UBC Undergraduate Research

No Freeways on the Horizon : The Path to Livability Hon, Byron; Lu, Amanda; Madden, Cheryl-Lee; Penner, Nick


Ranked once again as one of the “Most livable cities in the World” by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Vancouver has been consistently praised for its high quality of life (The Economist, 2016). A key component to the city’s livability has been its unique urban fabric, untainted by freeway infrastructure. This study will investigate how Vancouver has grown without any freeways, and how this may be related to the rise in ‘livability’ as a planning discourse in the city. Several social, economic, and political factors have played into this social change, many of which were condensed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Working within this time period, our research interpreted an interview and archival sources, public surveys, and regional planning strategies to understand what roles SPOTA (Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association), TEAM (The Electors’ Action Movement), and the ‘livability’ concept had in preventing the construction of freeways within Vancouver. Through this research we found that SPOTA’s ultimate contribution to the lack of freeways in Vancouver today is only influential given that its progress was carried on by TEAM and the promotion of livability in the following decade. TEAM played a largely underappreciated role in the stopping of freeways and from the beginning, the principles of livability held strong opinions against the use of automobiles. The results of this research will be key in exposing the history of ‘livability’ as a planning discourse, and why Vancouver will not accommodate for freeway construction. Through our research, we have identified a few instances of social amnesia among these topics in Vancouver, and our results are intended to alleviate some of this memory loss to maintain this social change.

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