Thursday, June 12, 2008

Quality of Life, Quantity of Transport

Yesterday, the Mercer Consulting group released its annual survey of the world's best places to live, which it rates according to standards of air quality, traffic congestion, personal safety, and the like. The results are used to "help governments and major companies to compensate employees on international assignments," so the results are clearly skewed to that demographic, but it still makes for interesting comparisons among 215 world cities.

Business Week has provided an online summary of the results, in which Zürich comes in first, the highest rated US city is Honolulu (28th), and the worst is Baghdad (215th). To learn anything about Southern Cone cities, I had to go to Mercer's Argentine affiliate website, which shows San Juan, Puerto Rico, as Latin America's most highly rated city (72nd). Montevideo comes in 76th, Buenos Aires 78th, and Santiago de Chile 88th (primarily because of the public transportation chaos associated with the Transantiago bus system).

As a three-day holiday weekend approaches, though, Buenos Aires has its own long-distance transportation problems: because of roadblocks associated with a longstanding farmers' strike that shows no signs of resolution, and bottlenecks in the fuel supply due to those roadblocks and to refinery problems (although fuel prices are rising, it's not been enough to balance supply and demand). Consequently, according to the Buenos Aires daily Clarín, long-distance bus services in the country have been reduced by 60 percent, and truckers' sympathy with the farmers has also caused urban food shortages.

For international visitors, this is low season and the impact is minimal as yet, but if the ongoing tax dispute between farmers and the government continues much longer, it could affect the southern summer peak season. In a country where bus service is comfortable and affordable, this could put further pressure on a transportation sector whose air services are already overburdened.

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