Design publication Metropolis recently released its list of the world's most livable cities, using a formula that combined feedback from a panel of experts as well as a variety of factors that make any urban area more appealing, "the sum of the housing, amenities, connectivity, and in a word, pleasures a city has to offer." The rankings included a bulletproof top three of Toronto, Tokyo and Helsinki, as well as cities that are excelling by particular metrics and up-and-coming metropolitan areas to watch.
While the choices were solid, the inclusion of just a handful of American cities—Indianapolis (landscaping) and Pittsburgh and Reno (preservation) among them—made us pine for guidance on the most livable places in the States. In an effort to decipher which cities make the cut, Curbed decided to look at the research. We consulted numerous livability studies covering everything from overall quality of life, bike friendliness and green space access to economic and aesthetic rankings on the best places for the creative class and those with the most affordable housing (the entire list of studies we consulted, and our scoring system, can be found below). After crunching the numbers, here are the top five. Of course, any ranking is arbitrary and doesn't take personal experience into account. It also should be noted that none of the top five cities could be found anywhere near top of the rankings of most affordable places to live. But based purely on aggregating different rankings, these cities stood out from the rest.
The dream of the '90s, it seems, is alive and well. Portland earned the highest score of any city we looked at and was the only domestic representative in Monocle's most recent list of the Top 25 Most Livable Cities. While its high ranking stems from earning high marks in aesthetic and lifestyle categories, including bike-friendliness and density of parks, it also was listed as one of the Top 20 Best Performing Cities by the Milken Institute, in part due to continued growth in its design and tech sectors.
San Francisco certainly isn't earning any points for affordability any time soon. But like Portland, the city by the bay beat out other areas with the potent combination of lifestyle amenities (one of the few cities earning a spot in all three Walkscore categories) and tech economy prowess. Many surveys and ranking we consulted broke out Oakland and Silicon Valley as separate regions, so if you combined the entire Bay Area, the aggregate score would have been even higher.
Rounding out a very strong showing for the northwest, Seattle earned a spot for many of the same reasons Portland did, and along with Chicago, was considered one of the world's leading cities for startups.
Perhaps the most surprising entry on the list, Philly earned points for its urban design and great transit system. Without a strong showing in any of the economic studies, however, the city may be punching above its weight.
Scoring system: We took a simple, non-scientific, aggregate score, awarding cities one point for every mention in the top 25 of 18 different studies, surveys, and articles, focusing on:
・Design and tech economy
Sources include: Walkscore, NerdWallet Top LGBT-Friendly Cities, Top 10 Cities for Design, Forbes Future Jobs Report, Forbes Affordable Cities, Monocle's Most Livable Cities, Parkscore City Rankings, Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities, Bicycling Magazine Most Bike-Friendly Cities, America's Leading Creative Class Cities, World's Leading Startup Cities, Kiplinger Affordable Cities, and NOAA Sunshine Ranking.
・World's Most Livable Cities [Metropolis]