Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

We have been changing

with one comment


This graph appeared on my flickr stream today. I was surprised, both by the relative position of Metro Vancouver compared to the other Canadian metro areas, and the steepness of the decline. I do not usually get into the land use, density, urban design stuff but what I see from other blogs and discussions had given me the sense that somehow we were losing the battle against sprawl. I know that people are quite rightly concerned about large houses in the ALR – that people in Richmond now refer to as AirBnB hotels – and that so much recent development seems to have followed the freeway expansions into areas which were not identified as of the Growth Concentration Area identified in the LRSP. But what this graph shows is that the conventional single family home on its own lot – or one that shares a lot – is no longer the dominant form of the region. And that we are outperforming both Montreal and Toronto in delivering other types of residence.

This is indeed good news, and a strong indication of why we not only need more and better transit, but that it will be successful because we have the density to support it. This also seem to be the subtext of a lot of commentary I have been seeing about why the BC Liberals did so poorly in this region. That includes, of course Peter Fasbender (former Minister for Translink) losing his seat (Surrey-Fleetwood).

And the source for this graph (Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto) was new to me too.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 13, 2017 at 5:10 pm

One Response

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  1. I am familiar with Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg and can indeed confirm the graph is true to form. In my view Vancouver’s success has as much to do with land and zoning restrictions as geography. The West End may have started the trend toward higher density before the advent of the ALR. The creation and continued maintenance of the ALR and the vast watersheds, which are essentially covered in mature forests, were the caps on sprawling forms of development despite the erosion of the ALR fringe. Vancouver also avoided terracing mountain slopes and filling in the ocean.

    Calgary is surrounded on three sides by very cheap, flat Prairie farmland, and farmers within eyeshot of the boundaries have the ‘selling out for subdivisions’ gold rush strategy always in their back pocket. And subdivisions they do build, sometimes five at a time, hundreds of hectares a year in boom times. In Vancouver Vision and the NPA accept oodles of money from developers who build high rises. In Calgary powerful interests donate to the councillors in wards on the periphery to help annex farmland for sprawling, fast-tracked subdivisions. Sometimes they create controversy by working against the urbane, liberal Muslim mayor who gets it but can’t change it quickly enough because he is outnumbered on Council. The inner city neighbourhoods out to the 60’s subdivisions are the most pleasant places in that town, but beyond that is ubiquitous sprawl, massive arterials and hundreds of km of concrete sound attenuation walls. I swear the suburban asphalt per capita ratio is higher than any other large city in Canada. And the award-winning Garage Door Architecture competition does no better anywhere else, except perhaps in Atlanta or Phoenix.

    The Winnipeg stats seem too high, but that reflects only the type of house built and the average size of the lots rather than the total number, which will be lower than Calgary and Vancouver. Despite the predominance of SFD, Winnipeg is a pretty compact town with beautiful river valleys and rolling hills and hay fields separated by treed windbreaks beyond.

    Alex Botta

    May 19, 2017 at 2:59 pm

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