What Makes a Good City?
One of my most successful articles was one that looked at the World’s Worst Cities. Dhaka, Bangladesh had widely been condemned as the worst city and I looked into others that could take that title. Using the same criteria, such as crime levels, pollution etc I thought I would examine what the World’s Best City is. Using a report compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (who named Dhaka the World’s Worst City) Melbourne, Australia tops the list and was named the World’s Best City.
I am going to use these categories to judge Melbourne and determine if it really is the World’s Best City or is there another to take the title?
- Crime Levels
- Global Perception and Soft Power
- Quality of Medical Care
- Levels of Censorship
- Temperature and Climate
- Schools and Education
- Transport Links
Melbourne as a leading world city is always going to have moderate levels of crime. Traditionally smaller and less ‘global’ cities have low crime rates. However Melbourne cannot be considered a dangerous city and overall crime statistics have shown them crime levels have decreased.
According to the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, another report that looks at the livability of cities, Luxembourg City comes out on top with regards to personal safety. According to many travel guides Luxembourg City is one of the safest in Europe with ordinary everyday crime being the most threatening, in particular the threat the tourist crime. However judging how safe a city is, is notoriously difficult. Crime levels vary greatly, what type of crime do we consider and what constitutes a threat to our personal safety? Much of what makes a city safe is the perception people have of the city; does it make them feel safe to walk around etc?
Global Perception and Soft Power
This category looks at the perception the world has of leading cities. Using this as a way to measure the best city is key as it reflects how society defines the ‘best city’. Melbourne is a leading Australian city, second only to Sydney in global perception and is in a nation who rates within the top 10 of nations with soft power, i.e.e the ability to influence others through cultural power.
However if we want to find the world’s leading city based on perception and soft power we have to look to the nation who top’s Monocle Magazine’s report on soft power nations. This nation is the UK and London must be seen as a critical part of Britain’s domination of the report. Britain’s rise to the top is credited to British dominance in the music industry, with artists such as Adele and One Direction topping charts worldwide; Britain’s fashion industry (one of the most respected in the world) and Britain’s sporting success, focused on the 2012 Olympics. But the Olympics, like other events that caught the world’s attention, such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, were London centric and were destined to show London at its best.
Although British culture and success was broadcast round the world London was used as the epitome of British culture and equal promotion was given to London as a global city. With the exposure, global perception and heritage London enjoys, cities, such as Melbourne, have a long way to go to achieve parity.
Quality of Medical Care
Australia is considered to have one of the best medical systems in the world and ranked 32nd in the World Health Report 2000, rising to 17th when the cost of medical care is taken into consideration. With a dual system of private and public healthcare Melbourne and Australia have built a highly developed system that has one of the highest life expectancy in Australia.
But using the same report the country that has the best overall healthcare system was France and within France Paris has the largest hospital system in Europe. The healthcare resources available to Parisians are very great and with numerous hospitals that is great choice. In addition these hospitals are among some of the best teaching hospitals in the world and many a leading global research centres, such as the Institut Gustave Roussy, a leading oncology centre and cancer research facility.
Levels of Censorship
In a recent article I commented on the high levels of censorship in the African nations of Eritrea and the impact on the community. Unlike many other factors it is difficult to see differences from city to city. Unlike crime and healthcare, censorship must be looked at on a national basis.
Australia ranks at number 26 on the Freedom of the Press Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. Although this puts the nation high in the world it is behind other leading nations and currently sits between Cape Verde and Uruguay (not two countries you would typically rank alongside Australia). Here again Australia is eclipsed by another nation, in this instance, Finland.
Finland regularly tops the list and by virtue its capital, Helsinki, could be seen as the World’s Best City. Reporters Without Borders has argued that Finland has provided the optimum conditions for press freedom and with Helsinki as the centre of Finland’s media and communications industries the city has distinguished itself as a global centre for press freedom.
Temperature and Climate
This again is a difficult category to determine, not because cities don’t vary but because how people define ‘good weather’ varies. However, Melbourne is likely to be at the top or near the top. It has a moderate climate that is viewed favourably by citizens all year round and suffers neither the tropical excesses of South East Asian or African cities or the extremes of cold that is seen in much of the Northern hemisphere.
But there are other cities that are seen as favourably. Californian cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco have often been noted for their pleasant all year climate as are cities in the Mediterranean, such as Nice, France or Barcelona. All of these cities have the potential to take Melbourne’s title as the World’s Best City.
Schools and Education
Within education Melbourne does excel, particularly at university level. The University of Melbourne is ranked number 1 in Australia and was ranked number 37 in the world by Times Higher Education. In addition Melbourne is also home to Monash University, the largest and one of the most successful of Australia’s universities. These universities have helped to make Melbourne the fourth best university city in the world after London, Tokyo and Boston.
However, looking at education as a whole, although Australia comes out highly, nations such as New Zealand, South Korea and Finland still achieve higher rankings. Within Finland Helsinki is, yet again, the centre of the nation’s education system and as such could be viewed as one of the World’s Best Cities. However with the growth and development of Asia increasing, Seoul, South Korea could easily been seen as the best city in the world. Its pupils consistently achieved high results in Maths, Literacy and Science in a 2010 Pisa study led by the OECD.
To judge livability in regards to transport is difficult. Typically smaller cities with a lower population will be more accessible, easier to navigate and less congested. But amongst the bigger cities making your journey pleasant and easy has been the focus. Although Melbourne has a good public transport system, including what was once the world’s largest tram network, cities such as Hong Kong and Tokyo have eclipsed many other world cities.
Both has highly developed mass transit systems that not only deal with millions of travelers but achieves its aims efficiently and with cleanliness in mind. Trains on these systems are rarely late and users are quick to notice the cleanliness and good maintenance achieved by the people who manage these networks.
Ultimately, Melbourne comes out on top of all these cities with the ability to be near the top in every area judged, eclipsing all other world cities. According to this study Melbourne is the world’s best city to live in, however other studies have pushed cities such as Vienna to the top and Melbourne down the list. When we break down certain criteria it is clear that Melbourne is not the safest city, the one with the best transport network or the best global perception. These titles go to other cities, all of whom could take the title World’s Best City. We have to question if we can judge a city, like Melbourne, and determine it as the best city or whether it is simply a matter of interpretation and opinion?
By Peter Banham