Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Vancouver, by all accounts, is one of the world's finest cities.  Despite a mild traffic problem, the Canadian city is often recognized for its livability and quality of life.  Dense urbanity is surrounded by remarkable natural assets, giving the region a total package that is hard to match.  Add in a healthy dose of diversity, numerous transportation options, a vibrant restaurant scene, and a serious art culture, and Vancouver is pretty much on fire.  One might expect that comparing dumpy Rochester to Vancouver is an exercise in futility, but here are just a handful of ways in which our little city proves yet again that it can kind of hang with the elite:

  • The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival holds its own against the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
  • Rochester's rose garden in Maplewood Park (designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted) is comparable to Vancouver's rose garden in Stanley Park.
  • Vancouver has a vibrant public market.  So does Rochester.
  • Vancouver boasts a scenic pedestrian/biking trail in Stanley Park.  While the Erie Canalway Trail and the Genesee Riverway Trail may not quite compare, they are surprisingly serious competitors.
  • Vancouver has a Polar Bear Swim, not to be outdone by the Rochester Polar Plunge.
  • Tim Hortons
  • Canadians (Vancouver has a few more, but Rochester holds its own.)
  • While Vancouver's urban density is hard to match, Rochester is no slouch.
  • Vancouver prides itself on limiting urban highways.  Rochester prides itself on embracing and then eliminating urban highways.
  • Vancouver enjoys its beer, as does Rochester.
  • Vancouver has an extremely vibrant port, as does...okay, maybe not.  


  1. One way Rochester is better than Vancouver is our proximity to other cities. If you live in Vancouver and want to drive to another large city, the only options within a 6 or so hour drive are Seattle and Portland. Both require you to cross the border. Here in Rochester, you can get to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, New York City, Boston, Baltimore, Hartford, and Providence within a similar timeframe without crossing the border. Ironically, we are also have more large Canadian cities near us than they do (Toronto, Ottawa, & Montreal)!

  2. Well, they both have sidewalks and are located near the border. Really, I don’t see very much they have in common. I divide my time between these two cities.

    What I notice most in Vancouver is the enormous proportion of people in their 20’s, which makes for a vibrant city. Rochester perks up at times although this age bracket may be missing or holed away someplace working off student debt.

    Vancouver thrives on its diverse population in ways that would make many Rochesterians tremble. Chinese New Year, Diwali, Eid and Vancouver Pride are all official City of Vancouver celebrations each year.

    Rochester can be scenic but… Vancouver is a knockout! Stanley Park is a massive forest occupying a gigantic chunk of the downtown core: it has a 5 mile circumference. There are mountains and seascapes in every direction, summers with low humidity, and rarely any ice or snow underfoot. Multiple dynamite ski areas are accessible in less time than it would take to get from the South Wedge to Webster.

    Cars are essential in Rochester. Vancouver defeated freeway proposals decades ago and public transportation gets you everywhere. Cars are just a bother, even more so with all the bike traffic.

    Vancouver’s airport tries to masquerade as an art gallery. Rochester mothballed its airport art to sell advertisements and fill up the terminal with Buicks. The kitsch Midtown Clock seems like it’s part of a scheme to repel newcomers and outside investors. Vancouver has a new subway line taking you from the airport terminal to a downtown rail-boat-seaplane terminal in about 25 minutes.

    Rochester has more guns, Republicans, and astounding racial segregation. Canadians do notice those things.

    Not all differences favor Vancouver though.

    Rochester has a more genuinely “public” public market, without tourists and souvenir stands.

    It has far better classical music concerts. Vancouver is notoriously dismissive about formal arts and culture.

    A mansion in Rochester can cost less than a shack in Vancouver.

    Downtown Vancouver has some horrific poverty zones (even though they may not be dangerous, at least by US standards).

    During the Rochester winter, snow can be a fun and pretty diversion; there the incessant drizzle bludgeons your consciousness into a stupor.

    There is a likeable modesty about Rochester, even if seems to teeter into self-hatred sometimes. On the other hand, Vancouver is oozing with civic narcissism (provincial motto: “Best Place on Earth”). Vancouverites can be alarmingly vain about their home, and disinterested in the rest of the world.

    1. Very well stated. Thank you!

      Just a few thoughts:
      1. The point of these comparisons is to show that Rochester often has the elements of top-tier cities (without some of the headaches.) In no way does this mean that Rochester is equivalent to such cities, but rather that we are far from the Rust Belt wasteland that has been traditionally envisioned or portrayed.

      2. I'm not sure that Rochester is as averse to diversity as you portray. We may not have the critical mass of certain immigrant groups to be able to do what is done in Vancouver, Toronto, NYC, etc.

      3. I completely share your frustration with our airport, train station, and transportation scene in general.