Urban Patterns in Canada and the US

If you have any interest in comparing urban characteristics between Canada and the United States, you should check out this shortish article from geography.about.com. Using information from the World Factbook, the neighbouring countries are contrasted in terms of urban sprawl, transportation networks, and cultural diversity.

It’s interesting to note the patterns that exist in Canada as it relates to sprawl and vehicle use. We’re much more likely than Americans to use public transit and tend to rely less on automobiles to get where we need to go. As automobile dependency is greater in areas of sprawl due to greater distances from sources of work, services, etc., Canadians are also less likely to live in suburban areas (though it’s obvious these do exist, the general trend is toward greater city-centered living).

Unlike their neighbors to the south, Canada only has 648,000 miles of total roads. Their highways stretch just over 10,500 miles, less than nine percent of total United States road mileage. Noted, Canada only has one-tenth the population and much of its land is uninhabited or under permafrost. But nevertheless, Canadian metropolitan areas are not nearly as centered on the automobile as their American neighbors. Instead, the average Canadian is more than twice as likely to utilize public transportation, which contributes to its urban centralization and overall higher density. All seven of Canada’s largest cities display public transit ridership in the double digits, in comparison to just two in the entire United States (Chicago 11%, NYC 25%). According to the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), there are over 12,000 active buses and 2,600 rail vehicles across Canada. Canadian cities also resemble more closely to the European style of smart growth urban design, which advocates compact, pedestrian and bicycle-friendly land use. Thanks to its less-motorized infrastructure, Canadians on average walk twice as often as their American counterparts and bike three times the miles.

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