Save Griffintown!

Is suburban sprawl just “a personal choice?” by ajkandy
January 14, 2009, 11:29 am
Filed under: griffintown

Rima Elkouri writes in La Presse about demographic trends producing some paradoxical changes in the makeup of Montreal, namely, a multilingual, immigrant society with a common public language, French (well, wasn’t that the point of all the language laws, after all?)

One line strikes me as rather willfully ignorant, however:

Les tendances dominantes sont le déficit de naissance chez les francophones, l’étalement urbain et l’arrivée d’une proportion importante d’immigrants non francophones. Or, il est très difficile de faire bouger ces tendances. […] Contrer l’étalement urbain? Pas évident d’aller à l’encontre du choix personnel d’un nombre croissant de familles qui vont s’établir en banlieue.

Is suburban sprawl really a personal choice? I would say that it is in reality a lack of choice — it is what has been made available on the market by speculators and developers, to the exclusion of all else. It is also the result of provincial policy decisions that favour automobile use over investment in public transit (highway 30), municipal policy decisions that delay or sideline walkable, transit-centric, denser urban neighborhoods with good portions of affordable housing. It is also the result of banks, private and public investment groups putting all their eggs into the production-homebuilding industry.

Maybe people have been sold on the idea of suburbia as the dream where you have all the lebensraum you need, but when you think about it, suburbia is a lifestyle choice that has been politically wedged into our society, that drains the main economic engine (Montreal) of money in order to sustain itself. If it continues, Montreal’s critical infrastructure will continue to degrade, but ultimately, if Montreal goes, so go the suburbs that depend upon it vampirically.