Monthly Archives: February 2009


It started as a sensible idea: workers’ housing shouldn’t be located next to smoke-belching heavy industry. But it has turned into an obsession with separating everything and everyone from everything and everyone else, a denial, on a massive scale, of community and of the bedrock urban reality of mutual interdependence.
Today we find ourselves with, not only separate neighbourhoods for the rich and the poor, but a fetish for spatial segregation that defies rational explanation: One area for $250,000 houses, another one for $350,000 houses, a third for $450,000 houses. Housing for old people where young people aren’t welcome, family neighbourhoods where housing for the elderly isn’t welcome. No housing where there is commerce, no factories (even clean ones) and no offices where there is either housing or retail trade, wide swaths of wasted land to ensure that everything is well and truly separated from everything else.

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It looks as if there’s a rapid transit line in Winnipeg’s future. Problem solved, right? Wrong. The choice facing us now is whether or not we succeed in building a viable system, one that provides a better service than the buses on Pembina Highway do, and one that creates new economic opportunities while fighting sprawl and improving the environment.

The question hinges on the accessibility of the stations, and on land use regulations adjacent to them. If the stations are readily accessible, rapid transit can create new development opportunities, contribute to the clean-up of our environment, and provide a much-needed transportation option to all those who do not have access to an automobile, or prefer convenient public transportation. To the extent that they are not, users of rapid transit will have experiences similar to those I had in Miami last summer, and Winnipeg’s development will suffer accordingly. As I write this, the prognosis is not good.
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