Sunday, February 14, 2010

Magnificent Vancouver

It's time to balance the leger.

This blog talks about problem cities and successful cities. Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has made a few appearances here as it represents the former, mainly due to persistent poverty and crime. So why does Vancouver consistently vie for top spot of the world's most beautiful and livable cities?

Partly because every city in the world has poverty and crime. More important is whether productive and innovative solutions are employed to tackle them. I've never doubted Vancouver has tried numerous times to make things better in Downtown East Side (perhaps, though, not as seriously as it should).

Another reason Vancouver tops the best cities charts is - from a city-livable point of view - a commitment to Jacobsian-style walkable neighborhoods over the car-city disease found too often in too many modern cities. True, Vancouver's bus system leaves much to the imagination (and to quality). Yet it does boast success in both elevated rail and commuter rail and has made inroads for bikes.

Mostly I think Vancouver shows a commitment from citizens, planners, and successive governments to the abundant natural environs that bless this remarkable city. It's one reason the 2010 Olympics are there this month.

No wonder! Large portions of waterfront are open to the public via parks and boardwalks (not fortressed from the public by private condos). Stanley Park is the largest urban park anywhere (larger, and arguably more beautiful, than New York's Central Park). Successful neighborhoods cluster around Skytrain Stations, such as Vancouver's "showcase of community planning", Collingwood Village (to which, I disingenuously admit, my former consulting partner Paul Wong and I provided extensive CPTED advice 15 years ago).

Most of all, Vancouver's beauty just takes your breath away. The winter Olympics are underway. It's Vancouver's time.

Check it out here.

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