Category Archives: cities

In Case You Are Wondering Why NYC Transit is a Mess

Poor management and lack of resources.

Here is the story from Fred Wilson


New York Stories: Saving Grand Central

It is hard to believe it, but developers tore down the magnificent McKim, Mead & White Penn Station building. It used to look like this from the outside

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Inside you got views like this

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And this

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It is also hard to believe that developers wanted to drastically alter Grand Central Station.

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They were blocked from doing so, which is a fascinating story about historic conservation.

And that effort re-drew the battle lines between developers and preservationists.

Check out the story!

Dockless Bike Sharing?

I thought the idea of docked bike sharing is pretty cool. But dockless bike sharing? How would that work?

It seems that the Twin Cities may have figured it out. They are about to double the number of bikes that are available for the public by adding a dockless option to the system.

What is the big deal? Consider this

The real innovation of dockless may be the fact that the equipment is much cheaper, so expanding the system has fewer barriers. Adding that technology to an established legacy system could be what a system like Nice Ride needs to make a dramatic expansion, quickly and cheaply. “Before a station was about $30,000. Now it’s about $80,” says Rosell. “That will make a more dense and useful system.”

I am into it!

Where are the World’s Greatest Cities?

If by “greatest” you mean best places to live, this quote might come as a surprise to you

According to the Global Liveability Index, a measurement of the world’s best cities to call home, not a single U.S. city was good enough to make the cut. Canada had three cities, by comparison, including Calgary (3), Vancouver (6) and Toronto (7). The best city to live was Vienna, Austria.

What is going on? It is not that US cities — and European cities  for that matter — are getting worse. It is that other cities are rapidly improving.

At least four worldclass cities have fallen from the top 10 over the past year—Auckland (from 8th to 12th), Perth (from 7th to 14th), Helsinki (from 9th to 16th) and Hamburg (from 10th to 18th)—despite the fact that none of these cities have seen a deterioration of the main items being measured.

What trends can we see?

… there is a correlation between the types of cities that sit at the very top of the ranking, according to the rankers at The Economist Intelligence Unit. Those that score best tend to be midsize cities in wealthier countries. Several cities in the top 10 also have relatively low population density. Plus they have a number of cultural and recreational activities attractive to residents without having high crime levels and overburdened infrastructure.

But what about New York? London? Paris?

The “big city buzz” comes with heavily burdened infrastructure, poverty and higher crime rates. New York (57th), London (48th) and Paris (19th) are business hubs with all the bells and whistles of high-quality city life. But each one has higher levels of crime and congestion that make them much less liveable than their peers in the top 10.


Tom Wolfe on Cities

Most of the world’s populations live in cities now. And each city has its own identity – that identity consists of the things that give it  life. How would you describe that life giving engine of your city to some one who knows nothing about it?

To get it right, you need a narrative voice. A voice that puts the city’s story in context. That voice for Manhattan, for example, might arise from ambition and money. Washington? Power, obviously. London Perhaps the assured voice of the aristocrat  Paris? The artist’s voice!

Tom Wolfe was able to find voices that took his readers inside a variety of cities. New York, Miami, Los Angeles.  Check out these excepts!

Here he is on Las Vegas

Las Vegas takes what in other American towns is but a quixotic inflammation of the senses for some poor salary mule in the brief interval between the flagstone rambler and the automatic elevator downtown, and magnifies it, foliates it, embellishes it into an institution … the only town in the world whose skyline is made up neither of buildings, like New York, nor of trees, like Wilbraham, Massachusetts, but signs. One can look at Las Vegas from a mile away on Route 91 and see no buildings, no trees, only signs. But such signs! They tower. They revolve, they oscillate, they soar in shapes before which the existing vocabulary of art history is helpless. I can only attempt to supply names—Boomerang Modern, Palette Curvilinear, Flash Gordon, Ming-Alert Spiral, McDonald’s Hamburger Parabola, Mint Casino Elliptical, Miami Beach Kidney. Las Vegas’ sign makers work so far out beyond the frontiers of conventional studio art that they have no names themselves for the forms they create.

There are four more! go for it!

Is Vienna Really the Most Livable City in the World?

Decor Magazine reports  that according to the Mercer ranking, ,Vienna is the most livable city in the world.

That would be the ninth year in a row!

The top-ranked city provides its residents with “high security, well-structured public transportation, and a variety of cultural and recreation facilities,” Mercer explained in a press release.

So what are the criteria?

The survey evaluates 39 factors including crime, healthcare, schools and education, housing, and public services and transportation.

Those things are important. But what about friendliness? What about access to great food and entertainment? What about vibrancy? If you add those factors in —which I think one should — would Vienna still dominate? I tend to doubt it.

So where are the ranking systems that  focus on these people oriented factors that make places either attractive or oppressive?

TimeOut ranks Chicago as the most “exciting” city in the world.

Chicagoans raved about their city’s bar scene, its live music and culture, its local neighbourhoods and its affordability. It was one of the happiest and proudest cities worldwide. In fact, it only fell short on safety and whether it had become a better place to live over time.

Porto came in second!

It may be Portugal’s second city, but pleasant Porto is the best place in the world for making friends, finding love, feeling free to be yourself and keeping in touch with family – beating Lisbon in most categories across the board, and ranking second overall. For travellers, it’s also the most affordable city for a night out.

EscapeHere ranks … drum roll please … Hamburg as the most exciting city in the world

Hamburg might not be an obvious choice as one of the world’s most exciting cities but upon closer inspection, it definitely fits the bill for thrills. As Germany’s largest port and second biggest city, the thriving commercial center is refreshingly bold in its moves—as much can be said about almost every scene in Hamburg, from art to food and especially after-hours. Maritime spirit throughout Hamburg transcends through squawking gulls, restaurant menus, and architecture; the influence of the water is palpable. Multiculturalism is exemplified right through diverse neighborhoods exhibiting a wealth of ethnic hotspots. Even the magnificently shabby red light district of Reeperbahn is popular for racier nightlife options while boho-chic Schanzenviertel and Grossneumarkt Square throw out more possibilities. Waterfront venues pump out the best of electronic and live music—after all, the Beatles have history here and Hamburg has shown unparalleled promise on the music front ever since.

Ranker says Amsterdam is the world’s best party town. London comes in second.

Thrillist lists Hanoi as the first place you need to visit at least once. Second is Nashville.

Errr … Hanoi?

… 1 million people strong and boasting a distinct, frenetic buzz, Vietnam’s capital city is extraordinary to visit, a haven for expats and backpackers alike. Many bars keep clandestine hours, staying open well past the government mandated midnight closing time — they’ll shut the lights and board up and everyone has to hush until government control passes by. After-hours, nightclubs on river barges just outside city limits thump until sunrise, inevitably depositing partiers at some kind of food cart — pho, banh mi (add an egg), you name it.

All of these places are no doubt awesome in one way or anther. Perhaps in many ways! But somehow, they leave me unsatisfied.

What do you think?