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June 14, 2008

« The Creative Class Candidate | Main | Olympic Edge »

Tyler Brule's Monocle has a new listing of global cities based on a unique rating of quality of life. He discusses the rankings in the Financial Times.

1. Copenhagen: out in front by virtue of its scale, a good airport, all those bike paths and handsome locals.
2. Munich: almost a winner, but it should have committed to building the Transrapid airport rail link.
3. Tokyo: the world's best big city by far. Unfortunately, last week's stabbing spree hasn't done much for its public safety record.
4. Zurich: more relaxed neighbours would put it in first place.
5. Helsinki: a European capital with a foot firmly in Asia.
6. Vienna: one of Europe's greenest cities.
7. Stockholm: the city wants to go vertical -- a tricky mission.
8. Vancouver: the best of North America in a beautiful frame.
9. Melbourne: the best neighbourhoods in the southern hemisphere.
10. Paris: its visionary mayor has made the old dame internationally relevant again.

11. Sydney
12. Honolulu
13. Madrid
14. Berlin
15. Barcelona
16. Montreal
17. Fukuoka
18. Amsterdam
19. Minneapolis
20. Kyoto + 21. Hamburg, 22. Singapore, 23. Geneva, 24. Lisbon, 25. Portland.

Finally, these may not tick all the normal boxes but there's something truly refreshing and more than a little fun about urban living in: 1. Genoa -- the next Barcelona? 2. Buenos Aires -- it's all there and then it's not. 3. Istanbul -- all of the ingredients to move into the top 25 next year. 4. Beirut -- if chequebook diplomacy Qatar-style put a temporary lid on things, then Beirut deserves more of it for a proper bounce-back. 5. Phnom Penh -- regime issues aside, love moves at a perfect pace. ...

Brule, never one to mince words, has some candid, and in my view useful and needed advice for London (where he lives), Toronto (his hometown) and NYC.

What is still something of a shock is how many cities still get it so very, very wrong. London doesn't make the grade for the simple reason that it has somehow managed to grant planning permission to a most uninspired shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush, an area that is rapidly becoming a part of central London.

Toronto doesn't qualify because it has allowed its suburbs to become unconnected, ugly sprawls of hideous houses (garages bolted on to the front of houses are far better suited to southern California than to southern Ontario) and has done little of merit to deal with its derelict railway lands. New York continues to grind to a halt under the weight of automobile traffic, has no coherent scheme to get more people on to bicycles and still no sign of a high-speed, non-stop rail link to any of its airports.


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Mike L.

Tyler Brule must love Winter Sports!

Dave M

Brule's latter point about Toronto is the more salient of the two -- The lack of a rail link to Pearson and a limited subway infrastructure combine with dodgy commuter and long-haul rail into the city to make for a poorly developed, poorly co-ordinated rail system. I can't really fault Toronto for its ugly suburbs though. The fact that the post-1975 shift of corporate power from Montreal to Toronto happened, well, post-1975 isn't really Toronto's fault. Nor is the robust immigration that has pushed the growth of suburbs (and the lifeblood of downtown). It's easy to forget that Toronto is a relatively young city, and the broader GTA region still has much maturing to do. Some signs of it are starting to show (i.e. improvements to Port Credit), but the city really hasn't decided how it wants to treat transportation to places like Hamilton and K-W, which add a lot to the region, and the areas east of Durham region provide some hope for more appealing suburban living.


It find it depressing when I visit to see that there appears to have been no meaningful improvement to Toronto's public transit infrastructures (especially the subway, though the GO and bus systems aren't much better) since I used it daily to get to high school from Mississauga back in the late 1980s.

Not to mention that the city is still saddled with an elevated highway that severs the lakefront from the urban core. I guess it's too much to ask for creative responses along the lines of the Westway Development Trust in London (admittedly, the space is a bit different and likely more challenging).

My understanding is that Toronto was originally planned with a green belt like London's. It was to intended fall somewhere close to the Western edge of Mississauga but that this was dropped in the 1970s (or thereabouts) as an extravagant non-necessity. As a result, there's never been the density that would really support extension of the subway beyond Kipling, and the woodlands I used to BMX in across the road in the City of Oakville are now mall parking for the multiplex though there's a quasi-ironic grain silo left in the middle of one of the nearby housing developments.

Obviously, I'm only familiar with the Western side here. :)

Michael Wells

Love seeing Portland there, even in 25th place. And Minneapolis? Go figure.

My wife has relatives in Zurich, and it seemed nice enough, but sleepy -- at least a decade ago. The Swiss can be a little obsessive, I guess that's the non-relaxed neighbors? I wonder what his criteria were?

Mike D

Portland Maine?

Michael Wells

Vancouver, Washington? Paris, Texas? Vienna, Virginia?

Get real.

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