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Friendly Reminder: Density Works

2013 December 18
by dan bertolet

Why is the trend of decreasing auto use shown below happening in downtown Vancouver, BC, even as population and jobs have risen?


Because of this:


That is, lots of tall residential buildings. That is, density.

Vancouver BC is not afraid of height. They’ve been successfully weaving towers into their neighborhoods for decades, as on this quiet West End residential street:


Towers everywhere you turn:


Sleek towers:


Weird towers:


Shortish towers:


And they just keep building more:


And even with all that height, downtown Vancouver is an amazingly comfortable place to be a pedestrian, mainly because most of the towers are relatively slender, and there’s lot’s of space between them. All the urbanist Vancouver hype is well-deserved—the City’s urban form is truly unmatched.

Meanwhile, in the big city a couple hours south of the border, height is still a dirty word. And the result is not only squandered opportunities for density and all its sustainability benefits, but also a more oppressive urban form of chunky, squat buildings crammed in together.

Why is Seattle so afraid of height?


Source of Vancouver chart:  Vancouver Transportation 2040. All photos by the author, taken in downtown Vancouver 12/11/13 — 12/13/13.