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After some additional research, it looks like townships should be admin_level=7 and should exclude cities that have withdrawn using paper townships. Census maps like this one of Hamilton Twp., Warren Co. can be pretty useful for figuring out which cities have withdrawn.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): 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)

The bottom line: it has emerged as consensus that COGs, MPOs, similar "special purpose districts" and statistical areas defined by the US Census Bureau are tagged with neither boundary=administrative nor admin_level=* of any value. Stevea (talk) 20:18, 20 July 2017 (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)

Article needs to be streamlined

Over the past nine months, this article has steadily grown in size and detail to the point where it more effectively educates readers on the arcana of governmental organization than on the task of editing OpenStreetMap. The pervasive use of jargon and acronyms serves to alienate inexperienced mappers who are often pointed to this article as a primer on boundary tagging. (In fact, I've taken to linking to this revision fully a thousand edits ago for usability's sake.) This wiki should defer to Wikipedia for complete definitions of each of these governmental or statistical structures and focus on how to translate bona fide administrative boundaries into boundary=* and admin_level=* tags. Concepts ineligible for inclusion in OSM should get nothing more than a sentence saying so. Most likely, any references to specific laws and dates can be removed without impacting the quality of the map. – Minh Nguyễn (talk, contribs) 23:33, 2 July 2017 (UTC)

Fair criticism, Minh, though I am disheartened that your choice of "fully a thousand edits ago" could just as well have been stated "from several months ago." (The difficulty of editing wikis, especially with complex tables, simply requires trial and error editing, increasing the number of edits to "very large," I agree).
Point by point: the arcana of governmental organization in the US is complex, the reasoning is described in a few lines of introductory text which are not excessive in my opinion: I find this text to be precise (if not exactly terse) to abstract the upcoming complexities. Would you agree or not? I ask that we begin your streamlining proposal by you suggesting what might be trimmed from that intro text as excessive.
Jargon should be specifically identified as such (by you, here, please) and in my defense I say that acronyms are properly introduced and used instead of lengthy jargon. Just because a concept is needed, and needing to be described, does not make it jargon. And an acronym for that jargon when it is repeated is perfectly acceptable language, especially when introduced properly. There are several such concepts in this wiki which are distinctly new for many OSM readers, that is exactly why they are introduced and abbreviated as they are. I welcome improvements, though I question deletions, unless they truly clarify.
The article has numerous references (and essentially, deferences) to Wikipedia, where appropriate. The syntax for inline linking is used correctly, I believe, though I welcome improvement. If you believe these excessive, please identify them and why.
Please identify what you mean by "mixed messaging" regarding non-administrative boundaries (in your Summary). If I am not mistaken (and I might be), the article identifies distinctions between these, and asks users to tag boundary=administrative where it is identified (in the text or table), and to tag with another boundary=* value when this is not the case. I believe this is both explicit and somewhat succinct, but again, I welcome a tightening up of the text, though not necessarily the concepts nor their wholesale deletion, as you did with MSAs and similar entities (μSAs, CSAs, PSAs, CBSAs). OSM has not achieved a true consensus about what to do with these, and it is precisely because of this that I welcome their entry into the map database by way of explanation here while simultaneously welcoming further discussion as to whether they are "proper" (having achieved wide consensus, really) entities for entry.
You say "since [statistical] boundaries always correspond to the boundaries of counties and county equivalents, they can be viewed as mere collections of administrative areas rather than boundaries in their own right." This is incorrect: statistical boundaries nearly never correspond to the boundaries of counties and county equivalents. While you are correct regarding the subsequent link to "Relations are not Categories," I am not sure I agree with your deletion of mine that suggests we no longer enter statistical boundaries with specific tags that identify them as such. These are pervasive in the world of mapping (especially with our US Census Bureau) and while we might reach a consensus that these absolutely do not belong in OSM, I don't believe we are there yet. TagInfo does not show occurrences of these, but various wikis and discussions I have had demonstrate that some want to enter them. Let's decide (here and now? once and for all?) whether these belong in OSM.
Please identify cases of "specific laws and dates" which can be removed without impacting the quality of the map. I welcome deletion of these as they are identified.
This wiki was never intended to be a "primer" on boundary tagging. As its title states, it is a comprehensive wiki on admin_level=* tagging, especially selecting the proper value for a given jurisdiction, in the United States. There are thousands and thousands of these, it is complicated, pains and steps have been taken to keep the table uncluttered given the challenges. In the spirit of your wish to clean up this article (and perhaps make a rudimentary "primer" out of a complex topic), I have stated an explicit instruction to users who wish to "skip to the chase." Right after that intro text, a one line instruction is offered to wiki readers, (paraphrasing myself): "Tag an administrative boundary (like this), guided by this table and wiki. (And then the table, first)." As any given boundary is going to be a single cell in a single row, both readily determinable, that does seem to be a streamlined focus on how to "translate bona fide administrative boundaries into boundary=* and admin_level=* tags" (as you suggest), doesn't it?
Thank you for your proposal to streamline. I trust it will yield fruitful results. Stevea (talk) 00:20, 3 July 2017 (UTC)
First of all, I apologize for my rant above. That was unnecessary, especially the cheap shot about the number of edits you had made. In lieu of a detailed critique of the article, I've prepared a separate article, WikiProject United States/Boundaries, which is closer to what I'd be comfortable showing to less experienced mappers. I don't have a strong opinion on whether it should complement or replace this article, but I would like for there to be an article similar to the one I've written. Even with the new instructions, the existing article would surely overwhelm someone mapping their first or second boundary.
As you can see, the new article doesn't necessarily contain less prose, but it does focus more heavily on the practical aspects of editing OpenStreetMap. The idea is that a mapper already knows the legal status of a given place or can look it up somewhere else (on Wikipedia or an official site). The new article simply translates that knowledge into tagging guidance. It also gives a small amount of historical context around the state of boundary tagging in OSM, but it steers clear of the distinctions between various administrative structures, since Wikipedia is better positioned to provide that context.
Editorially speaking, I deemphasized or omitted any tagging that has yet to take hold, even if it would make plenty of sense, like townships in Minnesota. Separate proposal pages, talk pages, and mailing list threads are more appropriate venues to discuss and document proposed tagging schemes. On the other hand, it isn't a static document: if someone comes along and maps some townships in Minnesota, we should absolutely update the article accordingly. I also omitted probable tagging errors and moved exceptions to the bottom, since they've already been mapped to completion.
Specifically regarding statistical areas: every mailing list thread over the past several years regarding CDPs (which are linked from this article) has ended with the unchallenged assertion that they aren't administrative boundaries and probably aren't verifiable enough to be in OSM. Moreover, the community has been actively removing or retagging CDPs since at least 2009. So I find it unlikely that there would be much movement in the other direction in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, it wouldn't bother me much if I started seeing a novel tagging scheme for MSAs that consists of a non-boundary relation with county relations as members. But let it happen on OSM first before we start documenting it. An article would muddle its own message by saying, "Don't do this, but if you were to do this, here's how."
In short, I think the new article trades precision for efficiency. It's descriptive rather than prescriptive of OSM. It isn't perfect, and your feedback is welcome as always.
 – Minh Nguyễn (talk, contribs) 10:51, 3 July 2017 (UTC)

I begin by replying with my thanks for your reply and congratulations an excellent start to the Boundaries wiki. I like it and it can and should certainly coexist with this wiki, at least for now: both are living documents. OSM has room for many voices speaking together about a large topic and a large number of topics and we often have specific audiences in mind as we do so as wiki authors. "There are many books in the library" seems a correct place for us to continue. We often and usually seem to complement each other in our efforts in this project, I see that continuing here and now and in the future. Stevea (talk) 19:41, 3 July 2017 (UTC)
That said, "descriptive vs. prescriptive" is a sharp dichotomy which is not necessarily sharply true here (either way) but more like "a deliberate and even delicate balance of both in each and every case." (At least with our good, better, best efforts). Wiki authoring is both to offer guidance and to be comprehensive. As we are prescriptive: "do it like this," we also wish to be (must be) descriptive: "here is what the community does, is doing, is talking about doing and might do in the future given the wide spectrum of conversations on this and related topics." We do our best to "get out of the way" as we strive to set a good example of "do it like this." This is a medium- to longer-term conversation. I am in no hurry to "solve" it, rather I wish to see it continue to evolve as it is evolving. And it evolves. I will have more feedback as the future unfolds, as will you and others. Looking forward to it. Stevea (talk) 21:13, 3 July 2017 (UTC)

Nine state improvement

I am posting in talk-us a request to improve the nine states' admin_level tags identified here:

Here are what exist in state constitutions/statutes/the real world, map well onto OSM's admin_level scheme, yet do not exist in OSM's data:

Rhode Island 7/Town, 9/Village: all are marked as 8/City when perhaps some are 7/Town or 9/Village
Massachusetts 7/Town: all are marked as 8/City when perhaps some are 7/Town
Maine 6/Unorganized territory and 6/(unincorporated) Plantation
Vermont 8/Village: all are marked as 8/City when perhaps there are 9/Villages in some 8/Cities
Pennsylvania 7/Township, 7/Borough are missing throughout, 8/Town subordinates to Borough, 8/Village and 8/Hamlet both subordinate to 7/Township
Connecticut 6/Region (not County), or both? Harmonize these
Minnesota 7/Township, 7/Town (it appears simply that none have been entered)
Illinois 7/Township, 7/Precinct?

New Hampshire, 8/Town: shouldn't these be 7/Town (as inTownship)? Are there 7/Organized Locations?

To read this, then perhaps participate in first discussion, then possibly "solve" these issues, take the second line of Massachusetts as an example. Massachusetts has done the MassGIS import, which included "City" boundaries and set their admin_level values to 8. However, I assert (politely) that Massachusetts also has "Town" boundaries (sometimes called "Township" and by consensus yielding an admin_level value of 7) which either are or aren't in OSM (I can't tell) and which should have their admin_level set to 7. But they do not. Again, OSM seems to need to identify "which, whether and how" we do this, on a state-by-state basis, in identifiably (only) nine US states.

Please discuss here. Thank you. Stevea (talk) 19:22, 8 July 2017 (UTC)

I've lived in Rhode Island and New Hampshire for a while. I don't think the notion of a cities being subordinate to towns as in Connecticut applies to the rest of New England. There's really no level of government between the county and municipal level.
I think we want to retain county boundaries even if many functions of the county government have been moved up to the state level or down to the municipal level.
Here's my thoughts about New England summarized in a table:
State: 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Connecticut N/A County
Town City District N/A
Massachusetts N/A County N/A City Ward Precinct
Town Precinct N/A
Maine N/A County N/A City District Precinct
New Hampshire N/A County N/A City Ward N/A
Town District N/A
Rhode Island N/A County N/A City
Town Village N/A
Vermont N/A County N/A City
District Ward
Town Village N/A
--Dobratzp (talk) 02:31, 9 July 2017 (UTC)

Thank you, Peter: that's a very nice table. Just to put a bow and ribbon on it, you publish that table to mean "how you believe admin_level=* values OUGHT to be in OSM," right? Stevea (talk) 05:33, 9 July 2017 (UTC)
Yes, these are my tagging suggestions. I think all of the admin_level=6 and admin_level=8 in Massachusetts and New Hampshire agree with this table. The admin_level=9 and admin_level=10 vary a lot by municipality (and in many cases do not apply).--Dobratzp (talk) 05:44, 9 July 2017 (UTC)
Administrative subdivisions in New England are historically complex, the linked Wikipedia article makes that abundantly clear. I had done some research, mostly Wikipedia, distinctly avoiding how the Census Bureau categorizes, and I believe OSM should value the understandings and communications of its very own contributors, as in Peter's table above. However, this seems to require ongoing dialog as to what is actually authoritative and how that "properly should" map onto OSM's admin_level=* scheme. My research continues, more contributions and suggestions are welcome here. Stevea (talk) 18:12, 9 July 2017 (UTC)
Limiting the discussion for the moment to New England and using the Dobratzp table above as a template plus adding additional research (especially the previous link), I have discovered some discrepancies with his table:
In Connecticut, I can't be sure that there is District at admin_level=9, so I have placed a ? by it. However, I am reasonably sure that in the whole of New England there are no administrative subdivisions at admin_level=7 (sometimes called Townships, especially in the Midwest), this is consistent with the rest of his table. Connecticut is also one of the two states in New England that can be said to have an incorporated subdivision of a Town (which I am comfortable tagging admin_level=9), called a Borough. Vermont also has this, called (incorporated) Village. Also in Vermont, I could find neither evidence of an admin_level=9 subordinate to a City (as he says) called a District, nor an admin_level=10 subordinate to a District (as he says) called a Ward.
In Massachusetts, I (temporarily) concur with his table, although I could find neither evidence of an admin_level=9 subordinate to a City (as he says) called a Ward, nor an admin_level=10 subordinate to a Ward (as he says) called a Precinct, nor an admin_level=9 subordinate to a Town (as he says) called a Precinct.
In Maine, I (temporarily) concur with admin_level=5, 6, 7, 8 in his table, although I could find neither evidence of an admin_level=9 subordinate to a City (as he says) called a District, nor an admin_level=10 subordinate to a District called a Ward. I also (unusually) explicitly include (unincorporated) Township, as these "leftover" areas may (or may not) be characterized as admin_level=8, I'm not sure.
In New Hampshire (and Vermont and Maine), the items of Purchase, Grant and Location (and Gore, Surplus, Strip) are "leftover" areas, not included in any town. I believe they may be characterized as unincorporated state territory and so are not included for any value of boundary=administrative. This leaves "Organized Location" and "Unorganized Township" as remaining values which deserve admin_level=8, although I am certainly open to discussion on that point. I could find no evidence of an admin_level=9 subordinate to a Town (as he says) called a District, although I am open to discussion on that point.
In Rhode Island, I fully concur with that row in his table, with the exception that there really do not appear to be counties in that state.
In Vermont, I fully concur with there being a Village at admin_level=9 subordinate to Town, though I do clarify by explicitly preceding it with "Incorporated." I could find neither evidence of an admin_level=9 subordinate to a City (as he says) called a District, nor an admin_level=10 subordinate to a District called a Ward.
Peter, here is a table which captures these understandings so you/we may make a direct comparison. Note that these changes are already in the "big table" in the Page for each state noted here; the table is simply my proposed "states structures should look like this," having started from your table. I ask you for your comments here and now. To everybody else reading this, I ask for constructive criticism on how admin_level=* tags SHOULD be, given the actual law and political reality in those states (starting with New England). Apologies for the length and tedium, this is a fair bit of sweat and work. Stevea (talk) 01:21, 10 July 2017 (UTC)
State: 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Connecticut N/A County
N/A City District? N/A
N/A Town Incorporated Borough N/A
Massachusetts N/A County N/A City Ward Precinct
Town Precinct N/A
Maine N/A County N/A Town
New Hampshire N/A County N/A City Ward N/A
Organized Location
Unorganized Township
Rhode Island N/A N/A N/A City Ward
Town Village N/A
Vermont N/A County N/A City N/A N/A
Town Village N/A

Postscript: Peter, I agree with you that in Rhode Island (and Connecticut) we wish to retain the county boundaries. Especially in Rhode Island, I believe the simple solution is to not tag them with boundary=administrative nor admin_level=6. Please see here for data using tag border_type=county, which seems to have emerged as consensus on what to do for this specific case.

Here are some references of sub admin_level=8 division possibilities in New England. These tend to vary a lot by municipality. In some cases, there are districts or wards which directly correspond to elected members of local government and in some cases it's not clear what the divisions are supposed to indicate, apart from a voting location.
--Dobratzp (talk) 02:15, 10 July 2017 (UTC)

Awesome! I'm now "sold" thanks to your examples. I wanted to say that before I retire for the evening; it's late here. More tomorrow and during the week, I'll have more to say later. Stevea (talk) 07:27, 10 July 2017 (UTC)

In "the big table" (in the page, not directly above) I have added District and Ward to 9 and 10 for Vermont's 8/City. That's the only change "back" to Peter's assertions that his excellent evidence has boosted into the "should be like this" we are entering in this wiki, so that is now completed. G'night. Stevea (talk) 08:02, 10 July 2017 (UTC)

Re: Illinois- I'm familiar with rural Illinois, where townships are a well defined governmental entity with distinct boundaries. I'm not well versed in internal government workings, but never recall precincts except in a voting context. Cook County / the city of Chicago may be special. MikeN (talk) 21:03, 10 July 2017 (UTC)

Thanks, Mike. I had thought so, too (from Chicago-based TV cop shows?!), then I saw this. It says that of the 102 counties in Illinois, 17 (west central, southern) of them are divided into 261 precincts and the remaining 85 counties are divided into 1433 townships. I don't know exactly where this leaves us, except it appears that the current entry in the "big table" is accurate. At least, it is harmonious with that Wikipedia article and "the rest" of what we know. As for what is actually entered into the map, I don't believe we are there (or even close) yet. Stevea (talk) 21:22, 10 July 2017 (UTC)

Re Boston in the Nine States

Massachusetts looks correct in the small table to my eye in terms of legal entities, Wards and Precincts are primary fine-scale legal entities. I know my Ward and Precint numbers in Boston, so can confirm they exist. OTOH there are no "signs on the ground" for Wards or Precincts.

As noted above, there are also Council Districts in Boston, but their mapping onto Wards/Precincts will *change* for re-gerrymandering after each census (which in Boston is an on-going process, we don't wait for Federal census to count noses!) and could be easily abolished if we opted for all city-wide seats again. Wards and Precinct boundaries are less flexible; deeds reference Wards, absolutely necessary since street names are reused within the city (due to absorbing adjacent towns); Precincts are the fundamental unit that City Council, State House, State Senate, State Governor's Council, and US House district gerrymanders are built from; but still even Ward&Precinct boundaries are adjusted periodically if a precinct suddenly is built up or industrialized.

Neighborhoods are also formally defined by city planning dept in Boston, but of which are hard to find good maps. There are a couple city employees assigned per neighborhood satellite city-hall, and aside from Election volunteers and party organizers, there are no Ward officers, so an argument can be made that in Boston Neighborhoods are more real at level 9 than Ward. They would be interesting to map as something, if not as admin_level. There are also interesting historical boundaries where former towns have become neighborhoods when amalgamated into the adjacent city (and disincorporated).


comments on Township and Range, etc are to my knowledge historically correct.

--i had a .sig when sigs were cool (talk) 18:17, 27 July 2017 (UTC)

Minor Civil Divisions, distinguished by inclusiveness

There is an important distinction that exists among the 17 states that do have Minor Civil Divisions (MCDs), whether towns or townships, and I am wondering whether this should be reflected in some way in a state's admin_level=*structure.

  • In a state like Indiana, a township is the first division underneath a county. This means that all individuals in an Indiana county live in a county and township. They may also live in an incorporated city or village. (See this example. In this scenario, especially where reverse geocoding is concerned to determine the location of a coordinate pair, it makes sense to me that we use the system we have today, which is:
    • County: admin_level=6
    • Township: admin_level=7
    • Cities, etc.: admin_level=8
  • In a state like Wisconsin, towns are a division underneath a county, but they are mutually exclusive with incorporated villages and cities. A person lives in either a town or a city/village, but never both. (See this example. What we're doing in Wisconsin so far is doing exactly as above (as would be done for Indiana), with very careful use of inner and outer relation memberships, to ensure that reverse geocoding does the Right Thing at any given coordinate set, returning one OR the other. That said, I have been wondering of late whether it is appropriate for all towns, cities, and villages in Wisconsin to exist at the same admin_level (probably 8), because their areas are mutually exclusive, and because towns do not exist "above" cities and villages in Wisconsin. They are at best on equal footing (see mutually exclusive). Is it better where towns and townships do not exist above incorporated entities, for all of them to have the same admin_level?

tl;dr: should whether towns supercede – or are mutually exclusive of – incorporated settlements, change what admin_level they should be tagged with? Skybunny (talk) 00:33, 9 June 2018 (UTC)

I'm no political scientist, but I have studied U.S. history as well as done much research on how to earnestly "blend" OSM's admin_level=* tag with the relatively complex political hierarchies we have in the USA. (Look at that: in the same sentence I used two different abbreviations for the same country!) So, Skybunny, my off-the-cuff (but reasoned) reply begins with suggesting that OSM entries in any given state (or territory) stay consistent within that state (or territory). Seems obvious, but I think important to point this out, given your question. Next, cities/villages and how they do or don't subordinate to townships is a subtle and complex topic: these really must be considered on a state-by-state basis (not case-by-case, as I believe we can stay consistent within a state). Clearly, a "true township" will always be admin_level=7, subordinate to a "true county" (or "county equivalent") at admin_level=6. What is much less clear is whether a city/village entity at admin_level=8 is or is not "mutually exclusive" with its geographically-enclosing township entity at admin_level=7, if there is one: maybe it is politically subordinate to it, maybe not. I believe an important concept here is "incorporation," that is whether the city/village at admin_level=8 is a "body corporate" and hence independent (to a certain degree) of its "parent" political entities (township, county, state and country). Yes and no, for certain and myriad reasons, and I believe all can agree to the complexities of what some of those are, and why (the 10th amendment to the US Constitution, "Home Rule" and what it means in any given state, how a "body corporate" as a municipality may be "chartered" in state law...).
It seems a large reason you are asking is to assure "correct" geocoding. While a noble goal, this seems it could be fraught with the same perils for which OSM has the tenet "don't code for the renderer." Why? Because we want the data to be correct, even if the (a, any...) renderer doesn't necessarily render them "as one might expect." Here, we want to enter data into OSM regarding admin_level=* as accurately as possible, and if geocoder results are wrong (or seem so), it is likely it is the geocoder itself which needs improvement to accommodate the complexities of USA admin_level=*. I don't know if this helps or throws a monkey wrench in the works. I welcome wider discussion. Stevea (talk) 18:13, 3 August 2018 (UTC)

If Wisconsin’s towns and cities are mutually exclusive and on equal footing in terms of scope, then it does seem appropriate to give them both the same admin_level, even if that means towns in Wisconsin will have a different admin_level than towns in another state.

Wisconsin and Indiana seem like pretty clear-cut situations compared to some other states. In Ohio, we have a situation where cities and villages can withdraw from townships, so that they are exclusive of any surrounding township. Even though withdrawn cities are in equal footing with townships in some sense, so far we’ve opted to keep them at the same admin_level as other cities because the distinction between withdrawn and subordinate cities is fairly obscure. On the other hand, in Virginia, where cities are independent of counties, cities have different admin_levels than in other states, because independent cities are well-known to be independent.

 – Minh Nguyễn (talk, contribs) 19:29, 5 August 2018 (UTC)

Any attempt to impose a strict hierarchy on my home state of New York is likely doomed to failure. It's messy. The entire state is divided into Counties - every resident lives in exactly one county. Nevertheless, there is the special case of New York City, which has annexed the whole of five counties. These Boroughs have ceded all executive and legislative jurisdiction to the city, but retain independent judiciary. (Confusingly, their names as Boroughs are different from their names as Counties: New York County=Borough of Manhattan; Kings County=Borough of Brooklyn; Richmond County=Borough of Staten Island; Bronx County=Borough of The Bronx. Only Queens County=Borough of Queens has an identical name.) For this reason, New York City gets slotted in as a sui generis entity at admin_level=5, with admin_level=6 being counties.

Counties are further subdivided into Towns (called 'townships' informally, but formally titled Town of Xxx) and chartered Cities, plus some Indian Reservations. No two of these overlap. One City (Geneva) has annexed land across a county line. Aside from that, no City or Town crosses a county line. Indian Reservations are a politically charged case. The Akwesasne Kanien'kehá:ka nation crosses not only county and state lines, but an international border. It's called the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in the USA, and the Akwesasne Indian Reserve in Ontario and Québec. It is not recognized even as a 'dependent nation' by either Canada or the US, largely because its constitutional form of government is unfamiliar to both nations (and the inhabitants rejected a more conventional written constitution at a general election). It is a member of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which claims national status under the Jay Treaty, issues passports, and has from time to time fielded athletic teams in international competition. Cities and Towns are admin_level=7. Native American reservations are, for the most part, unmapped owing to the political controversies. Akwesasne, at least, arguably belongs at admin_level=3!

There are also a large number of Villages, which are mutually exclusive (but most of New York is not in any Village). A Village has only limited governmental independence of the Towns, but can enact local legislation on certain matters, elect an executive branch to administer those matters, and consitute a village court. Every inhabitant of a Village owes taxes not only to the Village but also to whatever Town the resident inhabits. (Usually, the Town collects taxes for both entities and disburses the receipts to the Village.) Most villages are in only one Town, but many cross Town lines. They slot in at admin_level=8, as do the wards, districts, precincts, etc. of Cities that have them. (Most Cities elect all their officials 'at large'.)

Some large Towns also designate Hamlets - these are not governmentally independent, but have fixed and signed borders, and the Town often enacts legislation that pertains to them specifically. While not self-governing, the fact that they are signed, and that legislation so often refers to them, means that they still ought to be mapped. They never overlap with Villages, and so can share admin_level=8 with them. The most populous Hamlets are, in fact, cities that never troubled to draft a charter and incorporate. The largest are Brentwood (population over 60,000) and Levittown (population nearly 52,000).

There are a great many varieties of special-purpose entities: school districts, library districts, police precincts, water, sewer and sanitary districts, and so on. All of these cut willy-nilly across other administrative borders. They are not hierarchic at all, neither do any of them cover the entire state. For the most part, their field observability is questionable, so they remain unmapped.

Summary: New York doesn't lend itself to division on a strict hierarchy, and will not fit any data model that demands one.

4 5 6 7 8
New York State New York City Borough (none) Community Board
(none) County Town Village*
City** Ward, district, precinct

*The City of Geneva crosses a County line; New York City subsumes five Counties.

**Many Villages cross Town lines, but Village inhabitants are also all governed by some Town. To the best of my knowledge every Village is in one and only one County.

 – Kevin Kenny (talk) 2018-08-08 01:34Z

I have incorporated Kevin's observations in his "small table" into the "big table" on the Page, as well as the appropriate footnote. (Although, I'm not sure if the current listing of "Hamlet, City of Sherrill" in the same cell is exactly correct. If somebody wants to improve this, have at it). Despite Kevin's no doubt accurate observations in these regards, in keeping with OSM's "no consensus has emerged" tone regarding Indian Reservations in the USA (and Canada), no changes were made to the "big table" or OSM data. (Thanks, Kevin — interesting and informative, all around!). Stevea (talk) 17:14, 20 August 2018 (UTC)