Ivan Lett in Open Letters Monthly:
City lights are romanticized just as they are demonized. Urban areas attract the majority of the world’s population, and in the United States, the percentage is approximately two-thirds. Some people feel that life in the grander metropolises—places like New York, London, Tokyo—is too much, too busy, too crowded. Still, as Edward Glaeser writes in Triumph of the City, “On a planet with vast amounts of space (all of humanity could fit in Texas—each of us with a personal townhouse), we choose cities”, and the subtitle promises high returns from this judicious choice.
I am no die-hard New Yorker, but I love the city where I live. In fact, I moved here for many of the reasons described in Glaeser’s book—access to artists, intellectuals, entertainment, and their interconnected cultural circles. Many friends from earlier phases in life preceded me in moving, so I had a ready-made social group when I arrived. And I use public transportation daily, including a work commute back and forth to New Haven, Connecticut, which is easily more than double the average 48-minutes spent on public transportation commutes, according to Glaeser’s research.
Why would I do such a thing to my schedule (let alone my wallet)? It is exactly as Glaeser describes: “Cities are the absence of physical space between people and companies. They are proximity, density, closeness. They enable us to work and play together, and their success depends on the demand for physical connection.”