The city today: Results for 2012

City today: Results for 2012

“For the average person in a developing city, the most important factor is safety, health, and security. Efficiency is also important—[the] ability to get around efficiently is probably second in importance only to safety.”

-- Andrew Chan

Our 10 indicators and 60 variables have undergone substantial revision and refinement this year to enrich the meaning of results. As we do every year, however, we “fleshed out” our quantitative research by investigating underlying issues in interviews with leaders of thought and action from all over the world.

This year, we also added a new indicator, City Gateway. It seeks to measure a city’s global attraction.

What each indicator means … and related insight.

Intellectual capital and innovation

Intellectual capital, and the innovation it generates, is the engine of both social development and growth. Stockholm and Toronto once again topped the ranking this year.


Edward O. Wilson, Harvard naturalist

Gearing education for the techno-scientific revolution

Edward O. Wilson, professor emeritus of entomology at Harvard, stresses the need for education to catch up with today's techno-scientific revolution. And he agrees social and economic strengths reinforce each other in a virtuous circle of city life.

To listen to the full, 25-minute podcast go to the Videos page.

City gateway

A new indicator which measures a city's global connection. This indicator tries to quantify a city's global connections and attraction beyond its local borders. London clinched first place, given the city's function as a hub of European travel.


Peter Chamley, Head of infrastructure at Arup, the global design and engineering firm

A wing and a prayer: Airports, travelers and urban economies

Peter Chamley discusses possible solutions to improving the experience of flying into London.

Technology readiness

The competition for digital advantage continues to intensify. Seoul overtakes New York at the very top in this indicator.


Wim Elfrink, Chief Globalization Officer, Cisco

The new normal: Wired for holistic sustainability

Wim Elfrink discusses the reasons people move to cities and the creation of intelligent infrastructures.

Health, safety and security

For a city to thrive, its citizens must feel secure. "For the average person in a developing city, the most important factor is safety, health, and security," says Dr. Andrew Chan, deputy chairman, Arup Group. Stockholm and Toronto take first and second place.


Bill Bratton, Chairman, Kroll Inc.

The secret of policing: Mr. Bratton's neighborhood

After dramatically cutting crime in New York and Los Angeles, Bill Bratton discusses how it’s done: One neighborhood at a time, with focused prevention and response.

Transportation and infrastructure

In 2012, findings for this indicator show a major rethinking of the actual role transport and infrastructure play in a city's development and cohesion. Singapore takes first place, with Toronto being the only non-Asian city in the top 5.


Peter Chamley, Head of infrastructure design and engineering, Arup

London Pride: Olympian feats and quotidian commutes

Peter Chamley discusses the success of Olympic construction, making that infrastructure live on to transform neighborhoods and changes to improve commuting in the London area.

Sustainability and the natural environment

Natural environment was added to sustainability this year to reflect specific variables of climate or geology over which municipalities have little control. This indicator weighs the effectiveness of public policy, with 9 of the 10 top ranked cities being mature economies with defined sustainability strategies in place. Sydney topped the rankings.


Edward O. Wilson, Harvard naturalist

Cities and nature: Developing a paradise with the help of reason

Edward O. Wilson, professor emeritus of entomology at Harvard, discusses the importance of green cities -- and tells us why and how humans should share nature in a harmonious balance.

Demographics and livability

This year the indicator focuses clearly on "livability.” It seeks to approximate and reflect what most people interpret instinctively for themselves. Despite that subjectivity, there seems relatively universal agreement on what makes a "livable" city--or at least which cities are more livable than others. When it comes to judging livable, Paris rises to the top.


David Miller, Mayor of Toronto, 2003-2010

Maple sugar & civility: Toronto's quiet recipe for success

David Miller discusses the core Canadian value of civility and its economic impact in Toronto as well as the rising economic power of cities internationally.

Economic clout

Asia rises, but we'll always have Paris. What is central to the rankings here is the actual clout a city's economy gives it, not merely the cumulative potency of the economy itself. It is no surprise that Beijing rocketed to the very top of the rankings this year.


Peter Chamley, head of infrastructure, Arup design and engineering

Driving ahead: public or private, there is a need for vision

Peter Chamley discusses the differences in financial rigor between publicly and privately financed projects.

Ease of doing business

Competitive cities know how to stay competitive, using a combination of innovation and human capital with a hospitable and responsive business environment to create a recipe for economic success. Singapore ranks first this year, up from second in 2011.


Bill Bratton, Chairman, Kroll Inc.

Turning the tide on systemic corruption

Bill Bratton discusses the causes of corruption and the conditions necessary to effectively combat it.


Comparative advantage is the bottom line for every city, developing or developed, as the 2012 order tilts eastward.


Peter Chamley, head of infrastructure, Arup design and engineering

Big digs: How to do it, and not

From Crossrail to Second Avenue, Peter Chamley discusses practical and political roadblocks in keeping massive infrastructure projects on track in the US, UK and Singapore.