Patricia McCarney hopes to keep cities database in Toronto

June 7, 2010

Do cities that have the most police officers have the least violent crime? What’s the typical voter turnout for city elections around the world? Do cities with high densities have high transit ridership?

Don’t know?

It was hard to find out until a unique project housed at the University of Toronto began to build a bank of reliable information to answer thorny questions about how cities work, and how they might work better.

(The answers to the questions above: No. More than 60 per cent. And Yes.)

The project is called the Global City Indicators Facility, and it’s beginning to lift off with data flowing in from from 105 cities across the world ranging from Abuja, Nigeria, to Zapopan, Mexico. It offers a glimpse of what other cities do, what they spend, and what works best. More cities are joining every week.

But just as the project is gaining momentum in Toronto, it’s in danger of flitting off to a new location in search of stable funding.

Its initial three-year grant of $1.2 million runs out in December. Other cities – Stockholm for one – are expressing interest in giving it a permanent home.

Prof. Patricia McCarney, the facility’s director, would like to find the support to keep it in Toronto.

The City of Toronto has taken a lead role in launching the project, she points out. And with its multi-national population, Toronto talks constantly of its global links.

“It’s really important for Toronto to have international institutions in its midst, if Toronto is going to connect to the world,” McCarney argues.

“We all talk about the global reach of Toronto and of Ontario,” she says.

by John Spears. Continue reading this article online at