Ok, so somehow, the W Hotel/110 Westminster thread on UrbanPlanet has become a Providence v. Boston thread. It’s very unfortunate that this has happened. Since it’s off-topic for that thread, I’ll write about it here. Keep in mind that these are all entirely opinions and that I have never lived in Boston (though my fiancée used to and I have several friends who currently reside there, so I have spent a good amount of time there).
First of all, comparing Providence to Boston is comparing apples to oranges. Boston is 5-6 times the size of Providence. It’s a big city, while Providence is a small-medium sized city. Because of that, Boston has a lot more of everything. Also, when I’m referring to Boston, I’m also including Cambridge and Somerville (at least around Davis) because many people consider that “Boston”, even if it’s not Boston proper.
What I like about Boston… well, I’m not a huge fan of it, so this list is going to be relatively short. I like that it’s urban and most of it is walkable. I like that most of the neighborhoods are “full service” neighborhoods where you can either walk or take transit to everything you could ever need. I like that there is an extensive transit system, though I think it could be a lot better (hell, it stops running at midnight while the bars are open until 2, that’s just dumb for a city of its size). I like a lot of the architecture and the history. I like that it has a decent music scene. I think that’s it for what I like about it.
What I don’t like about Boston… traffic, traffic, traffic. Boston isn’t big enough or dense enough to warrant completely not needing a car, though many of the residents would lead you to believe otherwise. When visiting, it’s difficult to do so without getting there by car. The roads suck, the drivers suck, and the street layout really sucks. Yes, I know it’s old, but it seems like planning just didn’t happen then, like it did with New York. I don’t like the lack of diversity. I have never seen a city so large, yet so lacking in diversity… from the ethnic and racial breakdown to the types of people (walk through Harvard Square on any given day in the winter and 70% of the people will be wearing North Face jackets). I get bored there. I have never lived there, yet I feel like I’ve seen it all already.
Now onto Providence… Disclaimer though… I love Providence. Providence is a small, compact city with all the amenities of a big city (though transit could be a whole lot better, but see what I had to say about Boston’s transit) without the negative aspects (see Boston’s traffic issues). Providence has an awesome restaurant scene, probably the best in New England (yes, better than Boston’s). Providence has a great arts scene, though it tends to be more underground (which is part of the issue) and a great music scene (again more underground), yet many music venues have closed recently. Providence has tons of history, lots of great architecture, and a somewhat accessible city government (admittedly don’t know what Boston’s is like). Providence needs better transit, like cross town buses (I want to get from Federal Hill to Providence College without having to go to Kennedy Plaza). Providence’s government can also be more transparent than it is (though it’s not all that bad). Providence is a romantic city and gives me the same feelings I’ve gotten in cities like New York (which can also be very romantic at times). I have never felt that way in Boston, even after discovering the love of my life there.
I won’t get into the sports fans because… well… that’s just another issue that doesn’t need to be brought up (having grown up in southern CT, I am a New York sports fan and I’ve never heard “Red Sox Suck!” chanted at a concert or a Jets game, unlike what I’ve heard at concerts in the Boston area or Patriots games). But I’ll sum it up with this… Boston is a great city and an important city. Providence, however, has more to offer per capita and lacks all the things that make a big city annoying. Providence is not, never has been, and never will be Boston’s bastard child or suburb. While it was combined with Boston based on commuting data for the US Census, it still has its own metro area. I’ve heard Boston referred to as things like “the Hub of the Universe”. That’s just laughable. I’d like to see what New York, Chicago, LA, Paris, London, or Tokyo has to say about that. Of course, this is all based on personal preference, and only you can decide which is “better” for you. If you ask me, Providence wins hands down.
Now let’s just drop the whole Boston v. Providence debate until Providence has a population of 500k (which won’t happen unless the entire city of Providence turned into Manhattan).