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Will 'Vancouverism' replace urban sprawl?

Residents of urban centres are victims of suburban sprawl, even if they rarely step outside city limits, finds a report by the Canada West Foundation (CWF).

That’s because when cities expand away from the urban core, it means more money from taxpayers and a greater impact on the environment.

Robert Roach, director of strategic policy and research at CWF said in a press release, “Urban sprawl is neither required nor desirable.”

The CWF reports that transit constantly expanding to newly built suburbs is not the answer to increasing ridership.

“New developments require far-reaching roads to be built at great expense to taxpayers. Those far away neighbourhoods don’t provide enough riders to justify frequent service by mass transit system, so the residents end up driving and adding to traffic congestion, increasing the city’s carbon footprint and affecting the quality of life,” Roach said.

“Planners should seek to optimize the operation of rapid transit systems by increasing rider-ship through the tailoring of housing and commercial development. This not only offers substantial improvements to land use efficacy through densification, but also meets the goal of improving access to rapid transit and increasing rider-ship,” the report states.

Maureen Enser, executive director of the Urban Development Institute’s pacific region, said, “If you’re really serious about being sustainable you have to use your land wisely. You want to make sure if you invest in infrastructure like transportation, you get a return on the investment and that only happens if it’s easy for people to use.”

Enser stated that its important to have densities located around public transit as it encourages the use of public transportation and reduces the impact of a urban centre on the environment by discouraging the use of automobiles on a daily basis, a strategy Vancouver has embraced with its eco-density charter.

“The problem with urban sprawl is people don’t often live close to transit…urban sprawl is counter productive at increasing density around transit nodes like transit stations,” Enser said.

Anthony Perl, director of the urban studies program at Simon Fraser University explained that urban sprawl could be the end of urban core communities, “We have to stop sprawling before it kills us,” Perl said.

When asked if Vancouverism would catch on as an alternative to urban sprawl, Perl explained that although Vancouver is developing population density in certain parts of the city, there are huge parts of the city that still need to be utilized.

“We still have a long way to go for our own development but of course other cities could benefit from following [Vancouverism] as well,” Perl said.

According to Perl, making cities more compact is something that needs to get done whether there is a public demand for it or not.

“We are going to have to find ways to live more compactly whether we like it or not, because energy and environment is going to drive that change.

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