn't it look like administrative division? And yes, I am planning on tagging the neighborhoods inside the planning areas landuse=residential--Ponzu 00:36, 7 April 2011 (BST)
This usage reminds me of the well-defined "neighborhoods" that many large cities are divided into. They're usually associated with neighborhood councils and don't necessarily coincide with wards or voting precints. Due to that analogy, I find your proposed tagging scheme reasonable. Irvine covers enough area that the additional boundaries wouldn't really clutter up the map that much. – Minh Nguyễn (talk, contribs) 08:30, 10 October 2011 (BST)

Townships, Cities and Villages in Michigan

Under Michigan law, townships and cities are at the same level under the county level. That is to say, in Michigan one is either in a township or a city. There are no areas that aren’t in either a township or a city and there are no areas in which one could be in both. When a city is incorporated or annexes territory from a township, that land is no longer in any way connected with the township, not even in the sense of “paper townships” like in Ohio. If the entire township is incorporated or annexed to a city, that township ceases to exist in every sense.

Villages are incorporated municipalities subordinate to townships. That is to say, when one is in a village he or she is also in a township. No part of a village shares territory with a city, however. As stated previously, incorporation as a city or annexing territory to a city removes if from the township and thus, if a village becomes a city it no longer is part of the township—in effect, it would be “elevated” from a level below the township to an equal level with the township.

Here are some complications: Cities in Michigan can be part of more than one county. Thus, although a city is clearly a subordinate administrative subdivision to the county on an equal level with the townships, when a city is part of more than one county it makes it more complicated to designate this. Creating two adjoining areas and giving them the same tags to indicate that they were the same city would still make it appear that they were two separate entities and not one—just with the same name. Villages in Michigan can lie in more than own township, and also in more than one county. There are many villages in Michigan that lie in more than one township within the same county and a few that lie in more than one township in two counties—yet, it’s the same village municipality. The same complications regarding cities would apply here.

Note: Michigan has two designations for townships: general law townships (usually simply called “townships”) and charter townships. There is no practical distinction between the two—particularly regarding mapping in Open Street Map. Charter Townships are not an incorporated municipality in the sense that a city is. Rather, they are townships that have exercised some local government options provided by state law and have some protection against being annexed by a city.

My approach: For my mapping, I have given cities and townships the same level: 7. I have given villages level 8. When a city spans more than one county or a village spans more than one township, I will split the area of the city or village into separate areas for each higher-level administrative unit in which it lies, but will apply the same tags to both (except for the "Is_In" designations).

Is there a better way to do this? --Vox Sapiens 01:47, 30 May 2012 (BST)

"Cities in Michigan can be part of more than one county." I think this is true in most states. Look at New York City - it comprises all the land of five counties. --NE2 10:16, 30 May 2012 (BST)
I think cities should be tagged level 8 as suggested by Admin level page so as to keep Michigan consistent with other states. Killian441 00:18, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

Updated table

I found it hard to read the table as it was so I updated it to its current form. I also alphabetized it. A couple of issues I was grappling with: New York City boroughs. According to the Admin level page, NYC itself is level 5 and its boroughs are level 6 as they are most similar in function to counties. I updated this table to reflect that. If anyone has objections let me know.

Counties in CT - Counties were abolished in 1960 but still used for courts, except in some places. I left a note there but not sure if counties should be included or not. Same with the regions that came after them which have only a limited authority.

Boroughs in VA - Boroughs in VA seem to be the same level as neighborhoods. The are officially recognized but don't seem to have any real authority. If this is the case and we want to map them then I don't seem how this is any different than neighborhoods, wards, voting districts, or census designated places. Perhaps we want to include these as well.

Independent cities - All cities in VA are independent and therefore level 6. But what about wikipedia:Consolidated city–countys? Independent cities are not considered part of any county and therefore it makes sense to have them level 6, but Consolidated city–counties are in fact counties so should they be level 6 as well?

Cities in MI - I tried to keep the discussion on this page in mind as I updated but I think the one conflict is cities in Michigan. I don't see a reason to leave them at level 7 and moved them to level 8. Again from the Admin level page municipal cities are level 8. My understanding is the levels determine how to render an area. Its seems logical that even though cities in MI have similar responsibilities as townships, they should be rendered the same as cities in other states, therefore level 8.

Killian441 00:14, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

admin_level=5 proposal

We may need to extend how New York City — a conglomeration of Level 6 entities (boroughs) — defines a new entity (Level 5 "city-glom"). This entity is still "below" the next admin_level up, Level 4 (state), hence the choice of NYC being admin_level=5.

Similar entities (which seem to fit best at admin_level=5) are created by both state and federal legislatures to serve a variety of purposes and include:

  • Probably state-designated Councils Of Governments
    Councils Of Governments are regional bodies that exist throughout the United States. These typically serve an area of several counties, addressing issues such as regional and municipal planning, economic and community development, cartography and GIS, hazard mitigation and emergency planning, aging services, water use, pollution control, transit administration, and transportation planning.
  • Likely MPOs, federally mandated and federally funded transportation policy-making organizations in the United States that are made up of representatives from local government and governmental transportation authorities
    (Local authorities + US Department of Transportation)
  • Possibly PSAs, CSAs, MSAs, µSAs, federally-designated
    (US Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget)

—Preceding unsigned comment added by Stevea (talkcontribs) 02:20, 31 December 2012 (UTC)

See discussion on talk-us.
But don't all of these match existing city or county boundaries? --NE2 15:56, 4 January 2013 (UTC)
No, NE2. A COG, for example, might be a logical union of existing cities: made up of cities, but a new unit at a different admin_level which includes two or more cities or counties. The federally-designated PSAs, CSAs, MSAs and µSAs very often encompass areas quite different than city or county boundaries. They are calculated not by municipal or state legal limits, but rather a statistical edge, such as population density around a centroid. --Stevea 11:18, 19 February 2013 (UTC)
I'm using MSAs to replace the previously mapped 'statistical_area's imported in 2010 by NE2. -Valerietheblonde (talk) 19:41, 14 July 2016 (UTC)

School District admin level

I was thinking of adding the boundaries of a few school districts in my local area, but found there doesn't seem to be documentation on the wiki on the proper designation for them. It looks like they would fit here as an administrative boundary under level 9 or 10. Does it make sense to fit a School District under admin_level 9? Or is there another designation that should be used for this sort of boundary? --Midnightlightning (talk) 17:31, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

boundary=administrative is used for corporate boundaries, the kind of boundaries that have welcome signs. Overlay districts don't fit neatly into this admin_level hierarchy. Some school districts cover only part of a city while others cover entire counties or span county lines. In many states, they have independent boards that answer to the state education department rather than a city or county government. The same is often true of fire, water, and sanitation districts. You could use another tag like boundary=school, but consider that school districts can be more fluid and less on-the-ground verifiable than other kinds of districts, which partly explains why so few have been mapped. – Minh Nguyễn (talk, contribs) 10:33, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

Consolidated city-counties beyond a single county: admin_level=5?

Consolidated city-counties (CCCs) in the US are complex, with many subtle distinctions about how they are organized, such as "consolidated since their creation," "merged," and "merged with some independent municipalities." (CCCs are distinct from independent cities). New York City (NYC), presently OSM's only US example of admin_level=5, seems unique in the sense that each of five boroughs (admin_level=6) is coterminous and co-extensive with one and exactly one county. However, county-level NYC government is non-existent as all executive and legislative power is exercised by the (parent) city government throughout the five boroughs, conveying that admin_level=5 is correct, even as admin_level=6 is correct for (administratively meaningless?) borough boundaries.

Borough boundaries are not entirely meaningless administratively. Boroughs of New York city still retain some independence. The Borough Boards have (small) discretionary spending budgets. Each borough has its own county court, and retains its own district attorney to prosecute crimes. Brooklyn and Queens have their own public library systems independent of the New York Public Library. Other government functions have been consolidated and redistributed several times since the Great Consolidation of 1898, and could hypothetically be again. (For each borough to have one vote on the Board of Estimate was found to be unconstitutional in 1989, and that house of the city's legislature was abolished, with most of its responsibilities devolving upon the City Council.) Kevin Kenny (talk) 22:45, 16 March 2017 (UTC)

Other CCCs exist in the US, although most seem to stay within one county. This discussion asks and intends to address: Are there CCCs in the US which extend across more than one county, thus deserving an admin_level=5 tag? An initial possibility might be Unigov as greater Indianapolis, since it includes Marion County and portions of Hancock County. Or is Unigov more of a CCC best tagged with admin_level=6? If the answer is "No, there aren't any US multiple-county CCCs besides NYC" then this discussion is moot. Stevea (talk) 21:55, 16 March 2017 (UTC)

Great Question. NYC is the exception to the rule with CCCs. NYC consists of 5 county-boroughs. There are 8 CCCs within the US. Their boundaries could be downloaded here Consolidated Cities. There are many cities that are in many different counties but they remain separate governments. For more on Consolidated City-County please read Wikipedia or Census --Jonwit (talk) 14:17, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

Thanks, Jonwit. There are links to the Wikipedia pages you mention embedded in our wiki already, they were actually helpful to launch my understanding of what I already do know about these, although the page seems to indicate there may be more than 8. Again, "many subtle distinctions" seems to be the key phrase here. I also received email from somebody in the Indianapolis City GIS office who says that Unigov is a single-county (Marion) CCC, even though Cumberland is in Hancock County. Stevea (talk) 17:15, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

Although not a CCC, in Oregon we have Metro, which is a regional government around Portland that includes areas in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties. According to them, Metro is the nation's first directly elected regional government. I don't think this boundary is in OSM yet, but I did talk with some locals a while ago and the general consensus was to make a boundary relation for Metro with admin_level=5. Also interesting in Oregon is the fact that cities often span more than one county. Cleaning up admin boundaries has been on my TODO list for a while. --Dobratzp (talk) 17:35, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

Hi Peter. Oregon's Metro is identified in its charter as a "metropolitan planning organization" rather than a "full" government. If such a boundary were entered into OSM, I would say (and have, please see the corresponding Page to this Discussion where this is documented) that instead of Metro being tagged boundary=administrative + admin_level=5 that it be tagged boundary=MPO. If Greater Portland's Metro were actually a "city-glom" (such as NYC made up of multiple boroughs/counties), or an actual CCC, or even an "independent city," then boundary=administrative would be appropriate. But as a planning agency, mmm, no. My opinion, but bolstered by an earlier proposal I made to promote such entities (California has "LAFCOs" which are similar) to admin_level=5 and it pretty much went nowhere, dying from an utter lack of consensus. And correctly so, I now agree. Stevea (talk) 17:56, 17 March 2017 (UTC)
Although Metro serves as the MPO for the Portland region, they are truly a form of regional government that does much more than manage a small portion of federal transportation money. Also notable is that the president and six counselors of Metro are elected by the 1.5 million people that live in their administrative area. Metro collects taxes and has a budget of $21 million with a staff of over 800 people. I don't think California's LAFCO's are that similar to Metro.--Dobratzp (talk) 20:13, 17 March 2017 (UTC)
I certainly grant that Metro's responsibilities are large compared to other special-purpose districts. (Although $21 million is not huge, especially with 800 people; if 100% of Metro's budget pays for salaries, and it can't, each of the 800 earns much less than a living wage). However, it is not a single exclusive government providing all services and offering complete representation to the People who elect its "Agency Executives." It is an agency. Its predecessors were a "Metropolitan Service District" and an "Association of Governments" (the Page to this Discussion already has identified a suggestion for tagging "Councils of Government"). Neither of these, nor Metro in its present form, is truly a government, what admin_level=* describes. My water agency has a budget (MUCH smaller than Metro!) and provides multiple services (sewage, water, garbage) and yet neither is it a government, it is a "special (purpose or purposes) district" for which admin_level=* is not the right tag. I do maintain (but do not insist, I am very much in listening mode here) that boundary=MPO is an appropriate tag for Metro, although if you wanted to use boundary=COG or coin boundary=SPD for "Special Purpose District" (as the Wikipedia page you point to defines Metro as "Regional Special-purpose district and Metropolitan planning organization") I certainly do not have a problem with that. Truly, rather than digging my heels in, I listen here, but I do ask for substantially more evidence that Metro is a government rather than the direct confirmation that it is as I originally described it should be tagged, as an MPO or something besides boundary=administrative. To your points, the Oregon Blue Book does call Metro "a regional government responsible for managing issues that cross city and county lines" but this seems to straddle both of our perspectives: a weak version of "government, but with limited responsibilities" as well as a weak "non-government, but vast." Also, voters gave it "home rule" which I am finding elusive to define in this specific case. (Oregon is a Home Rule state, but Dillon's rule does not apply. So what does "Home Rule" mean in Oregon? Such questions are not my strong suit.) A wider discussion seems prudent. Stevea (talk) 21:12, 17 March 2017 (UTC)


These are the 8 identified by the 2016 U.S. Census Consolidated Cities

  1. Nashville-Davidson metropolitan government
  2. Butte-Silver Bow
  3. Louisville/Jefferson County metro government
  4. Greeley County unified government
  5. Indianapolis city
  6. Athens-Clarke County unified government
  7. Augusta-Richmond County consolidated government
  8. Milford city

Any others that are identified (i.e. Philadelphia, NYC, San Fransisco) are not official County-City Governments but for the purposes of OSM should get admin_level=5. I guess the larger question is if a city spans multiple counties (many do) Do they get upgraded to admin_level=5? --Jonwit (talk) 18:48, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

The perspective of the Department of Commerce is appreciated, Jonwit! Sometimes this does not exactly align with OSM consensus, as the 2012-13 talk-us dialogs mentioned in the Page of this Discussion indicate: OSM now tags with boundary=census for Bureau of Census boundaries, rather than boundary=administrative. Some interesting things about your most recent paragraph above. Your list above says Greeley County and Milford city are both CCCs, while Wikipedia does not. Wikipedia says that Jacksonville-Duval County Florida and Macon-Bibb County, Georgia are both CCCs, while your list does not. Also, Wikipedia lists DOZENS MORE (well, let's say "over thirty more") than your list of only 8. Please don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that the Census Bureau is "all wrong" and Wikipedia is "all correct." The truth lies somewhere in good discussion like we are having here. It does seem to me (and not only me, but wider consensus) that these (and independent cities) are correctly admin_level=6 UNLESS they span more than one county, like NYC, which seems to be the only CCC which does. If, as you say "many do" I ask you to kindly enumerate these. Stevea (talk) 19:39, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

There are 35 Cities\Towns just in the state of Tennessee that span multiple counties. It is silly to name them all... here are two Johnson City, Spring Hill. Both much smaller than larger cities in the state. Counties are mostly an independent place boundary from cities. As for the differences it lies in the definition of what a CCC is. I would stick with population or area when distinguishing between admin levels.--Jonwit (talk) 19:59, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

Ah, Jon, I think we are having a minor misunderstanding; perhaps I haven't worded my original question well enough. The examples you offer in Tennessee are single cities which cross boundaries of ("span") multiple counties. As these are a single entity at the jurisdictional "level" of a city, I would tag (and I believe other informed OSM volunteers would tag) these with admin_level=8 precisely because these ARE cities. And their parent counties should be concomitantly tagged admin_level=6 precisely because they are counties. But those examples are not exactly what I am asking for. What I am asking for are CCCs which are made up of multiple counties (or county-equivalents), like NYC. Earlier (yesterday, as I started this discussion) I thought Unigov was such a thing because I misunderstood that it was made up of at least a part of a second county, but I have since been corrected by somebody quite knowledgable. So, I continue to ask: are there CCCs in the USA made up of MORE THAN ONE county? What admin_level=* is all about is "does this entity in the hierarchy fall above or below another one in the hierarchy, and if so, what is its level?" Finally, while the Census Bureau (and even some states as they define "First Class Cities" and "Second Class Cities," etc.) might find population or area convenient methods to statistically align/compute differing levels of political administration, neither population nor area are part of the definition of admin_level=* in OSM. Thank you for the continuing excellent discussion. Stevea (talk) 20:19, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

INCOG around metro Tulsa, Oklahoma may count. Paul Johnson (talk) 11:42, 22 March 2017 (UTC)
Paul, one might easily think so, but it is a COG (boundary=COG) as described in the Page: its website's front page says "INCOG is one of 11 Councils of Governments in the State of Oklahoma, and one of several hundred regional planning organizations across the country. INCOG provides planning and coordination services to assist in creating solutions to local and regional challenges in such areas as land use, transportation, community and economic development, environmental quality, public safety, and services for older adults." I can see new three-letter acronyms being coined for these things: SPD as described above. However, as I don't fully understand the subtle distinctions between these, we might begin by sticking with the established ones. (And in the case of INCOG, it does self-identify as COG, though it also calls itself an MPO, if that is indeed something distinct). Finally, this section intends to discuss what are perhaps more-clearly stated to be "consolidated city-counties made up of multiple entire counties or county equivalents" (as NYC is). INCOG is not that sort of entity, though I certainly concede that such distinctions are not always easy to see. We did discuss (two sections above in this Discussion) whether COG-ish things are admin_level=5 four+ years ago, consensus emerged they are not. Similarly, NYC emerged as "yes, it is." This discussion seems to be heading distinctly to the conclusion that NYC is the only admin_level=5 in the USA. Of course, additional discussion enlightened by true insight and real research is welcome. Stevea (talk) 18:34, 23 March 2017 (UTC)