Twin cities

Twin cities are either:

  • two towns or cities that are geographically close to each other, and often referred to collectively; or
  • two distant cities which, perhaps because of similar circumstances, such as industrial decline, or demographics, agree to partner each other and share expertise (e.g. Birmingham and Chicago).

This article is about the former meaning; for the linking of distant cities see town twinning and the list of twin towns and sister cities.

Perhaps the most famous example in the United States is the combination of Minneapolis, Minnesota and Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Although the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities actually includes seven counties and nearly 200 separate municipalities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul form the urban, cultural and economic core of the area.) (See Minneapolis-St. Paul.)

Twin cities are often separated by a river — twin cities without this physical barrier more often become a single entity, as with the growth of London from its cores in the City of London and the City of Westminster to encompass many other towns and villages.

Twin cities often share an airport, into whose airport code are integrated the initials of both cities; DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) and MSP (Minneapolis-St. Paul) might be the most famous examples.

Some twin cities form on opposite sides of natural or governmental boundaries as conduits for trade between the two sides. For instance, Albury and Wodonga in south-eastern Australia are on the state border between New South Wales and Victoria, and formed as customs posts when the two states were independent colonies. The border between the United States and Mexico is significant in this respect because there is a chain of twin cities, particularly around the Rio Grande valley. Others began as distinct cities, but growth caused them to merge into each other and assume a single identity; examples include Budapest (Buda and Pest), New York City (five boroughs), Hong Kong (Victoria City and Kowloon) and Thunder Bay (Fort William and Port Arthur).

Note that not all geographically close cities are combined in this way. In the United Kingdom, for example, the cities of Leeds and Bradford are very close, but have strong separate identities and would not see themselves as part of the same entity.

Examples of twin cities:

One unusual case — Lloydminster, Alberta/Saskatchewan in Canada — may be considered a "twin city", but is in fact incorporated as a single city straddling a provincial border and administered jointly by both provinces.

Compare with the term "tri cities", which refers to three cities in a similar situation. In southeast Washington State, for example, Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco are widely known as The Tri-Cities; Pasco is separated from the other two cities by the Columbia River. "Tri-Cities" also refers to an area of Upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

Near the Iguazu Falls there is a group of three urban communities that now live and grow together: Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, and Puerto Iguazu, Argentina.

Also compare to quad cities, which naturally refers to a similar group of four towns. Perhaps the most famous of these are the towns of Davenport, Iowa, Bettendorf, Iowa, Rock Island, Illinois, and Moline, Illinois, in the United States. East Moline, Illinois was later added to the group, and the "quad cities" term now refers to all five collectively. Of these, the Iowa and Illinois towns are separated by the Mississippi River.

The term for a collection of many cities into a single socioeconomic area is "megalopolis", or "metropolitan area".

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