Pity Seattle? Or pity Pine Bluff, Ark.? The new edition of Places Rated Almanac lists Seattle as the most livable city in America, No. 1 out of 333 American metropolitan areas surveyed. Pine Bluff is No. 333, after ranking third from the bottom in 1981 and second from last in 1985.
Seattle folk are not so sure that being No. 1 is all that terrific. The city has been touted in a number of surveys in recent years as a wonderful place to live. Thousands of people have been flocking there, more than a few of them from California. Now, Seattle has slow-growth groups trying to control congestion and development and discourage more newcomers.
No one wants to be last, including Yuba City, Calif., which ranked at the bottom of the first edition of Places Rated Almanac, published by Rand McNally. Yuba City has recovered to No. 330. Pine Bluff, at least, ranked well for its attractive cost of housing.
Such ratings are quite subjective, of course, and overlook intangible benefits that can make a city attractive to some people and not to others. The Places Rated Almanac relies heavily on the proximity of education facilities and on health care, climate, transportation, the arts, the crime rate, cost of living and recreation. While Seattle always has ranked well and Pine Bluff poorly, there is considerable fluctuation from edition to edition. Why would Raleigh, N.C., plummet from 3rd in 1985 to 23rd now? Or St. Louis from 7th to 29th?