Portland may have more fixed-gear obessives. But at least Seattle has more jobs.
At least according to Joel Kotkin, an expert in urban futures. As Kotkin notes, "smart" is now synonymous with "green." And while our neighbors to the south are consistently on the top of any list of the greenest cities in the country, Kotkin says that's a narrow way of defining "smart." Why? Because commuting to work by bike only does so much when you've got fewer jobs to commute to.
The green-only litmus test dictates cities should emulate either places with less-than-dynamic economies, like Portland, Ore., or Honolulu, or one of the rather homogeneous and staid Scandinavian capitals. In contrast, I have determined my "smartest" cities not only by looking at infrastructure and livability, but also economic fundamentals.
In his Top 10 Smartest Cities in the World list, Kotkin has Seattle sixth. Behind only Singapore, Hong Kong, Curitiba, Brazil (where 70% of the population uses high-speed buses), Monterrey, Mexico and Amsterdam.
North America also has its share of smart cities. Although self-obsessed greens might see their policies as the key to the area's success, Seattle's growth really stems more from economic reality. In this sense, Seattle's boom has a lot to do with luck--it's the closest major U.S. port to the Asian Pacific, which has allowed it to foster growing trade with Asia.
Furthermore, Seattle's proximity to Washington state's vast hydropower generation resources--ironically the legacy of the pre-green era--assures access to affordable, stable electricity. The area also serves as a conduit for many of the exportable agricultural and industrial products produced both in the Pacific Northwest and in the vast, resource-rich northern Great Plains, linked to the region by highways and freight rails.
As North America's economy shifts from import and consumption toward export and production, Seattle's rise will be a model for other business-savvy cities in the West and South.