Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Central Business District Geocodes

Update: 1/15/2020. I've learned about several new sources of CBD geocodes since I wrote this article. See this post and the Cityscape article I published last year.

Urban researchers continue to rely on a 1982 study by the U.S. Census Bureau to determine the location of the Central Business Districts (CBDs) of U.S. cities.  (See for example page 3 of this study.)  My guess is the continued reliance on these old data is largely due to the lack of better alternatives.

As one who generally believes that "information wants to be free," I am posting here geocodes for the CBDs for 366 metropolitan statistical areas.   This file includes the list of MSAs and its central county and principle city, along with FIPS codes for each of these, and finally the latitude and longitude for the CBD of the principle city.

All I ask in return is that if you use these data in your research, please cite one of the following articles, which used these data:

Holian, Matthew J., and Matthew E. Kahn. "Household carbon emissions from driving and center city quality of life." Ecological Economics 116 (2015): 362-368.
Holian, Matthew J., and Matthew E. Kahn. "Household Demand for Low Carbon Policies: Evidence from California." Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists 2.2 (2015): 205-234.

If you have any comments on these data, please leave them here or email me.  Here are details on how the locations were determined: 

The location of each MSA’s CBD was obtained by recording the geocode returned when entering the central city name in Google Earth. Although this method of identifying CBDs places considerable trust in Google’s potentially ad hoc definitions of central places, we found them to be quite reasonable in all cases—for example, this procedure identifies the CBD as Broadway and Chambers for New York; First and Main for Los Angeles; Jackson and Federal for Chicago; and Market and Van Ness for San Francisco. Even if these locations were off by up to a mile or so, further refinements would not improve much, as we define “downtown” as the area within five miles of the CBD. (This quote was taken from Holian and Kahn, 2012).

Holian, Matthew J., and Matthew E. Kahn.  2012. The Impact of Center City Economic and Cultural Vibrancy on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transportation. San Jose, CA: MTI Publications. 

MSA definitions change roughly annually. This report used the 2006 definitions and the principle cities identified by the Census. U.S. Census Bureau, “Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas,” http://www.census.gov/population/www/metroareas/metrodef.html (Accessed August 18, 2011).