UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Optimum city size and municipal services efficiency: British Columbia as a case study Griggs, William Beverly


The last few decades have witnessed the appearance of a new dimension in the field of the social sciences -namely the applied aspect. This emphasis is reflected in the application of complex and sophisticated quantification techniques and procedures that have been adopted by many researchers. One direction in which attention is being focussed is towards the determination of the optimum size of cities. Sociologists, geographers, economists, demographers, planners, and persons from other disciplines, are becoming increasingly concerned, from different viewpoints, about the size and structure of cities. The question that they raise is: "What is the most desirable or optimum size for a city?" This thesis attempts to determine the value for the optimum size of cities in the Province of British Columbia using efficiency of municipal services as the variable with which to determine this size. Such a pursuit is a relatively new phenomenon and very few studies have adopted this type of an approach. To accomplish this objective, the thesis has been divided into four major sections. The first, represented by Chapter II, discusses the evolving concepts regarding the ideal shape and form of cities. This chapter outlines the various methods that have been adopted through the years, to determine the ideal or optimum size and shape of cities. The second section, represented by Chapter III, outlines the various expenditure and revenue activities that are practised by incorporated areas in the Province of British Columbia. An understanding of the implications regarding these activities, and the effects they have upon budget procedures provides an insight into some of the fiscal problems that confront municipalities. Chapter IV, which comprises the third major section, justifies the selection of municipal services that are investigated; the selection of the sample size regarding the number of cities, and the classification of these into separate groups; and the time period for the investigation. The municipal services chosen are: fire protection, public works, sanitation and waste removal, recreation, and education. The year 1965 was selected as accurate results were available from the 1965 Census. The sample size included all incorporated areas in this province which amounted to ninety-eight centres. The final section, represented by Chapter V attempts to compare cost with level of performance for individual services. This involved carrying out several intermediate steps. These were. 1. measuring the level of service for each municipal service; 2. equating per capita expenditures for a given service with the level of performance it provides to each inhabitant; and 3. the ranking of each municipal service in terms of the relative importance between it and the remaining ones. The final results obtained from this investigation were as follows; 1. Smaller incorporated areas in the Province of British Columbia expend lower sums of money, in terms of per capita values, on the maintenance and operation of municipal services than do larger municipalities. 2. Smaller incorporated areas receive lower amounts of grants, subsidies, and contributions, in terms of per capita values, from higher levels of governments than larger municipalities. 3. Larger municipalities generate greater sums of money, in the forms of revenue raised from local taxation practices, on a per capita basis, than do smaller ones. 4. Larger municipalities provide higher levels of fire protection services, public works activities, sanitation and waste removal operations, recreation services, and education services than do smaller incorporated areas. 5. By equating cost with level of service, and ranking each municipal service according to its relative importance, the largest size group of cities attains the highest score. The contention of this thesis is that, when using efficiency of municipal services as one measure with which to determine the optimum size of cities, the largest size group of cities represents the optimum size. The results of this investigation have indicated that cities with populations of fifteen thousand or more persons represent the optimum size.

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