Towards Smart Growth? the Difficult Implementation of Alternatives to Urban Dispersion

By Filion, Pierre | Canadian Journal of Urban Research, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Towards Smart Growth? the Difficult Implementation of Alternatives to Urban Dispersion


Filion, Pierre, Canadian Journal of Urban Research


Resume

Au cours des dernieres annees, le concept de la croissance intelligente (smart growth) a pris une place grandissante au sein des documents ayant trait a l'amenagement urbain. Ce concept reflete une forte insatisfaction a l'endroit des tendances actuelles en matiere d'urbanisation, plus precisement de la pollution, des couts eleves de developpement urbain et de la baisse de qualite de vie qu'elles entrainent. L'article evalue la possibilite de mettre en place des mesures favorisant la croissance intelligente dans le contexte politique, economique et ideologique actuel. Il met de l'avant deux strategies de croissance intelligente, qui tiennent compte des lecons emanant de l'echec, au cours des trente dernieres annees, des propositions visant une modification des formes urbaines. Ces strategies tentent d'eviter toute confrontation majeure avec des groupes d'interet capables de prevenir leur realisation. La premiere strategie vise a etendre les secteurs urbains ou la densite est elevee et l'usage de l'automobile faible a l'interieur des secteurs de banlieue a faible densite. La seconde strategie, pour sa part, tente de creer, au sein des nouveaux espaces urbanises, des corridors de haute et moyenne densite, offrant des services de transports en commun de haute qualite ainsi qu'un environnement pietonnier accueillant.

Mots cles : croissance intelligente, urbanisme, etalement urbain, transports, politiques urbaines, Toronto.

Abstract

The smart growth concept has recently achieved prominence within the planning profession. It represents a reaction to mounting resentment towards the adverse consequences of prevailing forms of urbanization: air pollution, high development costs and deteriorating quality of life. The article examines the possibility of implementing smart growth proposals within the prevailing political, economic and value environment. After drawing lessons from the lack of success of attempts at altering urban development over the last thirty years, the article proposes two smart growth strategies. To maintain their implementation potential and capacity to modify urbanization trends, the strategies avoid clashes with entrenched preference patterns and powerful interest groups. The first strategy consists in an expansion of the high-density, transit-oriented compact urban realm into the ambient low-density, cardependent dispersed realm. The second strategy involves the creation of mixed-use, high-density corridors, hospitable to transit use and walking, within newly urbanized areas.

Key words: smart growth, urban planning, urban dispersal, transportation, urban policies, Toronto

Introduction

Since the late 1990s, smart growth has occupied increasing space on the planning scene. The smart growth concept calls for forms of urbanization that are more compact, transit- and walking-friendly, conducive to high-quality urban life, and less environmentally damaging and infrastructure hungry than present urbanization patterns. Above all, it is sprawl, characteristic of North American urban growth since World War Two, that is targeted by the smart growth movement.

Given the succession over the last thirty years of planning models promoting alternative forms of development, and their weak effect on predominant urbanization tendencies, it is difficult not to be more than a little cynical about the smart growth concept. It is indeed legitimate to wonder if smart growth is more than yet another planning fad critical of prevailing practices, with scant capacity to alter ongoing urbanization trends; if smart growth holds the potential to usher in a long awaited reorientation of contemporary urbanization trends. The mounting literature on smart growth chronicles and praises smart growth initiatives and their positive environmental, financial and quality of life effects on urbanization. In most cases, however, these achievements have failed to reach the scale needed to reorient urban developement trends. …

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