Vancouver, British Columbia consistently ranks as one of the "most livable" cities in the world. However, what is frequently ignored about Canada’s most livable city are the multiple suburb municipalities that surround it. The Metro Vancouver region is composed of twenty-two municipalities and a population of just under two million people, many of whom work and play in Vancouver proper.
Transportation infrastructure is perhaps the largest problem facing local urban planners as millions of commuters enter and exit the city each day. Sustainable commuting is a desirable and expected behaviour in a city that hopes to be the greenest in the world by 2020, but without viable transit options many are left with no choice but to sit in their cars and idle on congested freeways.
February 2013 marked an important milestone for the Metro Vancouver cities of Coquitlam, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam, as construction on the much-anticipated Evergreen SkyTrain Line began. The Vancouver SkyTrain system, launched in 1986, runs on a mostly elevated guideway above city streets, eliminating interference with car and pedestrian traffic on all three of its current lines. The Canada Line, built for the 2010 Winter Olympics, has been a resounding success in its ability to move locals and tourists between the city core and the outlying suburb of Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport.
The Evergreen Line will connect three suburban cities to downtown Vancouver and is expected to remove 40,000 cars from the road. The success of the Canada Line has many reasoning that the Evergreen Line will also make large improvements to the livability of these suburban cities. While it is expected that more than 70,000 passengers will ride the Evergreen Line each day by 2021, the significant population not served by transit remains a problem for the Metro Vancouver region.
As the province of British Columbia prepares for an election this spring, transportation remains a fundamental component of the campaign. The Evergreen Line will make a difference for many residents, but voters should be wary of political candidates attempting to use the Line as a campaign pawn. Transit problems remain and citizens must continue to petition post-election for those with commutes that are barely tolerable, never mind "livable."
How do you define a "livable" city? Does public transport accessibility play into this label for you?
Credits: Data linked to sources. Photographs by Shannon McDonald and Courtney McLaughlin.