For the past seven days, the Metroblogging sites around the globe have been unveiling seven gifts their cities can share with the world – one gift a day for seven days. Metroblogging Vancouver’s Seventh Gift is “Living First” and the Vancouver model of urban planning.
This last gift is something that you might not necessarily see at first glance, though you’ve probably already noticed it. Visitors from other places in the world can feel the difference, even if they don’t necessarily know why it is.
In most cities, development starts in the centre and then creeps further and further outward as the price of property downtown rises and eventually this leads to sprawling suburbs and urban decay in the downtown core. There is often little incentive for people to redevelop these areas because it is cheaper and in some cases more desirable to build new communities further away.
But over time, we’ve come to find that there are problems with this approach. The further away people live from each other, the further they have to travel to get to work, the more likely they will be dependent on cars for transportation and the more expensive it is to provide services, like ambulances, transit and utilities for everyone. Areas downtown that appear run down or abandoned tend to invite crime, and their residents often get ignored when political decisions are made.
What is different about Vancouver, then? For starters, Vancouver is hemmed in on all sides; the Pacific Ocean to the north and west, the United States to the south and the Agricultural Land Reserve to the east. Once those limits are reached, there’s nowhere else to build but up. Not only that, in the 1950s, the mass exodus of people to the suburbs began, leaving areas downtown sparsely populated, run down and causing increasing transportation problems in and out of the city.