Vancouver To Atlanta: 'Congestion Is Our Friend'

<p>In their annual trip to cities that work better than theirs does, Atlanta leaders visit Vancouver to see first-hand the benefits of density, transit and regional planning.</p>

May 30, 2007, 9:00 AM PDT

By Alex Pearlstein

"To metro Atlantans, congestion is a dirty word. But when a delegation of 117 regional leaders recently visited this Canadian city, they were introduced to a whole new concept."

"Vancouver's strategy of density and transit is a stark contrast to the Atlanta region's road-oriented sprawl...Metro leaders were exposed to a vastly different approach to growth and development during the 11th annual LINK trip, organized by the Atlanta Regional Commission."

"In the 1970s, Vancouver residents waged a 10-year battle to keep freeways from its urban core. They successfully defeated a plan that would have run a highway through its Chinatown and run along its downtown waterfront...Instead of the city drying up economically and becoming inaccessible and unlivable, downtown Vancouver has become one of the most thriving urban areas in North America."

"In building a wide pedestrian and bicycle path around downtown, it created an environment free from cars...The city also has invested strongly in transit, including electric buses, rapid rail, commuter rail, streetcars and ferries."

"The Vancouver model only works if communities follow four guiding principles: protect green spaces, develop in compact areas, increase transportation choices and build complete communities. A complete community includes grocery stores, drugstores, liquor stores, schools, jobs and a variety of homes, including units designed for families."

"Density also is a hallmark of Vancouver. The greater the density, the better it is for transit. But density must be sensitively designed so it welcomes people at street level."

"But the Vancouver region is not without its problems. The lack of affordable housing, the number of homeless people, the prevalence of drug addicts and the growing number of immigrants have strained the urban area."

Monday, May 28, 2007 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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