Chicago Called "Sad" in Latest Best Cities List

It seems like every publication from the web to newspapers to magazines has a “Best Cities” list.

Some are more useful than others.  A financial magazine might rank the best cities in which to start a business. A medical magazine might rank which cities are the best for new doctors.  And there are dozens and dozens of publications which try to rate the best places to live.

One of the more respected publications is the Financial Times of London.  Since 1888 it has done a very good job of reporting news, features, and more to its mainly upper-class business-minded global-traveling readers.

In the last few years it’s also taken on the challenge of ranking the best places to live.

This year the list was published on June 13th.  The top three are:

  1. Zurich
  2. Copenhagen
  3. Tokyo

Chicago is not in the top three.  Nor is it in the top ten.  Nor the top 50.  Chicago doesn’t rank at all.  But that doesn’t mean Chicago was absent from consideration.  In fact, the second paragraph of the article was all about Chicago.  Here it is, responding to the question, “Could you live here?”:

On the train to Chicago’s O’Hare: “No way.  It’s neither one thing nor the other and just look at this sad excuse of a train to the airport.”

It’s easy to take umbrage at such a comment.  But those of us who have taken the train to O’Hare, then taken a train from a foreign airport to our hotel know this is entirely true.  Even third world countries have better subway systems than Chicago, and better connectivity from airports to downtowns.

Mayor Daley has made half-hearted attempts at improving the link between O’Hare and the city center.  His Block 37 super station was the latest.  Also the express train plan which he came up with after a trip to Asia and seeing how one of the poorest countries in the world kick Chicago’s butt when it comes to things like mass transit, cleanliness, and city services all while maintaining far lower taxes than we enjoy in the Windy City.

It’s something I haven’t been able to figure out yet.  The mayor knows that mass transit is one of the most important points that the International Olympic Committee is looking at in awarding the 2016 Games.  The mayor is de facto in charge of the CTA.  Yet, except for when there is a serious crisis, he keeps his hands off of the transit agency in a way that mayors in New York, London, Los Angeles, and elsewhere don’t.

If the mayor wants Chicago to stop its descent into backwater status, then this is something he has to seriously address.  The Financial Times calls Chicago “sad” in the second paragraph of its story — A story that has been read by hundreds of thousands of decision makers and opinion leaders around the world.  A story that they will repeat to other influential people.  One paragraph that is the start of global recognition that Chicago isn’t everything it should be.

It should also be an internal alarm for the city to recognize that no one outside the hayseed flyover states gives a crap about whether the Sox or the Cubs win the “Crosstown Classic.”  If Chicago wants to be a global player, which is something its mayor claims, then it’s time to start acting like it.  Like all races, if you’re not leading, you’re losing.  This ranking is yet another indication of the beer-addled naval gazing that for generations has eroded the city’s global presence from world innovator to historic also-ran.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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