Tag Archives: Growth

Sprawl In Canada and the U.S.: A Comparison

This article by Michael Lewyn of Planetizen is a preview of his research on sprawl in the US and Canada.  Despite following similar courses in our development history, there are some significant differences between us and our neighbor to the North (other than their superior healthcare).  First of all, Canadian cities are growing.  Lewyn compared the ten cities in each country that had the largest population in 1950 and found that eight of the American cities had lost population (St. Louis has lost about 59%), while all of the Canadian cities had grown.  This is partially because of an aggressive annexation policy in Canada, but controlling for that, six of their cities still grew, and the other four did not experience losses comparable to their American counterparts.

Canadian cities are also less car-dependent.  In the US, 8% of trips are taken by transit.  In Canada it’s 14%.  Canada is still considerably more car dependent than Europe (Lewyn mentions that less than a quarter of trips in Zurich and Copenhagen are by car), so it sort of functions as a middle ground between American auto-dependence and European auto-freedom.

Some of Canada’s advantages, such as lower crime rates and higher gas prices, are either not related or distantly related to planning.  And while Canada still supports sprawl through excessive highway funding and single-use zoning, it doesn’t do so to near the degree of the US.  So there are more lessons we can learn from Canada than just healthcare.

Major U.S. cities see rise in population

Joseph Weber brings us this article on the recent resurgence of cities in America.  A number of cities, from Los Angeles to Alexandria, have actually been gaining in population, after a long decline in the past few decades and as suburbs have slowed their advance.  There are various causes for this change, including immigration, natural increase, reduced prices due to the housing crisis, and–what New Urbanists can get excited about–a change in the American lifestyle.  According to George Overstreet, an associate professor at the University of Virginia‘s McIntire School of Commerce, “People want to play and live where they work.  Driving from one end of a mall to the other, or across a four-lane highway to get to another mall, maybe people don’t want to live like that anymore.”  Larry Hajime Shinagawa, an associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland at College Park, added, “We are entering a postmodern era.  In this hyperpaced world, people want everything integrated. They want their gym and movie theater near their home. It’s buildings with stores on ground floors and condos on top. It’s a trend that is happening in Paris, Japan, across the world.”  These changes are exciting for the future of urbanism.