The new age of urbanism is taking shape all around us. Across the world, futuristic cities straight out of SciFi movies are being built from the ground up. But at home, news of technological breakthroughs, infrastructure challenges, and climate dilemmas means that wearing a vague “smart city” badge no longer cuts it. While the American city of tomorrow might not yet mean commuting by jetpack and holding hologram phone conversations, some major hubs are making us believe we’re not too far off. So, how prepared are our cities for the future?
To find out, Point2 analyzed the 100 largest cities in the United States to reveal which are the most future-ready. We considered 30 key metrics distributed across five categories, each shedding light on a different aspect of urban innovation: Business & Technology; Internet Connectivity; Environment & Sustainability; Transit & Mobility; and Economy & Demographics.
This report aggregates the factors that reflect what cities are working on today for a better tomorrow — from the obvious (like internet access, tech job openings, and air quality) to key indicators that can help paint a wider picture of what’s yet to come (such as the number of recent invention patents and building permits issued so far this year).
Most Future-Ready Cities in the United States
- The country’s most future-ready large city is Seattle, WA. The city ranks particularly high when it comes to metrics such as the number of startups, invention patents, annual median income, the influx of population with a bachelor’s degree, and even bikeability.
- San Jose, CA is the second-most innovative city. The Silicon Valley sweetheart is followed by Denver, CO, San Diego, CA, and Austin, TX.
- Check out the full list of the 100 largest cities ranked by how future-ready they currently are.
The 5 Spheres of Future Readiness
- Business & Technology: A city's commitment to fostering technological advancement is an indicator of its commitment to the future. California cities take the podium in this sense, with San Jose and San Diego excelling in terms of invention patents submitted between 2018 and 2022, and San Francisco having the second-most startups among the largest 100 cities (after New York City).
- Internet Connectivity: Wide access to the internet is crucial in the developing digital age. Sacramento, CA, and two Texas cities one might not expect, Plano and Garland, are the most well-connected U.S. cities. This is generally due to a 100% coverage of high-speed mobile broadband, and large shares of households with internet access.
- Environment & Sustainability: As climate change poses more questions, prioritizing environmental sustainability makes all the difference. Electric and alternative fuel stations put Seattle, Sacramento, and San Diego on the sustainability map; Washington, D.C., and NYC claim the most green-certified buildings.
- Transit & Mobility: The dawn of a new transportation revolution is defined by urban hypermobility. Bike-sharing programs make moving around Minneapolis, MN, San Francisco, and Seattle easier than in other urban centers; Atlanta saw more than 45 million enplanements — even more than Chicago and NYC airports.
- Economy & Demographics: As long as the economy is strong enough to provide the necessary resources, a diverse and skilled population can drive innovation. In Arlington, VA, Fremont, CA, and Gilbert, AZ, the future is bright due to a cocktail of high median income mixed with low unemployment and poverty rates.
Seattle, San Jose & Denver Spearhead American Innovation
It takes a lot to be a future-ready city in the second-most innovative country in the world, with some U.S. areas already synonymous with advancement and ideation.
Click on the buttons below to see today’s most future-ready cities, as well as those that lead the five different spheres of innovation in our index:
Living in Seattle, WA, means living in the most forward-looking place in the United States, scoring high across all five innovation categories. Despite local governments scrambling to balance the needs of today and the demands of tomorrow among budget restraints, understaffing, perpetual paperwork, and overall uncertainty, the future waits for no one— and Seattle is living proof of this.
Not only is it the fastest-growing city for technology and information BAs, but Seattle is also constantly looking for ways to improve urban living — starting with its booming downtown. It’s also among the few using AI to envision what the city might look like at its full potential. Household names like Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks further solidify Seattle's status as one of the world’s top business and tech spots. And to top it all off, the urban center balances it all out with natural beauty.
Next, it’s no surprise that San Jose lands second place since technology adoption is a must in pursuing the future-ready label. High score aside, there’s more to Silicon Valley's largest urban center than meets the eye. For instance, one of the country's most dynamic cities is working hard to improve its urban planning, which is consequently inspiring think pieces dedicated to why San Jose is the perfect model for an American city of tomorrow— mainly due to density-embracing housing development reminiscent of European “15-minute cities”.
Denver came in third, and nothing spells “future-ready” more than being an aerospace hub. As one of the relatively recent tech and business centers, Denver is starting to face challenges similar to those of more established ones, such as San Francisco or Los Angeles, in terms of rising housing costs. Fortunately, the city is familiar with thought forums tackling and brainstorming solutions for this issue, as well as climate change, urban design, and sustainability.
At the other end of the innovation spectrum lie Laredo, TX, and North Las Vegas, NV. In particular, Laredo fumbles when it comes to Internet Connectivity, as just 63,700 homes have access to the internet and less than 10% fixed broadband coverage. Similarly, North Las Vegas ranks the lowest in the Business & Tech category because of few tech job openings, even fewer invention patents filed, and no startups.
Business & Technology: San Jose Is the Blueprint for Invention; California Awarded $1B by National Science Foundation
Five of the 10 cities that rank highest in terms of Business & Tech are in California. San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego take the podium spots, with Fremont and Oakland not far behind in 7th and 8th place.
Already a mecca for ideation, San Francisco is second only to NYC in the number of startups. At the same time, San Jose sets itself apart with the highest share of STEM jobs; what’s more, between 2018 and 2022, San Jose also filed for the most invention patents — nearly 35,000. It is followed by Houston, TX (27,200 patents) and San Diego (25,000).
Clearly, innovation is in the California air as it enjoys the highest amount of funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). In its mission to support science and engineering in all 50 states, the NSF awarded the Golden State more than $1 billion in 2022, which was almost double what the state of New York received.
Internet Connectivity: Free WiFi Spots Limited in Many Cities; Some Compensate with 100% Coverage of Fast 5G Mobile Speed
There’s no denying that easy access to the internet is inherent to progress. To that end, 18 of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. boast 100% coverage of fast 5G mobile speed — including the three cities ranking the highest in terms of Internet Connectivity: Sacramento, CA, Fort Worth, TX, and Plano, TX.
Sacramento also has one of the widest coverage of gigabit fixed internet for home or office — although not as wide as Tucson, AZ, or Lincoln, NE. Alongside Plano, the city also boasts impressive shares of households with access to internet. In fact, for about a decade, Plano has been among the cities with the highest internet adoption among households, going from 77% of homes with internet in 2013, to almost 97% in 2021, according to the U.S. Census.
Notably, none of these cities necessarily come with a lot of free WiFi opportunities. More precisely, the most free WiFi spots can be found in New York City (more than 12,000) and Los Angeles (10,500), followed by Miami (3,900) and Chicago (2,600).
Environment & Sustainability: They Don’t Call Seattle the Emerald City for Nothing; Green Buildings Galore in D.C. & NYC
Efforts to combat the effects of climate change have been put under the microscope considering recent natural calamities, as well as the anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act — a major climate and clean energy law aimed at funding sustainable infrastructure projects across the country.
To that end, Seattle comes in first place when preparing for a greener tomorrow by accumulating relatively high scores across all metrics considered. However, the chink in Seattle’s armor is its poor air quality, which has only intensified due to wildfire smoke permeating the city.
D.C. and NYC lead with the most LEED-certified green buildings, while LA and San Diego pave the way with the most electric fuel stations. In fact, California has the highest share of electric vehicle registrations. Given that CO2 emissions primarily come from huge quantities of fossil fuels used in industrial and motorized transportation, this wider electric vehicle adoption might explain why the state also has the lowest carbon dioxide emissions.
Transit & Mobility: Minneapolis Pedals to the Top As Bike-Sharing Programs Transform Urban Mobility
Being labeled as a future-ready city involves more than just ultra-tech policies. One aspect that gets sidelined when tackling innovation is transportation — something that local governments need to constantly adapt to in light of everchanging resident mobility patterns.
Minneapolis, MN, is the most innovative city when it comes to transportation. Not only does it display a high Walk Score and Transit Score, but it also has the best Bike Score alongside Portland, OR. The Midwestern city even redesigned streets and lowered speed limits to accommodate cycling.
Minneapolis is followed by San Francisco which, despite having the second-best Transit Score among the 100 cities analyzed, boasts one of the worst commute times. The situation is similar in Chicago and New York City, but these urban hubs make up for it in the number of enplanements: more than 41,200,000 in 2022, almost gaining up on Atlanta’s 45,400,000.
Commuters on the go have it better in cities like Lubbock, TX, or Lincoln, NE, where commute times average less than 19 minutes.
Economy & Demographics: Arlington, VA, Remains Resilient; High Income Is at Home in Freemont, CA & Houston Is Busy Building Tomorrow
Arlington, VA, scored high, despite signs of its growing economy no longer being what it was. The city, which hosts Amazon’s second corporate headquarters, blasts to the top due to a mix of high annual median income and low unemployment and poverty rates. Yet it’s Fremont, CA, that displays both the highest annual median income (nearly $156,000), as well as the lowest poverty rate among all 100 cities analyzed.
The third most future-ready city when it comes to Economy & Demographics is Gilbert, AZ, which distinguishes itself with the best Gini Index (inequality index on adjusted after-tax household income) on the list.
Population inflow is an indicator not only of a city’s desirability but also of its potential. So, it’s understandable that powerhouses like NYC, LA, and Chicago draw the highest numbers of people. Accordingly, the latest Census data says that, in 2021, New York City saw almost 230,000 new residents with a bachelor’s degree — more than double the degree-holders boosting the populations of Los Angeles and Chicago in the same period.
Finally, the Texas construction boom shows no signs of stopping in the near future, as the construction pipeline in the Houston metro is bursting. Houston issued more than 35,800 building permits so far this year, followed by the Dallas metro with more than 33,700.
Point2, a division of Yardi Systems Inc., covers real estate trends and news. Point2 studies are based on internal data, public records, governmental sources, online research and other reliable third-party agencies.
- For this study, we considered the 100 largest cities in the United States by population based on 2021 Census Estimates.
- To determine The Top Future-Ready Large Cities, the report uses a combination of ranking scores and weighted averages of 30 metrics across 5 main categories: Business & Technology; Internet Connectivity; Environment & Sustainability; Transit & Mobility; and Economy & Demographics.
- The study focuses on metrics primarily sourced at city level. Due to lack of citywide data, the Share of STEM Jobs, STEM Annual Median Income, and Permits Issued were sourced at metro level, while NSF Awards in Dollars ($), Renewable Energy Generation, Electric Vehicle Registrations, and Carbon Dioxide Emissions per Capita are at state level.
Ranking metrics and data sources:
Category 1: Business & Technology, category weight: 20%
- Share of STEM Jobs: weight 20%; source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Share of Tech Job Openings: weight 20%; source: Indeed
- Number of Startups: weight 20%; source: Crunchbase
- National Science Foundation (NSF) Awards in Dollars ($): weight 20%; source: National Science Foundation
- Invention Patents 2018-2022: weight 20%; source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Category 2: Internet Connectivity, category weight: 20%
- Share of Households with Internet: weight 25%; source: U.S. Census Bureau
- Fixed Broadband 1000/100 mbps (Gigabit speed) Coverage: weight 30%; source: Federal Communications Commission
- Mobile Broadband 35/3 mbps (5G) Coverage: weight 25%, source: Federal Communications Commission
- Free WiFi Hotspots: weight 20%; source: WiFiMap
Category 3: Environment & Sustainability, category weight: 20%
- Electric Vehicle Registrations: weight 6.25%; source: U.S. Department of Energy – Alternative Fuels Data Center
- All Electric Fuel Stations: weight 12.5%; source: U.S. Department of Energy – Alternative Fuels Data Center
- All Alternative Fuel Stations: weight 12.5%; source: U.S. Department of Energy – Alternative Fuels Data Center
- Parks per 10,000 Residents: weight 25%; source: Trust for Public Land
- LEED Certified Buildings: weight 12.5%; source: U.S. Green Building Council
- Renewable Energy Generation (GW/hr) per 10,000 Residents: weight 12.5%; source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
- Carbon Dioxide Emissions per Capita (metric tons): weight 6.25%; source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
- Air Quality: weight 12.5%; source: AirNow
Category 4: Transit & Mobility, category weight: 20%
- Enplanements: weight 16.67%; source: Federal Aviation Administration
- Walk Score: weight 16.67%; source: WalkScore
- Transit Score: weight 16.67%; source: WalkScore
- Bike Score: weight 16.67%; source: WalkScore
- Bike-Sharing Program Availability: weight 16.67%; source: The Meddin Bike-Sharing World Map
- Commute Time: weight 16.67%; source: U.S. Census Bureau
Category 5: Economy & Demographics, category weight: 20%
- Annual Median Income: weight 14.29%; source: U.S. Census Bureau
- Annual Median Income in STEM: weight 14.29%; source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Unemployment Rate: weight 14.29%; source: U.S. Census Bureau
- Poverty Rate: weight 14.29%; source: U.S. Census Bureau
- Gini Index: weight 14.29%; source: U.S. Census Bureau
- Building Permits Issued 2023: weight 14.29%; source: U.S. Census Bureau
- Total Population with bachelor’s Degree that Moved Into City: weight 14.29%; source: U.S. Census Bureau
Fair use and redistribution
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Interested in the real estate market in some of the cities mentioned in this study? Visit the links below:
Dallas Real Estate
Colorado Springs Real Estate
Charlotte Real Estate
Irvine Real Estate
Columbus Real Estate
Raleigh Real Estate
Indianapolis Real Estate
Philadelphia Real Estate
Chandler Real Estate