If you’ve ever watched the news in the United States of America, you’ve undoubtedly come across the expression “the tri-state area.”
You might have heard it during a weather report, a crime report, or something that had to do with the elections.
Moreover, “tri-state areas” have been mentioned in countless movies, TV shows, and radio programs.
You might have heard it in a film, especially one situated in New York, or your child might have even come across it in the Phineas and Ferb series.
Regardless, you’ve probably wondered what this expression means and what exactly it refers to. So, let’s answer all these questions and more.
What exactly is a “tri-state area”?
“Tri-state area” is a term that is used informally to refer to a specific town or city that cuts across three different states at the same time. This term is popular in the United States, specifically on the eastern side.
Usually, when using the term “tri-state area,” people aren’t just talking about a specific city. They are also including the adjacent suburbs and regions.
In short, for a place to be considered a tri-state area, two conditions have to be met. Firstly, the area has to have parts on three different states, which could happen at a state boundary tripoint for instance.
The second condition is that the people living across this area need to have a connected economy and shared geography, and when we say geography, we are referring to the geological properties of the land, the botanical nature of the surrounding plants, and the overall climate of the region.
Where does the term tri-state area come from?
The United States of America is made up of 50 States, spanning more than 9.834 million square kilometers, which turns out to be 3.797 million square miles for our friends who prefer imperial units.
This large plot of land is home to more than 300 million individuals.
Now, the 50 states didn’t join the United States all at once, and each state has its own unique and fascinating history.
However, it is beyond our scope to delve into that. Instead, let’s look at tripoints.
What are tripoints?
Simply put, tripoints are locations where exactly 3 states meet. If more than three states meet, then you have yourself a four corners scenario, something we will look at later on.
Anyway, the USA has 62 tripoints, 35 of which are on dry land, and the remaining 27 are in water.
The USA has a habit of marking its tripoints with the use of a marker. So, many people approaching the intersection point of the three states are bound to come across this marker.
Here are some of the more famous tripoints.
You have one between Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. The marker can be found on a riverbank, yet its location is, surprisingly, both and above and west of the actual tripoint.
There is another tripoint between Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. The marker is on Brace Mountain or Mount Firsell, and it is inscribed with MASS-1898-NY.
You also have the point where Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio meet. The marker, which is made of brass in this case, can be found in a monument box situated underneath a rural road. The marker was placed back in 1999.
So, what constitutes a tri state area?
A tri-state area will conform to one of two things. Either the area lies on top of a tripoint or the area is so expansive that it cuts into three different states.
Here are some well-known tri-state areas in the USA.
There is the Philadelphia metropolitan area, an area that cuts across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
You also have the Chicago tri-state area, also known as Chicagoland, and this area covers parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
Interestingly, there are parts of Michigan that also have cultural ties to Chicago. There is a Tri-State Tollway that is responsible for connecting Illinois with Indiana and Wisconsin.
The most famous tri-state of all
With all of this said, the most famous tri-state of all would have to be the New York metropolitan area.
It’s an area so expansive that it covers parts of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Additionally, a small portion of northeast Pennsylvania is also thrown in there.
Usually, when people talk about the tri-state area in the movies or in popular media, they are referring to the New York metropolitan area.
Geographically, it represents a small part of the Mid-Atlantic region, which contains the entirety of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.
What makes the tri-state area so famous?
For starters, the New York metropolitan area is famous for its culture, its commerce, its trade, and its industry.
This is not to mention that New York is the primary gateway through which most immigrants make it into the country, and it houses the largest foreign population in comparison to any other metropolitan area in the world.
New York also functions as the center of many industries in the world, especially finance, international trade, fashion, entertainment, law, manufacturing, education, real estate, new and traditional media, and biotechnology.
Over and above, higher education in the region is top-notch.
The New York metropolitan area is home to hundreds of colleges and universities, several of which have been ranked as among the top 40 in the world.
Some of these top-tier schools include Columbia University, Yale University, New York University, Princeton University, and Rockefeller University.
As if all of this wasn’t enough already, the New York metropolitan area is larger than any other metropolitan area in the world.
After all, it contains New York City, which has been the most populous city in the United States since 1790, as well as the Mid and Lower Hudson Valley.
It also contains Long Island, and this is all in just the state of New York.
If we were to look at the cities contained in New Jersey, we would find that the state’s five largest cities are all included in this tri-state area.
We are talking about Newark, Paterson, Jersey City, Edison, and Elizabeth. Obviously, the immediate vicinities of all these cities are included as well.
Finally, when it comes to Connecticut, you have six of the largest seven cities circumscribed by this geographical region.
These cities are Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk, Danbury, Waterbury, and New Haven. Needless to say, the vicinities of all of these cities are included as well.
And, given all its wealth and popularity, it should come as no surprise to learn that the New York metropolitan area has one of the highest urban densities in the world, and it ranks as first within the United States when it comes to how populous it is.
In fact, more people are living in this tri-state area than there living in the entire state of New York.
Additionally, if you were to measure a county’s wealth by median household income, you would find that seven of the wealthiest 25 counties in the entire US are located in this little geographical area.
These are just some of the reasons why the New York tri-state area is the most famous and most dominant in the entire US.
The history of the tri-state area
During the beginning of the 1800s, both New York and Pennsylvania were known to be more populous than any other state in the region.
As a matter of fact, they had a welcoming immigration policy, one that allowed several German, Italian, Polish, Jewish, and Irish settlers to find safe harbor on the west side of the Atlantic.
And, this influx of immigrants not only added diversity to the region but also helped transform it into what it is today.
During this time, the whole Northeast, which also included the New England states, became one of the country’s most important trading and industrial hubs.
By the end of the 1800s, this area had a reputation for being “typically American.” The reason was its ethnic diversity as well as its tolerance of different religions.
This should come as no surprise as the region was settled by Dutch, English Catholics, Swedes, and Quakers.
The tri state area in pop culture
You’ve undoubtedly heard mention of the tri-state area in several places. Any movies that take place in New York is bound to mention it. Also, any weatherman reporting the news is bound to mention it.
Here is an excerpt from the CBS local news. It revolves around the coronavirus pandemic and how it has been affecting the tri-state area.
“… Now, to the pandemic.
And, Rhode Island has been added to the tri state’s travel advisory list as cases there continue to rise. People traveling to and from Rhode Island will have to quarantine for 14 days once in the tri-state area. Washington D.C. and Delaware have been removed from the list.”
And, here is a weather report by Eyewitness News, talking about Isaias the storm.
However, my favorite example is from the cartoon show “Phineas and Ferb.”
In the show, the tri-state area doesn’t refer to the New York metropolitan area. Instead, it refers to a place surrounding Danville, and it owes its existence to a fictional character named John P. Tristate (pretty on the nose if you ask me).
Anyway, in the show, as some of the characters were walking around a museum, their tour guide starts breaking into song.
The song he is singing is called “History of the Tri-State Area,” and I recommend you check it out because it is quite enjoyable.
Here are a few of the lyrics.
“It’s the history of an area, the Tri-State Area,
Don’t mean to cause a ruckus or a fuss;
It’s the birthplace of the onion and the Danville cafeteria,
And home of Bigfoot’s hairless cousin, us!”
Other notable geographic names
Since we are already on the topic, we might as well look at a few more unique geographic nomenclatures that might come in handy.
The Four Corners
This refers to a region in the US where four states meet at the same spot. The only spot that adheres to this can be found at the intersection of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.
This place is also known as the quadripoint, and the Four Corners Monument marks it. Interestingly, no other spot is an intersection of four states simultaneously.
The Four State Area
This is different than the Four Corners. The Four State Area, also dubbed as the Quad State Area, is a space where four states almost touch. The states are Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
It is worth noting that Arkansas does not share a boundary with Kansas.
There are several notable metropolitan areas and cities in the Four State Area. You have Tulsa, which is in Oklahoma. There is Pittsburg, Kansas. And, there is also Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Twin cities is an interesting geographical phenomenon when two cities that are close to one another start growing into each other until they almost lose their individual identities and become integrated to a large extent.
These cities lose the majority of their buffer zone in the process.
Even though there might not be strict criteria for what constitutes twin cities, there are a few guiding principles. For one thing, both cities should be almost equal in size and have a comparable administrative status.
There are several classic examples of twin cities, such as the cities of Buda and Pest, both of which went on to later form Budapest.
You’d think from the name that Quad cities referred to four cities, yet it actually refers to five. More specifically, Quad Cities refers to Bettendorf and Davenport in Iowa as well as to Moline, East Moline, and Rock Island in northwestern Illinois.
The discrepancy with the name is nothing more than a historical curiosity.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.