Academic journal article The Canadian Geographer

The Identification of Employment Centres in Canadian Metropolitan Areas: The Example of Montreal, 1996

Academic journal article The Canadian Geographer

The Identification of Employment Centres in Canadian Metropolitan Areas: The Example of Montreal, 1996

Article excerpt

Introduction

Immediately after the Second World War, North American metropolitan areas began to experience intrametropolitan population decentralisation from the central city toward the suburbs. At the beginning of the 1960s, several major waves of decentralisation involving economic activities began to occur. First, consumer and personal services, along with manufacturing functions, began to suburbanise. Next, in the 1970s, `back-office' functions involving a range of highly standardised and routinised activities (e.g., data processing, mailing, credit card billings) began to decouple from CBD firms and to decentralise. During this period, the `front-office' functions (e.g., head office functions, business and financial service functions requiring direct contact with clients) remained concentrated in the CBD in a "complex of corporate activities", in order to take advantage of the agglomeration economies inherent to this location. More recently, at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, several authors began to identify the appearance in the U.S. of a new wave of suburbanization involving high-order services or front-office functions (Leinberger and Lockwood 1986; Cervero 1989; Hartshorn and Muller 1989; Garreau 1991; Giuliano and Small 1991; Stanback 1991). This `new suburbanization' (Stanback 1991) has resulted in a number of `suburban employment centres' (Cervero 1989), `suburban downtowns' (Hartshorn and Muller 1989), or `edge cities' (Garreau 1991), which have become increasingly large and diversified, and have developed agglomeration economies of a sufficient force to attract the types of activities heretofore found uniquely in the CBD. These suburban downtowns are increasingly in direct competition with the CBD as centres of high-order economic functions and have profoundly modified the physical and economic structure of most metropolitan areas.

In the Canadian context, several researchers have investigated the decentralisation of economic activities within specific metropolitan areas. Office activities, in general, and producer services, in particular, have been analysed in Toronto (Gad 1985; Matthew 1993; Pivo 1993; Gad and Matthew 2000), Edmonton (Michalak and Fairbairn 1993), Montreal (Coffey et al. 1996b; Coffey and Shearmur 2001a) and Vancouver (Gad and Matthew 2000). More generally, Coffey (1994), Coffey and Drolet (1994), Coffey et al. (1996a), and Coffey and Shearmur (2001b) have examined the behaviour of a broad range of sectoral groups in Montreal. In general, although not a systematic analysis of the issue, these studies indicate that, while some decentralisation is clearly occurring, the phenomenon appears to be less advanced in Canada than in the U.S.A.

In spite of the wide recognition of the suburban downtown phenomenon in the academic and popular literature, and in spite of an increasing number of detailed analyses of the geography of employment in individual metropolitan areas, no generally accepted and systematic methodology for identifying employment centres (including the functional CBD) exists. Comparisons between metropolitan areas have been highly limited due to both a lack of consistent and comparable data and a plethora of methods (Forstall and Greene, 1997). The primary goal of this paper is to evaluate the suitability of several methods for identifying employment centres (the term that we use to refer to what have elsewhere been labelled suburban downtowns, employment sub-centres, magnet areas, or edge cities) in the light of existing data on job location in Canadian census metropolitan areas (CMAs). Our comparison of these methods utilises the specific example of the Montreal CMA. The following section presents an overview of various methods that have been used to identify employment concentrations. We next introduce the nature of the available Canadian data and propose an alternative method for identifying employment centres, then perform a comparison of the methods that have been discussed, assessing the suitability of the various methods for describing the spatial structure of metropolitan employment. …

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