Editorials

US should count Triangle as one metro area

With nearly 1.3 million residents, the Raleigh metro area is now the country’s 44th largest, leaping ahead of Richmond, Va., and New Orleans last year, according to the US Census Bureau.
With nearly 1.3 million residents, the Raleigh metro area is now the country’s 44th largest, leaping ahead of Richmond, Va., and New Orleans last year, according to the US Census Bureau. Al Drago

Here’s a sort of strange quirk in the classifications of “metro areas” around the United States, which are determined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget: The Raleigh metro area is defined as including Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties. But Durham and Chapel Hill are not part of it. The OMB ought to fix that. Because all these communities and counties are clearly interacting with each other in terms of commuters from one place to the other, a factor the OMB uses to determine classifications.

The classifications are used in the compilation of all federal statistics, and obviously affect things such as an area’s national rankings in all sorts of categories. As it stands now, the Raleigh metro area is the 44th largest in the country. But if Raleigh and Durham and Chapel Hill were counted in the same metro area, the rank would be 37th, just behind Nashville, Tenn. That would seem perfectly logical for anyone from this area who has spent time in or near Nashville. (Not to mention anyone who’s driven around Nashville.)

Statistical rankings are important in terms of an area’s clout with the federal government in all sorts of funding areas, and also in business recruitment. “Bragging rights” or whatever one wants to call them mean something when it comes time to prove to a large corporation that one area is preferable to another because of workforce size or universities, for two examples.

The OMB is like most parts of the federal bureaucracy, moving with all the speed of a battleship. But the state’s and the Triangle’s congressional delegation ought to bring pressure to bear to change the classification of what constitutes Raleigh’s “metro area.”

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