28 January 2008

It's sprawl vs. the planet, and sprawl is winning

Recent surveys that show Canadians are becoming increasingly car-dependent are not good news for the environment. According to Statistics Canada, in 2005, 74 per cent of Canadians said they made all their trips by car. This compares to 70 per cent in 1998 and 68 per cent in 1992, a slow but disturbingly sure increase. Meanwhile, the percentage travelling by foot or bicycle decreased from 26 per cent in 1992 to 19 per cent in 2005.

I am not proud to say my fellow Albertans lead this particular pollution parade, as we do others. Edmonton and Calgary top the list of people making all their trips by car. (This news coincides nicely with our premier recently announcing a "plan" to cut greenhouse gas emissions in which they don't decrease until 2020.)

Albertans are leaders in part because we continue to allow our cities to sprawl, the major reason for people choosing cars over walking, bicycling or public transit. Calgary's addiction to sprawl arose from a variety of reasons: developer's insistence they can keep house prices down only if the city annexes more land; Calgary's historic fear of fringe towns; the belief that housing should be left entirely up to the private sector; the lending policies of CMHC; the growth of malls and big box centres -- a list of decentralizing factors, many of which we share with other cities.

Most of these factors continue to work their insidious influence. Thus sprawl persists, the car culture grows, and the globe warms.


  1. Greetings from Milton, Ontario - "Canada's Fastest Growing Municipality", AKA "The Sprawl Capital of Canada"!

    Do you have a link to that survey? I'd be interested in seeing the whole thing.

  2. Jennifer,

    I got my info from a CBC article at http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2008/01/22/statscan-driving.html

    - Bill