Tale of three cities

Cal­gary, Toronto and Van­cou­ver are com­pared

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos - RICHARD

I’m a sucker for any­thing that com­pares Cal­gary to its two na­tional ri­vals, Toronto and Van­cou­ver.

That’s why I avidly read the re­cent Grow­ing Cities re­port by the Toronto-based, non-par­ti­san Nep­tis Foun­da­tion.

It com­pares the growth pat­terns and re­gional growth poli­cies of Cal­gary, Toronto and Van­cou­ver be­tween 1991 and 2001, which was a crit­i­cal pe­riod in our city’s evo­lu­tion.

The re­port of­fers a rare “ap­ples-to-ap­ples” com­par­i­son of metropoli­tan re­gions, not just the cities, them­selves, and shows how and why they have grown as they did.

I loved the ob­jec­tive ap­proach taken by the Uni­ver­sity of Toronto re­search team of Zack Tay­lor, By­ron Mold­of­sky and Jo Ashley.

They pro­vide some great in­sights into how Cal­gary’s plan­ning and pol­icy is per­ceived by out­siders, which I thought I would share.

Each city is also gov­erned by a dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tion of pro­vin­cial, re­gional and mu­nic­i­pal in­sti­tu­tions for land use plan­ning, pol­icy and in­fra­struc­ture pro­vi­sion, some­thing which can be used to com­pare and con­trast growth and poli­cies

Third, each has a dif­fer­ent phys­i­cal con­text.

Specif­i­cally, the Toronto re­gion has only one phys­i­cal bar­rier to ur­ban devel­op­ment (Lake On­tario), as does Cal­gary (Tsuu T’ina re­serve), while Van­cou­ver has sev­eral (ocean, moun­tains and the U.S. border).

Fourth, each city has a quite dif­fer­ent rep­u­ta­tion in the plan­ning com­mu­nity. Van­cou­ver is seen as the ideal model of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment and good plan­ning, while Cal­gary and Toronto have both been re­peat­edly con­demned for their un­planned, auto-ori­ented and low-den­sity sprawl.

The goal of the Grow­ing Cities re­search was to look ob­jec­tively at how each city’s growth has been de­ter­mined by plans and pol­icy, as well as if their rep­u­ta­tions are war­ranted. rate of in­crease in ur­ban land ex­ceeds the rate of growth in pop­u­la­tion or hous­ing.

From 1991 to 2001, Cal­gary’s ur­ban land base grew by 43 per cent, but our pop­u­la­tion grew only 24 per cent.

In Van­cou­ver, the land base grew by 16 per cent, while the pop­u­la­tion grew by 24 per cent dur­ing the same pe­riod — while Toronto’s was 28 per cent and 19 per cent, re­spec­tively.

The study looked at type of hous­ing, find­ing (sur­prise, sur­prise) al­most 75 per cent of Cal­gary’s new hous­ing stock was sin­gle-fam­ily homes com­pared to 50 per cent in Toronto and only 16 per cent in Van­cou­ver.

Van­cou­ver ac­com­mo­dated 80 per cent of its growth through in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion — adding new dwellings within al­ready ur­ban­ized ar­eas — while in Cal­gary, 78 per cent was green­field devel­op­ment (in other words, out­side the 1990 ur­ban bound­ary) and in Toronto, 44 per cent.

The study then com­pared how each city grew at its “ur­ban fringe” — the four-kilo­me­tre-wide area just out­side the 1990 ur­ban bound­ary.

While the study con­cludes that all three cities had fairly con­tigu­ous growth in the ur­ban fringe, Cal­gary’s ur­ban fringe devel­op­ment in the first twok­ilo­me­tres was al­most twice the den­sity of that of Van­cou­ver and Toronto. Some good news for Cal­gary. The re­searchers also looked at where the in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion oc­curred com­pared to ex­ist­ing ur­ban­ized ar­eas in 1990.

In Van­cou­ver, nine dif­fer­ent ur­ban­ized ar­eas ex­pe­ri­enced sig­nif­i­cant growth, while in Toronto there were four.

In Cal­gary, in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion was spread out with no dis­tinct ur­ban in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion.

Cal­gary’s ur­ban land base grew by 43 per cent from 1991 to 2001, al­though its pop­u­la­tion grew by 24 per cent.

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