Urban sprawl—an objective analysis

There’s good news about Metro Vancouver urban sprawl, especially in comparison to two other fast-growing Canadian cities, Calgary and Toronto.

One common definition of “sprawl” is whether the rate of increase in urban land exceeds the rate of growth in population or housing. Between 1991 and 2001, in Calgary, the urban land grew by 43% while the population grew by 24%. A similar pattern occurred in Toronto (28% versus 19%). In Vancouver, by contrast, the urban area grew at a rate two-thirds that of the population growth (16% versus 24%). Put another way, for every 100 new residents, Calgary added 6.3 hectares of urban land, Toronto 4.4, and Vancouver 2.3. By this definition, Calgary and Toronto sprawled during the study period, but Vancouver did not. (“Report Highlights,” page 5)

That’s from Growing Cities, a recent report from the Neptis Foundation, which funds nonpartisan research. The data is not as current as we might like, but I suspect that the current pattern would be similar.

Certainly Richmond, with its Smart Growth plan for the City Centre area, contributed to Metro Vancouver’s relatively good results.

We’ve discussed in an earlier post how the Garden City Lands would have had urban sprawl effects if that agricultural property had been paved, but fortunately the Agricultural Land Commission rejected the attempts. If the lands now remain green in the ALR for agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community wellness, they will support the Smart Growth of the City Centre by providing the kinds of green space that area needs so that the City Centre density is not unduly at the expense of livability.

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