In 2013, Livability ranked Boulder highly on its list of most livable U.S. cities. How did the community score a year later? Pretty damn well, as you'll see when you count down the photo-illustrated 2014 version, complete with Livability blurbs and the methodology used to come up with the order. To see the original post, which goes all the way up to 100, click here.
Number 10: Reno, Nevada
The dry heat in Reno isn't as hot as other parts of the state, and the Sierra Nevada mountains are just waiting to be climbed. Quick commutes, natural amenities, culture and casinos make Reno a great place to live. The affordable and plentiful hotels can accommodate visitors who want to visit this great city.
2013 ranking: Number 9
Number 9: Eugene, Oregon
A truly year-round climate makes outdoor recreation in Eugene possible through four temperate seasons. It's no wonder Eugene has one of the highest scores for amenities. This leads to low traffic congestion because people bike and walk to work, farmers markets, dining and nightlife. Spending time in the area gets residents engaged in the community and its continual improvement.
2013 ranking: Number 8
Livability in Salt Lake City is tied to the working community, which maintains its qualities through strong support of locally owned businesses - many of which grow out of the University of Utah. The city's beautiful setting, strong community and emphasis on family living make it a great place to live and work.
2013 ranking: Number 7
Number 7: Rochester, Minnesota
Rochester is home of the Mayo Clinic and much more. In recent years, the population has grown, diversified and added younger residents causing the downtown to perk up, creating a more livable space for residents and visitors to gather and enjoy. And of course having one of the world's most well-known hospitals means quality health care is just around the corner.
2013 ranking: Number 6
Miami Beach packs a lot of amenities into a tiny stretch of oceanfront, just seven miles long and one mile wide, including museums, art deco buildings, shopping and cuisine. Oh, and let's not forget the beach. It all adds up to a city striving to be more livable for the diverse communities that call it home.
2013 ranking: Number 5
Number 5: Madison, Wisconsin
Madison is a frequent fixture on our Top 10 lists, including ranking as one of the best college towns, so it's no surprise to see it score well as one of our Top 100 Best Places to Live. It's a state capitol, it's home to a Big Ten university, and ranks highly for education, amenities, health care, and social and civic capital.
2013 ranking: Outside the top ten
It's hard to separate Durham from its anchor, Duke University. But the city's history goes back through tobacco production, textiles and agriculture. Durham has embraced its roots as it has remade itself as a research and technology hub - with great food - in the last half century.
2013 ranking: Number 4
Number 3: Berkeley, California
Berkeley is evolving its hippie past, allowing for denser development but keeping its focus on local businesses and culture. The town, home to the popular University of California campus, is reinvesting in a livable, energetic downtown area filled with great places to eat and shop.
2013 ranking: Number 3
Boulder has incomparable outdoor offerings like the Rocky Mountain foothills, the Flatirons, and its rivers and bike trails. But there's plenty for residents and visitors to do indoors as well with shopping at the Pearl Street Mall and downtown eateries and brew pubs.
2013 ranking: Number 2
Number 1: Palo Alto, California
Take mild weather, a thriving economy, great cultural and natural amenities; add in not one, but two downtowns surrounded by housing; and finally, drop in one of the highest-ranked universities in the world, and you'll find yourself in Palo Alto, Livability.com's 2014 Best Place to Live.
2013 ranking: Number 1
How did we develop this list?
Making a Best Places to Live list is part art and part science, but we wanted to lean as much on the science as we could. In our 25 years of working with communities throughout the United States, we've learned a lot about what makes a city a great place to live and work. But we wanted other perspectives as well. So we partnered with the research team at Richard Florida's Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management to help us put together our Index.
Together, we plotted out our data points and tweaked our methodology. We also wanted your perspective. It's easy to think about what makes a top city from a theoretical point of view. But we needed to know how the various aspects of livability impacted everyday lives. Ipsos Public Affairs, one of the leading global market research firms, conducted an exclusive survey for us so we could find out.
This list isn't based on hunches from our editors. This list is based on what Americans value most in their communities.
Livability.com and our partners spent months collecting and poring over data and methodologies from public sources like the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as leading private-sector sources including Esri, Walk Score and Great Schools, and nonprofits like the Center for Neighborhood Technology and Americans for the Arts. We were advised in the project by a stellar panel of experts in livability-related fields.
We analyzed data on more than 1,700 cities throughout the United States. For our ranking, we focused in on the small to mid-sized cities with populations between 25,000 and 350,000. The results were then weighted based on the priorities set forth by you and your fellow citizens based on our 2,000-person, demographically-balanced survey.
We wanted the list to celebrate cities that were livable for everyone. We know any list like this is going to create some argument. You'll wonder why your city isn't on the list or why it isn't ranked higher - unless you live in Palo Alto. Those 65,000 people will be very happy with their ranking. No one can make an unassailable methodology, but we want ours to be as transparent as possible. Let us know what you think.
We focused on four guiding principles:
Access Start with the basics: A city needs good schools, hospitals, airports and infrastructure, low crime, and a good climate. Then add amenities like parks, golf courses, farmers markets, and arts and culture. Finally, the natural and built environment come into play as well.
Affordability Affordability is about more than just cost. Income comes into play as well. We factored in a series of variables about spending on broad categories like housing, transportation, health care and food, as well as data about income to ensure we were finding cities where livability isn't a luxury but is the norm.
Choice The more options a city offers, the more they can be livable for everyone. For example, by looking at the percentage of commuters who don't drive alone, you can gauge if there are transportation options. Broadband access is almost universal among U.S. cities, but in some there aren't many options for providers. We rewarded cities that offer residents the most flexibility.
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Utilization Finally, having all of these great things is important, but so is using them. Esri provided us with lifestyle variables that allowed us to see which residents were making the most of their opportunities in their cities.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.