NEWS
08/30/2011 10:49 EDT | Updated 10/30/2011 05:12 EDT

Vancouver no longer most liveable city in world, thanks to distant road closure

VANCOUVER - After sitting on the top of The Economist's list of most liveable cities for nearly a decade, Vancouver has been bumped off its perch, landing in third with a sneer.

The venerable British magazine blamed a "small adjustment" in the city's transport infrastructure for the slippage of less than a percentage point, placing it behind Melbourne and Vienna.

The change in score is, in part, "reflecting recent intermittent closures of the key Malahat Highway," the magazine said.

The thing is, the Malahat is on Vancouver Island. To get there, someone from Vancouver would need to spend 90 minutes on a ferry and at least that much time driving and waiting in a car.

The road was closed for 22 hours in April after a fuel tanker truck crashed

Jon Copestake, with the Economist's Intelligence Unit, which puts the survey together, said in a statement that the magazine looks at the city being evaluated as well as the surrounding area to determine a city's liveability.

"We are reporting general raised congestion levels in Vancouver and the fact that the Malahat Highway was closed is a reflection of this trend," he said in the statement Tuesday after fielding several calls from perplexed journalists.

"It's probably a bad example given the geographical distance from downtown Vancouver — but it was the strongest example we had of road closures in the region."

Readers' comments below news stories about the ranking weren't kind.

"I am thinking the intelligentsia that come up with this crap aren't really that intelligent," wrote a user named Ultra Mike on the Globe and Mail website. "What do they do, throw a dart at a map and then make this stuff up?"

Added Ben M: "Yep. Solid work here boys at The Economist. ... Also, did The Economist mention that although Vancouver is 'liveable,' it is also 'unaffordable'?"

And L Rob: "Well, this survey is certainly run by ignoramuses."

Vancouver has sat atop the magazine's list of 140 cities for almost a decade. This year, Toronto and Calgary come in fourth and fifth place.

The survey is based on five categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

The magazine said the list originated as a means of testing whether human resource departments at companies needed to designate certain jobs as hardship postings.

According to the survey, the worst place to live is Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire. Tehran ranked almost as bad, whileTripoli also dropped into the bottom 10.

Vancouver's calculation was done before the June 15 riots, though it could impact the city's rating for next year, the magazine said.