Planners economic development officials policy makers and general enthusiasts have an obsession with lists and rankings of metro areas. That’s the charge from Vincent Valk of Next American City. In “List-o-mania” Valk argues that this obsession is largely insignificant at the megacity level. Whether Los Angeles or Washington is ranked as the country’s most congested area is not likely to be enough of a factor in changing someone’s mind to move to a particular region.
However rankings in smaller areas (and in local areas within larger regions) can prove very consequential. Whether Fredericksburg Virginia has an ample supply of fresh markets or advanced placement programs in its high schools may impact can impact a person’s or business’s decision to locate there. On a local level the same goes for whether Bethesda has more access to bike trails relative to other neighborhoods in Montgomery County.
Sure some of these lists and rankings are petty but many are useful and enlightening and they’re likely to continue to grow in prevalence – especially with perpetually evolving mobile technology that allows for instant on-the-ground data collection by anyone who’s interested. This information can be used to impact public policy. Or to see which neighborhood near you has the best falafel. Either way we all win right?