CanU Working Paper 3
Growth in Canadian Mid-Sized Cities
Although Canada is a suburban nation, mid-sized cities are different. We can now compare all of Canada’s mid-sized metro areas to structure and growth trends throughout the nation. Two-thirds of the country’s total population lives in some form of suburb and it has been known for some time that the structure of many of Canada’s mid-sized metropolitan areas are strongly dispersed.
The purpose of this working paper is to update and add national context to the “Suburban growth and downtown decline in Ontario’s Mid-Sized Cities” 2017 Evergreen Working Paper. The 2017 Working Paper was based upon 2006 and 2011 census data, while this working paper updates the research using the 2016 census data that was released in late 2017.
Our research found that within Canada’s mid-sized metropolitan areas, 88% of the population lived in transit suburbs, auto suburbs, or exurban areas, while only 12% lived in active core neighbourhoods. While big metropolitan areas across the nation have a slightly higher proportion of population in their active cores, significant structural differences exist within the suburbs.
The mid-sized metro areas had much higher proportions of Exurban residents, presumably because commuting into downtown is easier from their rural areas compared to exurban residents of big metro areas, who must contend with more congestion after they reach the edge of the built-up area. As well, most big cities have sophisticated transit systems and a greater share of population living in Transit Suburbs, while most mid-sized metro areas had lower proportions since far fewer people commute by transit in mid-sized cities.
The population growth patterns of Canada’s mid-sized metropolitan areas are quite different from the biggest cities. The total population in Active Core neighbourhoods for Canada’s mid-sized metropolitan areas increased by less than 1% from 2006 to 2016, compared to 11% for the big metro areas, though much regional variation exists and many mid-sized cities experienced decline.
The population of Canada’s mid-sized metro areas grew by 11% from 2006-2016, while their Auto Suburbs and Exurbs grew by 12% and 16%, respectively. Auto Suburbs across the nation, whether a big or mid-sized metro, accounted for 75% of all population growth. However, Exurbs in Canada’s mid-sized metros accounted for an additional 22% of population growth. In contrast, exurban growth was only 7% for the bigger metro areas.
So low density, auto-dependent suburban sprawl increased at the same time that downtown populations decreased in many mid-sized Canadian regions.
David L.A. Gordon
with Chris Willms & Shuhong Lin
SURP, Queen’s University
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CanU Working Paper 2
Growth in Canadian Suburbs, 2006-16
Canada is a suburban nation. More than two-thirds of our country’s total population lives in suburbs. In all our largest metropolitan areas, the portion of suburban residents is over 80%, including the Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal regions (Gordon & Janzen 2013). Their downtowns may be full of new condo towers, but there is five times as much population growth on the suburban edges of the regions.
The purpose of this monograph is to update the article “Suburban Nation? Estimating the size of Canada’s suburban population”, published in the Journal of Architecture and Planning Research (Gordon & Janzen 2013), and the 2014 CanU Working Paper. The JAPR article was based upon 1996 and 2006 census data, while this working paper updates the research using the 2016 census data that was released in late 2017.
Our research for the 1996-2006 period estimated that 66% of all Canadians lived in some form of suburb. This proportion rose to 67.5% by 2016. In 2016, we found that within our metropolitan areas, 86% of the population lived in transit suburbs, auto suburbs, or exurban areas, while only 14% lived in active core neighbourhoods.
Canada’s population growth from 2006-2016 was mapped using classification methods modified from the JAPR article. The active cores and transit suburbs grew by 9% and 8%, which was below the national average population growth of 15%. The auto suburbs and the exurban areas grew by 17% and 20%, exceeding the national average. The net effect of this trend is that 85% of the CMA population growth from 2006–2016 was in auto suburbs and exurbs. Only 15% of the population growth was in more sustainable active cores and transit suburbs.
David L.A. Gordon with Lyra Hindrichs and Chris Willms School of Urban
and Regional Planning Department
of Geography and Planning Queen’s University
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CanU Working Paper 1
Population Growth in Canadian Suburbs, 2006-2011
Canada is a suburban nation and its population became more suburban from 2006-2011.
This inaugural CanU working paper describes the Canadian population growth from 2006-2011, using the census data that was released last summer. We find that the country has become more suburban over the past census period, despite the highly visible downtown condo apartment booms in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. There is there is five times as much growth on the suburban edges of the regions as there is in the inner city.
The research team’s initial research results were released last fall in an exclusive series of articles that were on the front or op-ed pages of the country’s largest newspapers. This Working Paper includes the key research data and an atlas of maps for every Canadian metropolitan area that underpin those newspaper articles.
The working paper critiques these trends and provides connections to the latest literature on sprawl repair. New strategies to manage the growth of Canada’s booming suburban areas will be demonstrated at the sixth summit of the Council for Canadian Urbanism (CanU6) “Cities at the Edge” to be held in the Greater Toronto Area September 18-20, 2014. We hope to see you there.
David L.A. Gordon & Isaac Shirokoff
School of Urban and Regional Planning, Queen’s University