Sunday, October 11, 2009

America's Favorite Cities

Since it's still the weekend here is another light post (after last weekend's End of the Universe).  Travel & Leisure Magazine has come out with a list of America's favorite cities, ranking the 30 biggest cities in a wide variety of categories. 

I know that there are mixed feelings about these type of magazine rankings.  For empirical accuracy, they probably lie somewhere between U.S. News and the college football BCS rankings.  At Prawfsblawg David Schleichler has laid down the gauntlet generally about "best places to live" rankings.  It's an interesting debate, but I still happen to think that they are great fun. 

Travel & Leisure gives you the chance to check out the rankings of the top 30 citites in a broad array of categories, and also to compare city to city.  I am most interested in the categories that bear directly on land use issues and also certain "creative class" categories having to do with the workforce, cultural opportunities, and so on.  In the spirit of friendly rivalry I have compared my co-bloggers' cities across some of these categories (Will = Charleston, Ngai = Las Vegas, me = Houston, Jamie gets Atlanta, and Chad gets sent up to Nashville, because Montgomery is not on the list but Chad has lived in the Volunteer State).  Here are some results:

Atlanta: attractive (21); friendly (20); intelligent (23); diverse (19); museums (18); restaurants (12); neighborhoods (23); public transportation & pedestrian friendliness (23); public parks (24); environmental friendliness (24).

Charleston: attractive (3); friendly (3); intelligent (10); diverse (24); museums (15); historical sites (4); restaurants (26); neighborhoods (2); public parks (11); public transportation & pedestrian friendliness (8); environmental friendliness (10). 

Houston: attractive (8); intelligent (13); friendly (7); diverse (4); museums (8); restaurants (6); neighborhoods (16); parks (20); public transportation & pedestrian friendliness (27); environnmental friendliness (19).

Las Vegas: attractive (19); friendly (24); intelligent (30); diverse (21); museums (30); restaurants (4); neighborhoods (30); parks (30); people-watching (3); environnmental friendliness (27).

Nashville: attractive (9); friendly (#1); intelligent (15); diverse (29); museums (21); restaurants (20); neighborhoods (11); public transportation & pedestrian-friendliness (19); public parks (13); environnmental friendliness (13).

What's the point of all this?  Just that it's fun to compare, regardless of whether we accept the assertions of a travel magazine as empirically sound at an academic level.  I do think there are some significant differences between new cities and older cities, especially if you look at the results for places like New York, Chicago, Boston, San Fransisco.  But mostly it's just an entertaining weekend land use distraction.

- Matt Festa

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Well, we didn't make T&L's list, but Salt Lake City was ranked the #1 city for fitness by Men's Health magazine based on its abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities, participation in fitness activities, and low obesity rate. Proof positive that access to opportunities for fitness produces a healthier population and that urban trails, opens space, and greenways are not just important for the environment, they are vital to our overall health.

Posted by: Janna Custer | Oct 13, 2009 12:01:12 PM