Thursday, 14 July 2011

Obsessing Over City Rankings

Barely a day goes by without the Vancouver media presenting a new city ranking.  Last week it was that Vancouver is the 2nd 'greenest' city in North America behind San Francisco and today the Vancouver Sun reports that the city has the fourth most expensive parking rates in Canada.  This follows yesterday's gleeful reporting of the new Mercer Cost of Living Survey which places Toronto above Vancouver.  Although as a new resident of the city, I was just pleased that Vancouver was 47 places below my old home, London! 

I'm still awaiting the city ranking on 'rioting for meaningless reasons'
The constant benchmarking of Vancouver against other cities is only helpful if it moves beyond self satisfaction and towards actual lesson learning.  Unfortunately a number of local professionals have told me that the city is too insular and content that it always knows best.  This is dangerous because urban policy is moving apace globally and Vancouver should not rest on its laurels.  The recent passing of the Greenest City Action Plan is a step in the right direction but must be substantiated with greater operational and financial details.  Looking at the facts behind the various city rankings could be a good starting point.


  1. For children's quality of life, a "city" is wayyyy to large a geographic area to rate. Even a "neighborhood" is too big. It's the block that's important for kids, and some would even claim it's a super small radius around a house - say, one or two houses.

    In the article below, I critique Richard Florida's rating of cities for families (and kids):

    Searching for Kid-Friendly Cities? It’s a Waste of Time

  2. Hi Mike - you make a very good point. The rankings often cover entire cities, sometimes even whole countries. This is despite us living our lives in a very small area with regular trips to just a few key destinations - schools, shops, work etc.

    If ranking is to have any purpose, it should either compare cities on very high-level issues or compare neighbourhoods/blocks within a city on the more micro issues. Comparing cities on very detailed micro issues can ignore the inequality within a city.