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Charlotte_native

Perfect City

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Since we have so many threads discussing what Charlotte is doing wrong and we often refer to other cities for examples of many things we should be emulating (their rail set up, or parks, or maybe urban design), what city, cities, do you feel are as close to perfect as can be? How did they avoid the pitfalls the rest of us seem to have a hard time avoiding? We are an existing city and, at times, have to deal with what we have rather than what we would like as far as design implementation and working around unavoidable circumstances. Did the cities you choose have that problem or did they start out as Utopia?

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I think Arlington, VA does a great job of all the things you mentioned. Urban development was promoted and deliberately centered on the METRO rail line, which works extremely well and is something CLT can emulate with the LRT. Arlington is extremely pedestrian friendly, has tons of bike lanes and trails, and many well-appointed county parks including dog-parks interspersed into urban areas. Maybe its because of all this, but their biggest issue right now is affordability - the county often requires affordable dwelling units in new developer projects.

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I travel all over the US and Europe on a weekly basis. I've yet to see perfect. I can tell you what I like, though. Den Haag (great trolley system), Minneapolis/St Paul (the most incredible public parks system in North America), and just in general, London and Munich have easy and cheap public transportation, beautiful (and usable) public parks, and aren't scared of progressive modern architecture.

By far, my favorite US city is that is within the realm of being comparable is Minneapolis.

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Minneapolis is doing a lot of things right. I think DC is another good example of building a city that is very pedestrian friendly and is a place that you would want to visit. I also think most Canadian cities are doing a much better job than Charlotte. And any city in the modern parts of Asia are much much better. For that matter the same could be said for most of Europe as well.

If one wanted an example of how not to go about building a city, then Charlotte would be tops on that list.

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Oh, I don't think we're that bad. I won't mention any place names, but I can think of one huge city here in the South that tops my list in poor planing (on a global basis).

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I have always admired Geneva and Zurich but that's almost unfair because Switzerland has always had an impeccable reputation for connectivity and cleanliness. Vancouver BC is another city I like for their green friendly policies and Jetson like downtown! I guess I am biased for my last choice but after living in downtown Charleston for seven years it's hard to argue with the original product.

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I agree with MC that I have yet to find the "perfect" city. So it would be hard for me to pick one city, however here are things that I like in other cities:

-Robson St in Vancouver: lowrise shopping district amongst all the skyscapers of downtown.

-Large (but not too large) urban parks adjacent to downtown along the veins of Piedmont Park in Atlanta.

-Munich, Montreal's, and Washington DC's mass transit system.

-Cities that have an "old town" with a couple blocks of the lowrise buildings. Gastown in Vancover, Meat Packing District in NYC, and Montreal Old Town are good examples.

-Asheville's street retail environment.

-The Liberty Pedestrian Bridge in downtown Greenville.

-I like the Park Squares in downtown Raleigh and Savannah. Nice place to eat lunch and people watch.

-Wake County's School System. They assign kids there on an economic basis so that 1 school isn't over burdend with kids in poverty.

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Not that I'm a moderator, but I was more wondering and started the thread for what we like in other cities, we have plenty of threads for what Charlotte lacks or could use :)

Every city that I really like and would think could be close to "perfect" has great public transportation. Parks are next that make for a great environment. The streetcar system in Amsterdam and connectivity to cross streets and other mass transit made that city so easy to navigate. I like streetcars particularly since they are so easy to hop on and off of...

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I'm a big fan of San Francisco, and it's transit system. I've ridden BART and MUNI all over the place with nary a problem.

DC is pretty well planned.

On a smaller scale, has anyone been to Annapolis, MD? Awesome little dense town. Very walkable.

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Oh, I don't think we're that bad. I won't mention any place names, but I can think of one huge city here in the South that tops my list in poor planing (on a global basis).

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One of my favorite small Euro cities is Freiburg. Great mass transit, environmentally-conscious and ideal location.

In the US, I still like downtown Portland. You can't beat the urban park system. I agree with Metro about DC. I haven't spent much time there, but Madison, WI is also a wonderful place--interesting architecture, old urbanism.

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Amoungst cities in the South then Charlotte is about average. However that is a really low standard to be starting from. The fact that we have some of the most polluted air in the entire USA from all of the automobiles choking the streets is example enough of that.

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Singapore is impressive. I was born there and the city-state is spotless and very cutting edge architecture wise. Changi is such an awesome airport that you don't want to board your plane, it's so nice. The highways are always up to date and crime rate is virtually zero. Of course it's also a dictatorship where fines are imposed for chewing gum, littering, imprisonment for challenging the government, caning for vandalism and anyone caught with even minor drugs gets hanged. So no city is perfect and I am grateful that my dad's corporation transferred him stateside.

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chicago's mayor Daly has recently made it known that he wants chicago to be known as the greenest city in the world. he started by converting the city halls roof to a green roof. he was awakened to this "revelation" after a trip to germany. what a great aspiration.

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You say this, but yet you mention Asian cities further up as examples of cities that are doing it right. There are some cities in China where the air pollution is so bad you can't be outside for long. I would't say that's doing it right.

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I think the city that comes closest to being perfect is Portland, Oregon. Almost everything about it is wonderful. Perfect human scale to downtown, very walkable and pleasant, safe, low crime, geographically fabulous...

The biggest problem there is skyrocketing real estate markets. Some of the highest home prices in the US compared to what average people's salaries can support. Of course home prices are high there--it's a terrific place to live, and people want to live there. Causes the prices to keep going up, uneffected by local economic growth or decline.

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Stockholm, along with much of the rest of Sweden. Heaven on Earth.

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Sweden is a small country with a homogeneous population. The services and social structures could not scale up to a country as large as the United States.

They also have the benefit of being under the US' nuclear and military umbrella, if we removed that, they would have to devote much more to the military and less to social services. Their prosperity may be overstated as well, a few years from now they may start experiencing a reckoning.

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Stockholm is indeed pretty damn nice. I wouldn't say it's perfect, though. Even Stockholm had its heady days of urban highway construction in the 60s and 70s, and there are a few waterfront and inner city highways that cut insensitively through beautiful urban and historic neighborhoods. The Slussen area is the most confusing jumble of roads I've ever laid eyes upon in my life.

But thinking about it, those are just about the worst complaints I have about Stockholm's urban form. It's a great city for cycling. Stockholm is great for its low crime, transit, and walkability, though I'd say there are quite a few cities in Japan that do it better. But this is the kicker: Stockholm is dense but not crowded. You feel like you have space there. In Japan, you don't.

Of all the places I've been, I'd say Stockholm takes the cake.

But, what about winter in Sweden? I've never experienced it myself, but I understand that it's brutal.

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Singapore is impressive. I was born there and the city-state is spotless and very cutting edge architecture wise. Changi is such an awesome airport that you don't want to board your plane, it's so nice. The highways are always up to date and crime rate is virtually zero. Of course it's also a dictatorship where fines are imposed for chewing gum, littering, imprisonment for challenging the government, caning for vandalism and anyone caught with even minor drugs gets hanged. So no city is perfect and I am grateful that my dad's corporation transferred him stateside.

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Sweden is a small country with a homogeneous population. The services and social structures could not scale up to a country as large as the United States.

They also have the benefit of being under the US' nuclear and military umbrella, if we removed that, they would have to devote much more to the military and less to social services. Their prosperity may be overstated as well, a few years from now they may start experiencing a reckoning.

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Funny, it all depends on what you are looking for that makes a place "perfect". I think European cities are the greatest and easiest places to live in the world, but so many of my European friends think that our suburban way of life is heaven. Go figure.

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True enough, Singapore is lacking in "grit". We would go to Indonesia or Thailand for laid back fun since Singapore is so regimented. There was some comfort in how reliable and clean everything was but it's still much too socially restrictive in a myriad of ways for me to live there happily long term.

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