Beijing has slipped out of a list of China's 10 most livable cities even as it spends billions of dollars sprucing up for the 2008 Olympics.
The Chinese capital fell from third in 2004 to 15th last year due to increasingly bad traffic, rising housing prices and heavy pollution, the China Daily reported on yesterday.
The survey, conducted by Beijing-based pollsters Horizon Group, found Dalian, a green coastal city in northeast Liaoning province, was number one.
The survey, which measured the "urban habitable index," took into account such issues as traffic, environment, social welfare and security.
The fall in standings may well prove embarrassing for Beijing's urban planners, as they race to beautify the capital ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.
But International Olympic Committee chiefs have expressed confidence in the city's preparations, with billions of dollars being spent on new stadia, airport facilities, transport and other infrastructure.
Xiamen, in southeastern China's Fujian province, and Mianyang, in southwest China's mountainous Sichuan province, ranked second and third respectively in the latest survey.
Booming Shanghai, China's economic heart, ranked sixth.
"The findings indicated that there is much room for improvement in Chinese cities," the China Daily quoted the group as saying.
Across the nation, general problems were shortage of housing, tough job markets, poor waste water treatment and general pollution.
The survey also reflected concern over the growing chasm between China's haves and have-nots as the nation pursues fast economic growth and a modern, consumer-based society.
"Investors and high-income groups showed a high degree of satisfaction," the paper quoted the Horizon Group as saying.
"But low-income groups were generally dissatisfied because of soaring housing prices and the grim employment situation."
Concerns are frequently raised in China and internationally over pollution woes and other consequences of "modernization," such as the destruction of Beijing's heritage and the livelihood of the urban poor.
The survey polled 3,434 urban residents and 1,604 investors across China.
Meanwhile Beijing's woes continue as a roadway collapse blamed on leaking sewage forced the closure of a busy Beijing thoroughfare yesterday, threatening to worsen the capital's already severe traffic congestion as people prepared to return to work after a holiday.
No injuries were reported after a 5-by-20-meter section of the Third Ring Road on Beijing's east side collapsed at about 2 a.m. local time, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Nearby apartment residents were evacuated as a precaution, Xinhua said.
It said sewage poured into the underground construction site of a new subway station.
A one-kilometer section of road was closed, and a city government Web site said 32 bus lines were rerouted.
Traffic was light yesterday - the final day of the New Year holiday weekend. But the road section where the collapse occurred is often gridlocked on work days, and its closure could snarl other traffic in one of Beijing's main business districts.