We have determined a combined score for each metropolitan area based on the perceived overall quality of life.... By their very nature, the factors determining this score are difficult to quantify. They are based mainly on perception, personal experience, and anecdotes from others who have spent time in these places. Features considered include the following:
  • Physical attractiveness: This includes both the physical setting and overall appearance of the area itself. Included is the attractiveness and functionality of the downtown core. We believe these factors influence initial impressions and long-term satisfaction in an area. The effects of a pancake-flat, windswept, nondescript landscape with dirty air and little vegetation are far different from that of attractive, well-kept, tree-lined streets with good buildings and a pristine mountain, valley, river, or lakeside setting. Cities such as Boulder, Colorado; Corvallis, Oregon; and Burlington, Vermont, do well in this regard, while some larger cities such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, are improving.
  • Heritage: A city that knows its roots and tries preserve its physical and cultural heritage is usually more physically attractive as well as genuine in character. These cities are almost invariably better places to live. Metropolitan areas with well-preserved historic districts and public buildings include Charlottesville and Winchester, Virginia; Boston, Massachusetts; Portland, Maine; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
  • Overall ease of living: The most subjective element in this subjective category, ease of living incorporates crowdedness, attitude and friendliness of people, and simplicity of infrastructure. In essence, it considers the "stress factor." Issues with places such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York are obvious, and these cities score poorly, while cities in the South -- even the workaholic New South -- tend to score high.
Source: Bert Sperling & Peter Sander, Cities Ranked & Rated, 2nd ed. (Wiley, 2007), 117-8.


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