Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All about the Skeleton

We know what makes successful cities. Cities that are built around the person are where the vast majority of us want to live. Cities that are built around the person are equitability; the young and old, rich and poor have the same opportunities to access the city and its resources. People are quite happy to live in a 400sq. foot apartment in downtown Vancouver even though they could live in a house in Langley. Why?

Recent studies show that there is a directly correlation between social interactions, community connection, and happiness. If we want to build cities where people feel connected, we need to build cities that create social interaction spaces like wide sidewalks were children can play, parks, walkable commercial areas, transit, cycle paths, and the like. We know that the street is where the vast majority of impromptu social interaction takes place. We also know that the fastest way to kill life on the street is to give the auto priority over the people it is meant to serve.

Vancouver is successful because the skeleton of the cities was built around walking and the streetcar. In fact all of the great social interaction spaces in our region are built around sustainable transportation. So why if we know what makes a city great, are we still building around the auto in the South of Fraser? Surely our planners know how to build great places?

At the end of the day, it is all about the skeleton; our transportation network. Transit is not being built with development and until it is, we will be locked into building the kind of communities that we can’t wait to remodel. We need bold local leaders that are willing to work with senior levels of government to get the funding required to build transit and other active transportation system instead of playing politics about property tax. We must get the skeleton right or we won’t succeed in building a great region.

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