What's in a (Metropolitan Area) Name?

Only two of the world's megacities (metropolitan areas or urban areas with more than 10 million people) have adopted names that are more reflective of their geographical reality than their former core-based names. It is likely that this will spread to other megacities and urban areas as the core jurisdictions that supplied the names for most become even less significant in the dispersing urban area.

The first metropolitan area to make a change was Jakarta which became "Jabotabek," a title derived from the names of four major municipalities in the metropolitan area, Jakarta, Bogor, Tangerang and Bekasi. However, since that name did not include letters from the fifth largest municipality, Depok, the metropolitan area is sometimes called Jabodetabek. But adding a couple of letters for municipalities could lead to an exceedingly long name. For example, a new municipality of South Tangerang was recently created, representing the sixth municipality with nearly 1,000,000 people or more in Jabotabek. Presumably there will be those who will insist on calling the metropolitan area Jabodetabekst, a more Russian than Indonesian sounding name.

Further, a large part of the metropolitan area is not in one of the six larger municipalities and instead is in one of the many smaller jurisdictions. There is thus the potential of the name even longer than the present world record holder, "Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateahaumaitawhitiurehaeaturipuk-
akapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu
," which is the 105 letter name of a hill in the Hawks Bay area of New Zealand.

The second mega-city with a new name is the Mexico City area. Mexico's national statistics bureau, the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI) has designated the Mexico City metropolitan area as the "Zona Metropolitana del Valle de México," which translates to the Valley of Mexico metropolitan area.

Alternate names for metropolitan areas or urban areas are not unusual. One of the earliest may have been the "Southland," a name apparently given to the Los Angeles area or Southern California many decades ago by the Los Angeles Times. There are Tri-State areas, such as New York and Cincinnati and Seattleites refer to the Puget Sound area. However all of these names have varying definitions depending upon who is using them and none directly corresponds to the boundaries of either an urban area or a metropolitan area.

Perhaps better defined is the Randstad area of the Netherlands, which includes at least the urban areas of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. However this area is too large to be considered a single metropolitan area or a single urban area.

Similarly, there is the Pearl River Delta, made up of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Guangzhou, Foshan, Jiangmen, Zhongshan, Zhuhai and Macau. This area of virtually continuous urbanization is by far the largest in the world, but does not qualify as a metropolitan area or an urban area because each one of the jurisdictions is essentially a separate labor market. Further, despite the fact that Hong Kong and Macau are a part of China, the border controls between Shenzhen and Hong Kong and Zhuhai and Macau make it structurally impossible for those areas to merge into single labor markets.

The Yangtze River Delta is another accurate title for a large area of urbanization. This includes the city/province of Shanghai, and up to 14 city/prefectures, such as Nanjing, Suzhou, Ningbo, Yangzhou and Hangzhou. However, as in the case of the Pearl River Delta each of these represents a separate labor market and urban area.

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Alternate names for metropolitan areas or urban areas are not unusual. One of the earliest may have been the "Southland," a name apparently given to the Los Angeles area or Southern California many decades ago by the Los Angeles Times.
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