The Economist has ranked the best cities in the world to live and Toronto has come out on top. Well, not the very top, that would be Hong Kong, but Toronto is the only North American city to crack the top 10 with an eighth-place showing. That puts us behind Paris (#4) and Sydney (#5), understandably enough, but well ahead of universally admired spots such as Madrid (#13) San Francisco (#18) and Singapore (#22).
The rankings, which were announced this week, were put together by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and looked at how the world's biggest cities stacked up against each other in terms of green space, sprawl, natural assets, cultural assets, connectivity, isolation and pollution. Each city was given a grade from 1 to 5, with 1 being the best, on how strong they were in each area.
To no surprise, or at least not to anyone who's been on the Gardner Expressway or Don Valley Parkway in rush hour, Toronto received a paltry 4.5 in the sprawl department. That's better, however, than how the city did on cultural assets, where we scored a rock bottom 5.0.
It would be tempting to blame this one on Daniel Libeskind's deconstructivist (and much derided) Royal Ontario Museum design, or on Jack Diamond's underappreciated Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts but the survey only took into consideration the presence of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the area. With no ruins or hieroglyphics to speak of, Hogtown never stood a chance. Incredibly, Washington, D.C. and Boston were also dismissed with 5s on the cultural asset front.
Where Toronto did shine though was with its abundance of green space and relatively low levels of pollution, earning the highest possible marks in both categories. No city in the top 10 equals Toronto in green space, according to the survey, and only Sydney has as little pollution.
Toronto received favourable marks for connectivity (1.8) yet poor scores in both the isolation and natural asset realms.
Fortunately, there were no marks handed out for weather conditions.
For those wondering how Vancouver and Calgary -- two perennial contenders in the 'best cities' charts -- fared, the simple answer is perhaps the cruelest: They weren't considered.
While both joined Toronto to form a hat trick, filling out the top 5 in the Economist's previous iteration of the livability index, this latest survey represented an attempt to assess aspects of a city that "can be enjoyed by all and escaped by none", according to the report's methodology.
As it was an inaugural effort, the Economist selected only 70 of the 140 cities surveyed in the livability study, making the cuts on the basis of size.
Although Vancouver and Calgary were left out altogether, Toronto did not escape unscathed by the new criteria employed. Of all of the most recently ranked top cities, Toronto suffered the biggest drop, falling from 4th in the liveability report to 8th here.
Sadly, last place on both studies went to the same city: Harare, Zimbabwe.
Top 10 Cities in the Spatially Adjusted Liveability Index
Other North American cities and their rankings:
14. Washington DC
16. New York
17. Los Angeles
18. San Francisco