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On Friday I rode all the rail transit in the Seattle metro area.  It is possible to do this in one day (weekends only) due to the reverse-commute Sound Sounder runs.  Here’s the itinerary:

You can read my running commentary on the trips in my Twitter feed for August 5, 2011.  On the basis of my rides on Friday, I developed a rating matrix of the six rail transit modes, plus Swift BRT.  Three of the vehicles were waiting for me when I arrived at the station: the SLU Streetcar, Central Link and Tacoma Link.  If I hadn’t been so lucky, they would have lower ratings for frequency.   Swift, although it is bus rapid transit not rail, is included as well.  Bus transit, whatever other benefits it provides, simply cannot compete with rail in terms of ride quality.  My return trip from Everett to Seattle via bus was by far more exhausting than the commuter rail trip to Everett.

Service

Frequency

Experience of Speed

Ride Comfort

Ticketing Convenience

Transfer Convenience

Monorail

4

8

7

2

3

SLU Streetcar

6

3

7

6

4

Tacoma Link

8

5

7

10

8

Central Link

8

6

7

7

7

South Sounder

3

9

8

8

7

North Sounder

1

7

8

8

5

CT Swift

3

7

4

7

4

Below is a quantitative comparison of the six rail modes, plus Swift BRT. The surprise to me was the high ridership and frequency of the Monorail – it is actually the best performing rail service in the region. But then, it is by far the oldest (most mature) rail service in the region. Rail is still in its infancy in the Seattle region.

Service

Frequency
(Peak/Base/ Evening)

Average
Speed (mph)

Length
(miles)

Fares

Weekday
Ridership/ Mile

Year
Opened

Monorail

10/10/10

36

1.2

$2.00

3,400

1962

SLU Streetcar

10/15/15

7

1.3

$2.50

2,200

2007

Tacoma Link

12/12/24

12

1.6

Free

1,600

2003

Central Link

7.5/10/10

25

15.6

$2.00-$2.75

1,500

2009

South Sounder

25/–/–
(9 trips)

48

47

$2.75-$4.75

120

2000

North Sounder

30/–/–
(4 trips)

36

35

$2.75-$4.50

20

2004

CT Swift

10/10/20

22

17

$1.75

200

2009

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Recently I posted the 2010 update to the greatest city rankings.  As I noted, the updated rankings show a decisive shift in global influence from the United States to Asia in the period since the 2002 rankings.   European and Latin American cities held steady on average, although Italian cities shot up in the rankings.  Africa fell back a bit, confirming the thesis of the Bottom Billion by Paul Collier (short synopsis: the poorest billion on earth, predominately in Africa, are stuck in a variety of traps that keep them out of the development process and stuck in increasing poverty).

Lets zoom in on the drop in the U.S. rankings and the rise in the rankings of Asian cities.  Three biggest gainers were Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Wuhan, all in China.  The three biggest losers were Hamburg (Germany), St. Louis and Columbus (Ohio).  Detroit dropped 25 places from #21 to #46.

Here is the detail on the three large gainers:

The single largest factor in the rise of these cities is their massive population growth, underscoring the scale of the unprecedented migration within China to its manufacturing cities.  The growth in web citations is equally impressive, although totals are not yet high enough to receive scoring. 

The detail on the three largest losers follows:

In 2002, these cities received scoring primarily for web citations and Fortune 500 company headquarters.  (None of them are large enough to receive population scoring).  The growth of the web in the intervening years meant that the web citations had to increase ten-fold for the city to break even in the rankings.  Web citations for these cities grew, but nowhere near fast enough to keep up.  And all three cities lost corporate headquarters, possibly due to corporate mergers (centralization) or de-industrialization.   Also notable in the significant  drop in air traffic to St. Louis, resulting from the loss of the TWA hub after it’s “merger” with American Airlines.

During the 2000’s, Asian cities grew spectacularly, while many U.S. cities failed to keep pace during the “lost decade” of housing booms and falling real wages.  (For a German take on U.S. decline read here.)  Not all U.S. cities fell in the rankings: Orlando moved up 5 spaces, and San Francisco 2.  How did my hometown of Seattle fare?  Dropped 6 spaces.  Web citations and airport passengers grew proportionately, but the number of corporate headquarters fell, bringing down the total scoring.

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I have updated the list of the 60 greatest cities in the world for 2010.  Same as the 2002 rankings posted in August of this year, this is not a most-livable cities list, not a best-cities-to-do-business list, but a list of the largest and most influential cities on earth, i.e. the greatest.  The rankings consider population, economy, cultural impact and connectedness. 

The criteria and methodology were the same for both lists, but the world has shifted in the meantime.  The only methodological difference is in the metropolitan airport passengers criterion.  In 2002, I only had access to the passenger counts from the top 30 airports; in this update, I accessed 2006 passenger counts from the largest 400 or so international airports, so the airport ranking are more robust.

As previously, Tokyo, New York and London land in the top three.  A comparison of the remainder of the rankings shows that during the past decade Asian cities have rapidly increased in greatness while U.S. cities have declined.  I will parse the data further in a future post, including a close-up look at a few of the biggest winners and losers.

2010 Overall Ranking City 2002 Overall Ranking Ranking Change
1 New York 2 ▲ (1)
2 Tokyo 1 ▼ (1)
3 London 3
4 Los Angeles 5 ▲ (1)
5 Paris 6 ▲ (1)
6 Chicago 4 ▼ (2)
7 Seoul 9 ▲ (2)
8 Washington 7 ▼ (1)
9 Beijing 15 ▲ (6)
10 San Francisco 12 ▲ (2)
11 Osaka 10 ▼ (1)
12 Shanghai 37 ▲ (25)
13 Sao Paulo 18 ▲ (5)
14 Mumbai 27 ▲ (13)
15 Hong Kong 17 ▲ (2)
16 Madrid 16
17 Moscow 20 ▲ (3)
18 Dallas 8 ▼ (10)
19 Houston 14 ▼ (5)
20 Atlanta 11 ▼ (9)
21 Mexico City 13 ▼ (8)
22 Toronto 25 ▲ (3)
23 Guangzhou 111 ▲ (88)
24 Delhi 26 ▲ (2)
25 Jakarta 28 ▲ (3)
26 Amsterdam 22 ▼ (4)
27 Boston 19 ▼ (8)
28 Philadelphia 23 ▼ (5)
29 Manila 34 ▲ (5)
30 Taipei 57 ▲ (27)
31 Bangkok 40 ▲ (9)
32 Singapore 46 ▲ (14)
33 Lima 48 ▲ (15)
34 Istanbul 42 ▲ (8)
35 Kolkata 31 ▼ (4)
36 Seattle 30 ▼ (6)
37 Frankfurt 24 ▼ (13)
38 Karachi 36 ▼ (2)
39 Cairo 29 ▼ (10)
40 Dhaka 44 ▲ (4)
41 Rio de Janeiro 33 ▼ (8)
42 Nagoya 54 ▲ (12)
43 Miami 43
44 Rome 67 ▲ (23)
45 Minneapolis 45
46 Detroit 21 ▼ (25)
47 Buenos Aires 32 ▼ (15)
48 Milan 78 ▲ (30)
49 Tehran 41 ▼ (8)
50 Barcelona 82 ▲ (32)
51 Shenzhen ▲ (–)
52 Sydney 59 ▲ (7)
53 Wuhan 112 ▲ (59)
54 Phoenix 38 ▼ (16)
55 Munich 75 ▲ (20)
56 Lagos 47 ▼ (9)
57 Melbourne 69 ▲ (12)
58 Orlando 63 ▲ (5)
59 Kinshasa 68 ▲ (9)
60 Santiago 97 ▲ (37)

Data sources used in the ranking:

1. Metropolitan area population – Per “Th. Brinkhoff: Principal Agglomerations and Cities of the World, http://www.citypopulation.de/, 01.01.2010″

2. Web citations: Google search engine, October 2010

3. Number of Fortune Global 500 company headquarters – Fortune Magazine, Global 500 Ranking, July 26, 2010

4. Metropolitan airport passengers – ACI 2006 Airport Passenger Counts (latest data publically available)

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Which American cities have the longest history?  Which cities feel the most historic, or simply the most old?   

I tabulated the times when the 30 largest American cities were initially founded, incorporated and when they first reached half of their peak population.  The point of half-population correlates best to a general feeling of how old a city is, as most of the city’s neighborhoods, infrastructure and landmarks were in place by then.  The second half of the population fills out the framework developed to house the first half.   

As seen in the chart below, the two oldest American cities, Boston and Philadelphia, reached half of their peak population in the 1890 census.  New York and San Francisco reached that point in 1910, twenty years later.  Los Angeles reached half its current (peak) population in 1950, hence the proliferation of art deco and freeways, while Las Vegas did so in the 2000 census, which is why everything there appears new.  Note that among the nine oldest cities shown on the chart, all but New York and San Fransisco have lost population since 1960 and not yet gained it back.  New York and San Fransisco also lost population in that time frame, but their enduring urban vibe and economies have caused them to bounce back and achieve new peak populations.  

Histories of the 30 Largest U.S. Cities

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I developed a ranking system for the greatest cities of the world.  This is not a most-livable cities list, not a best-cities-to-do-business list, but a list of the largest and most influential cities on earth.  These are “great cities” in the sense of the definition in the Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary:

GREAT, a. [L. crassus.] 1. Large in bulk or dimensions; a term of comparison, denoting more magnitude or extension than something else, or beyond what is usual; as a great body; a great house; a great farm.  …  6. Important; weighty; as a great argument; a great truth; a great event; a thing of no great consequence; it is no great matter.

The rankings consider population, economy, cultural impact and connectedness.   Tokyo, New York and London land in the top three.  Despite the rapid rise in population and wealth among many emerging economy cities, particularly in Asia, U.S. cities are still very well represented in the rankings.  The strength of the U.S. economy, high internet use and the large domestic air travel market lead to higher ranking than I would have expected.  The data sources are generally from 2002; I will post updated rankings when available. 

From top to bottom, here are the 60 greatest cities:

Overall Ranking City
1 Tokyo
2 New York
3 London
4 Chicago
5 Los Angeles
6 Paris
7 Washington
8 Dallas
9 Seoul
10 Osaka
11 Atlanta
12 San Francisco
13 Mexico City
14 Houston
15 Beijing
16 Madrid
17 Hong Kong
18 São Paulo
19 Boston
20 Moscow
21 Detroit
22 Amsterdam
23 Philadelphia
24 Frankfurt
25 Toronto
26 Delhi
27 Mumbai
28 Jakarta
29 Cairo
30 Seattle
31 Kolkata
32 Buenos Aires
33 Rio de Janeiro
34 Manila
35 Essen
36 Karachi
37 Shanghai
38 Phoenix
39 Denver
40 Bangkok
41 Tehran
42 Istanbul
43 Miami
44 Dhaka
45 Minneapolis
46 Singapore
47 Lagos
48 Lima
49 Charlotte
50 Berlin
51 Las Vegas
52 Bogotá
53 Hamburg
54 Nagoya
55 St. Louis
56 Johannesburg
57 Taipei
58 Chongqing
59 Sydney
60 Columbus

 Data sources used in the ranking:

1. Metropolitan area population – Per “Th. Brinkhoff: Principal Agglomerations and Cities of the World, http://www.citypopulation.de, 12.11.2002″

2. Web citations: Google search engine

3. Number of Fortune Global 500 company headquarters – Fortune Magazine, July 21, 2003

4. Metropolitan airport passengers – ACI 2002 Passenger Counts

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