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Sprawl in Canada and the United States. The Inevitability Hypothesis: sprawl is inevitable in free society so we might as well accommodate it. Logic underlying the Inevitability Hypothesis. Assumption: The US has sprawl.

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Sprawl in canada and the united states
Sprawl in Canada and the United States

  • The Inevitability Hypothesis: sprawl is inevitable in free society so we might as well accommodate it.

Logic underlying the inevitability hypothesis
Logic underlying the Inevitability Hypothesis

  • Assumption: The US has sprawl.

  • Assumption 2: Other countries, like Canada, have sprawl despite policies that are anti-sprawl.

  • Conclusion: Because even antisprawl countries like Canada have sprawl, sprawl is inevitable.

Is assumption 2 right
Is Assumption 2 right?

  • Based on 2 assumptions:

  • A) Canada sprawls as much as the US

  • B) Canadian policy is anti-sprawl.


Do Canadian cities sprawl as much as American cities?Two ways to measure sprawl: where we grow, how we grow


  • Compared ten cities that were biggest in 1950 in each country.

  • In US, eight of ten lost population since 1950, usually by over 20 percent.

  • Canada hard to compare because of shifting census tract boundaries, until 1970.

Canadian cities within 1970 boundaries
Canadian cities within 1970 boundaries

  • USA: eight of ten still lost population; six lost over 20 percent between 1970 and 2000; median loss 24 percent.

  • Canada: only four lost population; biggest population loss (Montreal) 18 percent.

In other words
In other words....

  • Canada’s WORST CASE SCENARIO (Montreal, 18 percent loss 1970-2000) is better than the USA MEDIAN (24 percent).

  • CONCLUSION: Canada sprawls less than USA.

How we grow
How we grow

  • Canadian transit market share 14 percent

  • USA transit share 6 percent

  • Again, Canada’s worst case scenario among big cities (Calgary/Edmonton, 20-25 non auto market share) better than most American cities (e.g. Phoenix has only 11 percent non auto share, Jacksonville 8 percent, you get the idea)


Part 2 government regulation and sprawl
Part 2: government regulation and sprawl

  • Canadian cities subsidize and regulate for sprawl just like USA.

Prosprawl regulation example 1
Prosprawl regulation, example 1

  • Highway spending- Canadian govt. Spends $20 b a year on highways only 4b on transit.

  • Highways subsidize suburbanization by making long commutes easier.

Prosprawl regulation part 1
Prosprawl regulation, part 1

  • Anti-density regulation: Canadian cities and suburbs mandate minimum lot sizes, height limits just like US cities.

  • Low density means fewer people can live within walking distance of public transit, shops etc.


  • Canadian cities may be less prosprawl than USA.Sample study: one inner and outer suburb of Toronto (Mississauga, Burlington), one inner and outer suburb of Atlanta (Sandy Springs and Alpharetta).


  • Least compact single family zones:

  • Mississauga, Burlington ½ acre to 1 acre

  • Sandy Springs, Alpharetta 2-3 acres

  • Least compact multifamily zones

  • Mississauga/Burlington 18-25 stories

  • Sandy Springs 4 stories

  • Alpharetta only 10 units per care!

Prosprawl regulation part 2
Prosprawl regulation part 2

  • Minimum parking requirements- if you want to build apartments/business you must have a parking lot.

  • Degrades pedestrian environment because pedestrians have to walk across parking lots, makes parking easier and subsidizes driving, reduces density

Prosprawl regulation part 3
Prosprawl regulation part 3

  • Six to ten lane streets mean crossing street a life endangering adventure

  • True in Canadian cities like American- just look outside!

For more detail
For more detail....

  • Rough draft of my paper is at

  • http://works.bepress.com/lewyn/65/