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London Survey Highlights Livability Issues

In May, the city of London released its Annual Survey, revealing what over 1,400 residents felt about various aspects of urban living, from public safety and transportation to viewpoints on the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games. Surveys like these can ask a multitude of different questions, but the goal is essentially the same: to provide useful information on how residents regard the place they inhabit. As the Municipal Art Society’s Summit for New York City draws closer and we prepare to release our own findings on what New Yorkers think about different aspects of the city, it is worth taking a look at a study that has, over the last decade, been an authoritative voice on the views and opinions of Londoners.

With safety having been a concern in London in recent years, the survey asked focused questions about overall security and satisfaction with policing. Transportation was also a dominant theme in the study. When asked what aspect of transit in London needed the most improvement, 42% answered roadways, followed by buses (19%) and the Underground (18%). Perhaps unsurprisingly, city driving continued to be an issue elsewhere in the survey, as 43% of those polled wanted to see a reduction in traffic congestion.

The survey found that four-fifths of Londoners – 83% – are satisfied with London as a city to live, and 85% of residents were either very or fairly satisfied with the neighborhood in which they lived. Those polled were also asked specific questions about everyday life in the vicinity of their homes, which ranged from cleanliness and quality of health care services to schools, proximity to green spaces and prevalence of public sports facilities.

One of the values of a study like the Annual Survey is that it can be, from year to year, a concrete marker of progression or regression, both in distinct communities and at a citywide level. Public recognition and consciousness of such findings can go a long way in making the changes necessary to increase the livability of an urban environment. To facilitate comparison, the London Survey included the 2009 findings for each category alongside 2010 as a marker for recent change, and, in some cases, included findings from 2003 on. When asked to respond to the statement “My neighborhood has good publicly run sports facilities,” for example, the survey showed that a markedly greater number in 2010 either agreed or strongly agreed (64%) than in 2009 (55%).

When the Municipal Art Society shares the findings of its own Survey on Livability at our upcoming Summit, on October 21, we’ll be able to examine the different trends that New Yorkers find important in making neighborhoods, and the city as a whole, a better place to live in the coming years. Do we like the development trends in our neighborhoods? Are we satisfied with the amount of green space available? What aspects of transportation do we feel needs improving? Our answers may vary greatly from other cities conducting similar studies, but the goal remains the same.