News   GLOBAL  |  Apr 02, 2020
 5.8K     0 
News   GLOBAL  |  Apr 01, 2020
 29K     0 
News   GLOBAL  |  Apr 01, 2020
 2.8K     0 

Silence&Motion

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Aug 7, 2008
Messages
2,187
Reaction score
5,416
City:
Calgary
Metro Detroit (the six county MSA) is closer to being home to 4 million people than to 5 million. It was also close to being home to 4 million people in 1960, back when Calgary had a quarter of a million people. The figure below is from Wikipedia.
View attachment 363664
I was thinking more about the Combined Statistical Area, which includes places like Ann Arbor (I don't think it's counted in the MSA). Ann Arbor is only a 30 minute drive from the Detroit airport, so I think it's realistic to count it as being part of Metro Detroit. In fact, I know people who attended U of M and lived in Detroit for the cheap property. According to Wikipedia, the CSA has seen modest positive growth every decade and is larger than 5 million people (single digit % per decade). I don't think we can understand the flatness of the Detroit MSA post-1970 without acknowledging the continued growth on its suburban and exurban borders. The sheer level of exurban sprawl in the US makes it difficult to draw comparisons to Canadian metro regions, which are far denser.

And, honestly, the idea that the kind of growth that cities like Calgary have had over the past 50 years is not indefinitely sustainable or desirable or likely. But how many people on these boards would be happy if Calgary had 1.5 million people in 2071, putting us just below Winnipeg, with Toronto in the 12 million range, Vancouver and Montreal in the 6 million range and Ottawa in the 3 million range?
Whether we like it or not, Calgary will still likely see at least 10% population growth per decade. Way more than the Detroit CSA's 2.5% growth, but relatively modest compared to the ridiculous 25% growth we've seen in the last several decades. This points to another difference between Calgary and Detroit. Detroit is one of over 50 US metro regions that have populations of at least one million, and the US population is only growing about 6% per decade. There are many places that will absorb that modest population growth and Detroit is not particularly competitive among them. Calgary, by contrast, is one of only six metro regions with more than 1 million residents in a country that is growing almost 12% per decade.

Final thought is that those who compare Calgary to Detroit likely have little tie to the City, and therefore have no personal interest in the City's future success, or actually take delight in seeing Calgary falter.
Funny. The people I always hear comparing Calgary to Detroit are people in Calgary who are heavily tied to the O&G industry. It's kind of a threat: "how dare you say anything negative about O&G! Without O&G, Calgary will become the next Detroit!"

As I remind them, there were people in 1970s Toronto who held similar views about manufacturing and shipping. Without those industries, what possible purpose does Toronto serve? Detroit's not the only city that's gone through economic transitions. Most major cities have at some point.
 

Silence&Motion

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Aug 7, 2008
Messages
2,187
Reaction score
5,416
City:
Calgary
I tend to agree with this - that 1.5 million is a pretty good scale - but I think there is really strong opportunity to stretch that "ideal" size city much further. Essentially: how can we feel like a city of 1.5 million, but actually be 3 million? The more I think about it, the more I am convinced it's largely all about reducing the dependence on private vehicles.

To me, the ideal sized city is one where I have:
  • 18 to 24 hour access for many/most things people need and want (groceries, coffee, restaurants, nightlife, parks)
  • Ability to leave the city is reasonably easy (nearby major airport, regional holiday opportunities like mountains, lakes etc.)
  • Enough diversity to support whatever lifestyle I choose (housing type, arts and amenity choice, demographics)
  • Reasonably affordable
  • Not dependent on car-ownership (and not dependent on the income required to support owning one, as well as not a victim of ever-increasing congestion issues)
The goal is to get all the benefits of scale while avoiding more of the downsides. The key is better, smarter development and smarter infrastructure capacity improvement. I grouped some ideas below.

Regional
A regionally significant example is that Banff /Bow Valley corridor, it's becoming such a mess that will only get worse - unless we scale up the infrastructure smartly. Often discussed, but never realized (yet) - an electric train that can do Calgary-Banff in 1 hour would be how you ramp up access, while mitigating the downsides of more people plus numerous resiliency, climate and environmental benefits. If we add more highway lanes instead, we will never outpace the downsides of more activity in the mountains - just more weekend traffic jams, highway closures and collisions snarling the corridor forever. K-country and Banff have only so many parking spots available too, unless we pave over half the park with more - it's not a scalable solution.

City
On a city level, big projects we can do are transit stuff - not just more Greenline(s) but capacity, speed and resiliency improvements for all LRT and bus projects. Make transit faster, better connected, easier to use, less prone to delays through a bunch of big (grade separations, new lines/technologies, dedicated right-of-ways, TOD) and small projects (fare cards, branding, safety, lighting, station connectivity).

Local
On a more local level, it's the small scale infrastructure - sidewalks and cycletracks, but smarter, scaled up to handle more people. Real infrastructure. A city of 3 million shouldn't be playing the same games we are with spot improvements and a block-at-a-time cycling infrastructure. Metaphorically speaking - I should be able to bicycle from Chinook Centre to U of C on main roads in protected lanes without relying on my memory of which turn to take, which side-street connects to and from a river pathway, where the pot-holes and icy stretches are, where do cars turn blindly, where it's too dangerous to be on the road, where the crossing buttons do or don't work etc. Scrap all that mickey mouse stuff and give me a consistent, 4 or 5m wide high-quality, protected cycletrack along Macleod to the Bow River.

Land Use
Finally, land uses need to keep changing too. Finding ways to better use space, put more people into neighbourhoods so they can be vibrant and economically sustainable while maintaining the diversity required (old, young, rich, poor). To do this it means being smarter with land (less useless open space by design, less underutilized right-of-ways, less parking) and smarter with design (more and different housing options, smaller but better designed units). It doesn't, shouldn't and can't always mean 30 storey towers (which have to start getting better designed as well). Keeping affordability is always a challenge - best way to do that is to allow people to buy smaller houses/units that still work for their needs. Smart design and amenity-rich locations is key to that.

Quality of Life
More people means more noise, garbage and interactions. Make these as pleasant as possible. 30 years of loud cars on 17th Avenue doesn't add to the ambiance of city life, especially now that there is 10,000 more people living within earshot. Restrict car access as needed, actually enforce noise bylaws, think about urban noise as a factor when buying vehicles (buses, garbage trucks, fire trucks). More garbages, benches and public washrooms everywhere too.

Back to my "ideal" size list - I didn't put a number on it because it's possible to have all those things at much smaller or much larger scales. Banff (pop. 8,000) fakes most of these characteristics fairly well, thanks largely to the tourist crowd giving a town better nightlife and services than many cities 10x as big. But it also describes huge amounts of European and Japanese cities as well from the many millions to towns under 100,000.

The key at any scale is having the right infrastructure and land uses so that more people doesn't mean a more oppressive place to be.
It's worth noting that, in theory, we could surpass Vancouver in population size without having to expand the physical footprint of the city. Calgary already has more houses than Vancouver. If Calgary started to catch up to the other large metros in terms of multi-family buildings, that would give us more than enough housing units to absorb any population growth we'd experience over the next couple decades. Again, this is theoretical. It depends on our leaders holding the line on suburban sprawl.

TorontoMontrealVancouverCalgary
Population
5,928,040​
4,098,927​
2,463,431​
1,392,609​
Total occupied private dwellings
2,135,910​
1,727,310​
960,890​
519,695​
Single-detached house
846,405​
564,230​
282,355
302,795
Apartment in a building that has five or more storeys
626,905​
151,365​
160,060​
32,925​
Semi-detached house
158,815​
86,460​
20,530​
33,085​
Row house
195,245​
56,770​
93,415​
49,205​
Apartment or flat in a duplex
89,975​
146,085​
156,445​
22,075​
Apartment in a building that has fewer than five storeys
214,365​
711,775​
242,205​
76,785​
Other single-attached house
3,555​
6,255​
1,305​
300​
Movable dwelling
640​
4,380​
4,580​
2,525​
 

JesseLikesCities

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Aug 11, 2017
Messages
244
Reaction score
626
City:
Calgary
^^ well I certainly remember more than a few members of SSP who seriously schadenfreuded/delighted/boasted when the seriousness of the oil crash and the tens of thousands of layoffs started happening in 2015. Just pathetic. Some of them still seem to delight any time something bad happens here. But jokes on them, we’re still f*cking crushing it 7 years later. 💅🏽
I remember this as well and always enjoyed you putting them in their place. The schadenfreude I witnessed at SSP is so obviously born out of their envy during Calgary's boom times.
 
Last edited:

UrbanRED

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jun 29, 2017
Messages
324
Reaction score
1,030
Whether we like it or not, Calgary will still likely see at least 10% population growth per decade. Way more than the Detroit CSA's 2.5% growth, but relatively modest compared to the ridiculous 25% growth we've seen in the last several decades. This points to another difference between Calgary and Detroit. Detroit is one of over 50 US metro regions that have populations of at least one million, and the US population is only growing about 6% per decade. There are many places that will absorb that modest population growth and Detroit is not particularly competitive among them. Calgary, by contrast, is one of only six metro regions with more than 1 million residents in a country that is growing almost 12% per decade.
Frankly, 10% seems low per decade. Calgary just had some of the worst possible years economically and based on the city's own estimates, grew 7.1% in the last 5 years alone: https://www.calgary.ca/cfod/finance/corporate-economics/economic-outlook-population-outlook.html

And that's just the city proper. The surrounding areas like Airdrie are growing even faster (although smaller group of people).

If there's any sort of economic rebound, then I wouldn't be surprised if Calgary saw 20% growth a decade (was ~14.5% over the last 10 years with 6-7 of those years being economically bad)
 

Urban Outdoorsman

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Oct 16, 2019
Messages
601
Reaction score
4,667
Frankly, 10% seems low per decade. Calgary just had some of the worst possible years economically and based on the city's own estimates, grew 7.1% in the last 5 years alone: https://www.calgary.ca/cfod/finance/corporate-economics/economic-outlook-population-outlook.html

And that's just the city proper. The surrounding areas like Airdrie are growing even faster (although smaller group of people).

If there's any sort of economic rebound, then I wouldn't be surprised if Calgary saw 20% growth a decade (was ~14.5% over the last 10 years with 6-7 of those years being economically bad)
According to those projections we're still looking at adding almost 200 000 people from 2016-2026. Not bad.
 

Surrealplaces

Administrator
Staff member
Member Bio
Joined
Sep 24, 2015
Messages
10,456
Reaction score
43,880
City:
Calgary
I tend to agree with this - that 1.5 million is a pretty good scale - but I think there is really strong opportunity to stretch that "ideal" size city much further. Essentially: how can we feel like a city of 1.5 million, but actually be 3 million? The more I think about it, the more I am convinced it's largely all about reducing the dependence on private vehicles.

The key at any scale is having the right infrastructure and land uses so that more people doesn't mean a more oppressive place to be.

This. I would be okay with a slower population growth if it meant not expanding the city very much and instead increasing density within the city, while improving the overall quality of the city, rather than just making it bigger.
Totally agree with the second point, bigger doesn't always mean better.

One thing I noticed when looking at the maps of Detroit is that for a city of 1.8 Million (in 1950) it was surprising to see a city almost entirely made up of single family homes.I always thought of it as an older, eastern US city that would have a lot more row-homes and apartment buildings. I suppose because its boom took place later than the other eastern US cities, it makes sense. That, and the city was chalk full of high paying jobs, making house ownership easy. In reminds me of Calgary in that sense.
 

Chinook Arch

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Feb 6, 2019
Messages
448
Reaction score
1,090
I remember this as well and always enjoyed you putting them in their place. The schadenfreude I witnessed at SSP born out of their envy during Calgary's boom times.
I was planning to say the same thing. I don't recall if I've ever heard anyone in Calgary say that we'll be the next Detroit, I've only ever heard it on SSP from the douchebags in the Canada section.
 

Top