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Mobility in the livable city : a case study of Skytrain's impact on mobility and livability in Vancouver, BC Olson, Kristin Michiko


Vancouver has been cited as an exemplar of successful urban planning, and newspaper articles, surveys, Best Of Lists and academic reports would seem to agree. The city has become a brand of "livability" that is packaged and sold as the "Vancouver Model" of urban planning. One of the early outcomes of the city's livability-centred planning ethos was the construction of an enormously expensive light rail transit line, the Sky Train, which has subsequently become an icon of the city's livability. In this project, I investigate the extent to which Vancouver's substantial investment into automated light rail has facilitated efficient and equitable urban mobility, a key feature of livability. I argue that the broader context of the Vancouver Model built on a flourishing postindustrial economy is shaping the geography of urban mobility just as much as the light rail line itself. I argue that this is related to the suite of changes in Vancouver's urban form in the past number of years, which have bifurcated into two related but unacknowledged categories: an official face of urbanism comprising the feted forms that have come to be known as "The Vancouver Model"; and an unrecognized side that is part and parcel of the former, involving dramatic re-configurations in rental housing and the social geography of the city-region. I present preliminary evidence that suggests that tensions between the official and unacknowledged sides of Vancouver's urbanism are shaping the region's geography of urban mobility to an extent beyond the influence of the city's transportation planning and heavy investments into automated light rail.

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