More Lessons from Canada

Yesterday I shared Canada’s approach to management of government contracts–an approach American government officials would do well to emulate. Today, I want to share two examples of good urban policy from our neighbors to the north.

First, from Vancouver:

In Vancouver, Canada, walking, cycling and public transit are now viable alternatives to driving. Todd Litman blogs on Planetizen that recent data indicate that Vancouver’s “automobile mode share” represents about half of all trips.

By contrast, in most North American cities, personal vehicles are used about 80 percent of the time. Litman is executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

Vancouver’s urban planners have worked to make the city easier to navigate without a vehicle. As a result, in addition to the obvious environmental benefits,  Vancouver’s residents spend less money on transportation than urbanites elsewhere, have more opportunities for active lifestyles, and are less likely to be killed in an automobile accident– Vancouver has experienced a sizable drop in traffic fatalities.

Can’t find Place Jacques-Cartier? Curious about the history of Mount Royal? Ian Hardy reports for MobileSyrup that Montreal’s CA$23 million  (US$18.4 million) “smart city” plan would provide easy answers via free public Wi-Fi. The 70 projects to be completed by late 2017 would include real-time updates about buses and subways and digital access for citizens to municipal data.

The city promises to deploy free wireless connectivity at 750 locations. It also would require all major urban development projects to include superfast, wired fiber optic Internet connections, the article says. In addition, Montreal hopes to attract companies and startups that specialize in innovation that improves how cities govern and interact with citizens.

I served in city government “back when”–in an administration committed to making Indianapolis a place where people would want to live, a forward-looking city with a great quality of life. That was back when we still had planners…back before the entire focus of state and local government became keeping taxes low by providing only the most essential services at the lowest possible cost, before we took to selling off public assets to make budgets work.

Before the word “government” became a sneer.


  1. These are good ideas from Canada. There are a lot of good ideas for cities out there. BUT, first you have to have a city government with leadership that puts its citizens first. Here in Indianapolis we have a mayor and his administration who have consistently put the interests of cronies and backers ahead of the very government they are suppose to be running. When you spend your days redacting public documents and avoiding the questions of honest representatives you hardly have time for advancing the interests of all the people by bringing innovative ideas to the city.

  2. I was born in Indianpolis and proud of it until the last batch of self serving politicians took hold. Indy grew from a farm town to a progressive city until they strode into power. Very sad.

  3. Having been a driver in ride-sharing years ago; it does have many benefits, it is of course also limiting regarding your personal life till riders are dropped off at their homes. I would still participate if working in the downtown areas. One short-term benefit was being allowed to park across the street from the City-County Building where we all worked.

    The bike lanes which were added to East 10th Street between Shortride Road and Arlington Avenue are however hazardous as they start and stop arbitrarily on both sides of the street, putting bike riders in and out of the main lane of traffic and making for a dangerous situation. Last week I saw my first bike rider in this area in the 14 years I have been driving East 10th Street.

    I also found it beneficial to ride the bus daily when living near the bus line. The monthly pass had the added benefit of being used to get to other destinations any time of day or night. Sad that IndyGo today doesn’t provide access to transportation in areas where it would be most beneficial. The concentration on providing bike lanes and walking paths along or near pot holed streets and streets that are like driving down railroad ties is not sound reasoning by our “leaders”. But, it is to be expected with our current “leadership.”

    No idea if this still applies in Montreal, Canada, but I found it exceedingly stange and made no sense that pedestrians had only to point their finger and walk out into traffic anywhere along streets and traffic was required to stop for them.

  4. Again, the benefits of public transportation are obvious: less congestion, less pollution, less stress, but Indiana turns away from the opportunities. I was also a Hudnut public servant at Belmont and Mr. Mayor was not only committed to cleaning up the White River, he was proud of the advances the city was making and his leadership was contagious. That bright era was replaced by the darkness of privatization.

    Re: Canada. I remember the McKenzie Brothers days when Canadians were viewed as our innocent little neighbors to the north. It looks like the fortunes of Canada and the US have reversed, eh?

  5. America has been duped. Years of manipulation has resulted in higher taxes and preternaturally cheap energy as the fossil fuel business has solicited government (us) to pay their bills.

    Now we have to untangle ourselves from that mess. We have to say goodbye to the parasites and launch new business ventures in energy that are affordable and without hidden costs.

    We can’t get there from here without rethinking many aspects of our collective lives.

    Transportation is high on the list for reform.

    But we can’t reform that without rethinking where we are going to live and work.

    Desertification will render some current places unviable. Sea level rise others. Violent weather still others. Commuting via Internet will reduce travel needs. Trains above and below ground will become the norm here as they are in Europe.

    Air transportation will be the exception rather than the rule.

    As teenagers need to be told often whining changes nothing in that story. We have to do what we have to do,

    One decision is whether the best path can come from one rule, make more money regardless of the cost to others, or requires some more collaborative approach.

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