Geographic Definitions

The Twin Cities region and Twin Cities metro area are labels usually meant to denote Minneapolis, Saint Paul and also the expanding region surrounding the two largest cities.  This document catalogues several geographic conceptualizations of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area.

Metropolitan Council Areas

Area Origin/Purpose

Seven-County Metro Area

Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington Counties

2010 population:  2,849,567

(53.7% of Minnesota)

2000 population:  2,642,056

(53.7% of Minnesota)

1990 population: 2,288,721

(52.3% of Minnesota)

The metropolitan area as defined by Minnesota Statutes and the extent of Metropolitan Council authority.  The Council was created by the Minnesota Legislature in 1967 to plan for growth and coordinate the delivery of regional systems.  In 1994 the Legislature added wastewater treatment facilities and metropolitan transit services to the Council's responsibilities.

Metro Planning Organization (MPO) Area

In the Twin Cities, the MPO area is the same as the seven-county metro area (see above)

A planning area established for transportation planning and to administer Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) grants.  Major metro areas need to have have at least one MPO within their boundaries  In the Twin Cities the Metropolitan Council is the designated agency and plans for the seven-county area.

Additional information about MPOs can be found at

Collar or adjacent counties

Chisago, Goodhue, Isanti, LeSueur, McLeod, Rice, Sherburne, Sibley and Wright Counties in Minnesota and Pierce, Polk and St. Croix Counties in Wisconsin.

2010 population:  664,376

2000 population:  544,541

1990 population:  444,394

An analysis area designed to track development in the 12 counties adjacent to the seven-county metro area.  The Metropolitan Council has been tracking growth trends in these counties since the 1980s.

Travel Behavior Inventory (TBI) Study Area, 19 counties

Seven-county metro area and the 12 adjacent counties

Data collection and analysis area for the Metropolitan Council’s Travel Behavior Inventory, 2011.

Additional information about the Travel Behavior Inventory can be found at Travel Behavior Inventory

Metropolitan Urban Service Area (MUSA)

The area in which the Metropolitan Council ensures that regional wastewater services are provided.

Census Bureau Areas

Area Origin/Purpose

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington 16-County Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)

As defined by the Office of Management and Budget in 2013:  Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, LeSueur, Mille Lacs, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Sibley, Washington and Wright Counties in Minnesota and Pierce and St. Croix Counties in Wisconsin

2010 population:  3,352,045

2000 population: 3,031,918

1990 population: 2,595,109

Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) are groupings of counties that have a core urban area population over 50,000 and that meet additional criteria related to density of the core area, urbanization and commuter-employment linkages.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MSA was evaluated to include 13 counties after the 1990 and 2000 censuses, although a number of MSAs around the country changed. MSAs are intended for statistical analysis, but are widely used for various purposes.

MSAs have been identified after each census since 1950 by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

  • Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey Counties in Minnesota were designated as the first SMSA (Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area) in 1950.
  • Washington County in Minnesota was added in 1958.
  • Carver, Chisago, Scott and Wright Counties in Minnesota and St. Croix County in Wisconsin were added in 1973.
  • Isanti County in Minnesota was added in 1983.
  • Sherburne County, Minnesota and Pierce County, Wisconsin were added in 1992.
  • LeSueur, Mille Lacs and Sibley Counties in Minnesota were added in 2013.

For statistical comparisons, the Metropolitan Council usually compares the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MSA with other major MSAs -- those with over 2 million people.

Additional information about MSAs can be found at

Urbanized Areas and Urban Clusters (2010)

This area covers the ‘developed’ portion of metropolitan areas. Within the seven-county metro area, the urbanized area is similar to the Metropolitan Urban Service Area (MUSA).

Extent Population Sq. mi.
Within the UA 2,597,407 983
11 outlying UCs in the 7 counties 87,255 46

Urbanized Areas (UA) are identified by evaluating density and contiguity with a core developed, urbanized area. The Minneapolis-St. Paul UA encompasses 983 square miles.

Urban Clusters (UC) are designated where the density criterion is met (averaging at least 1 housing unit per acre), but the area is set apart from a core urbanized area.  Rural, undeveloped land separates urban clusters from any larger core urbanized area. In the Twin Cities, there are 11 Urban Clusters: Belle Plain UC, Elko New Market UC, Forest Lake UC, Hastings UC, Hudson UC (MN part), Jordan UC, New Prague UC, Norwood Young America UC, St. Franics UC, Waconia UC, and Watertown UC.

The urbanized area concept provides a consistent standard to compare the ‘urbanized’ parts of metropolitan areas. It is useful in looking at density because MSAs are comprised of whole counties and may include areas that distort their urban density calculation.

Urbanized Areas and Clusters are designated through tract-level analysis.  Additional information about Urbanized Areas can be found at Urbanized Areas

Micropolitan Area

Non-metropolitan counties with a core urban area population of 10,000-49,999.

Micropolitan areas were devised to give statistical area status to more places. The qualifying counties proximate to the Twin Cities are Goodhue County (Red Wing), McLeod County (Hutchinson) and Rice County (Faribault and Northfield).

For more information, contact Todd Graham at or 651-602-1322.