Not So Complete Streets Copy

By Carolyn Krasnow, Ph.D

In recent years, urban planners and community leaders across Canada have turned to “Smart Growth” planning approaches like Complete Streets and New Urbanism to help communities address common challenges associated with downtown planning in the era of the automobile.  After decades of urban design focusing on the primacy of the auto, approaches focus on creating communities and streetscapes that provide, among other things, better integration of multi-modal transportation and better walking environments.  The point of these planning approaches is to create healthier, less congested and ultimately more livable communities that also foster economic and commercial development.

Arising in the U.S. but quickly becoming international movements, Smart Growth-influenced developments and streetscape upgrades have cropped up throughout Canada.  Canadian cities including Mont-Saint-Hilaire in Quebec, Whitehorse in Yukon, and Markham, Ontario have made their communities more walkable and bicycle-friendly, and improved the quality of life for residents.  UniverCity in British Columbia and McKenzie Towne in Calgary were created as new communities with sustainable and/or new urbanist principles.

Creating urban environments that have a better balance of transportation modes isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Critics of New Urbanism contend that it still accommodates “car culture” more than is desirable, and many people would like to see greatly reduced parking requirements for new developments and cities alike.  And given the aging population, decreasing car ownerships trends among younger people, and the rise of car sharing, there is plenty of reason to plan parking with reduced needs in mind.  But on the flip side, in most places cars are still the primary form of transportation for most people; not taking them into account adequately can hurt existing businesses and new ones.

A developer we worked with on a transit-oriented development in a vibrant Canadian city came up against this problem as they planned their…

Continue reading →