There are many things that go into making a City a great place. But look around, and if your City has any (or dreadfully all) of these there’s a good chance it’s not a First Tier, World Class City, and it may never be.
#5. It Doesn’t Have a Subway System
Not having a subway is a good indicator that a city doesn’t have the density, is too spread out, and doesn’t take transit or itself seriously enough to be a world class city. Even late comers like Los Angeles have upped their status since building a subway. Size does matter, but there are cities with populations under 1 million with subway systems. While having a subway doesn’t guarantee world class status, not having one certainly disqualifies you. Venice, Italy, for obvious reasons, is the one exception.
#4. It has a Civic Center, a Sports Multi-Complex, an Arts District, an Entertainment District (any or all of the these)
Single Use Districts can kill city life is a New York minute. What happens after 5:00 o’clock at a Civic Center? Nothing – except maybe the homeless move in. World Class Cities have a diverse mix of uses so that no one area goes dead when not in use. If your city “rolls up the sidewalk” at 5:00, or if your football stadium is next to your baseball stadium, which is next to the convention center … well, I’m sorry.
#3. Parking Takes Up More Than 10% of Land Use
Parked cars are really just not that interesting. If a City has devoted a lot of land to parked cars, it’s probably a really boring place to be.
#2. There’s Freeway Running Through Downtown
Freeways were never meant to be in Cities, and for good reason. Smart Cities like Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle are tearing them down. Contrary to arguments, getting semi-trailer trucks into your downtown at 65 mph is not a good thing.
#1. The Sidewalks Are Empty
People are the single best indicator species of a city’s ecosystem. People on the streets is a good indication that your City is productive, innovative, diverse, and has a strong culture. Cities exist for the sole reason of bringing people together, and the best cities do it well.