16 August 2011

where all the people go?

the prettified lachine canal, rising from its ruins
this past weekend, i got to spend a few days doing something that i'd forgotten i enjoy: playing tour guide.

of course, it helps when you're doing this during the summer, since showing people around montreal in january can be deeply unpleasant, but it was a good opportunity for me to ponder how much the urban core of the city has flourished since i first moved her fifteen years ago. although it's far from perfect, i'm quite proud of the work done to keep montreal's centre strong. yes, there are increasing numbers of people fleeing for the suburbs and there are social issues that accompanying gentrification of any neighbourhood, but downtown montreal [and the plateau and mile end and the old city] have blossomed from some roots that looked pretty dubious when i first laid eyes on them.

reinvented offices in old montreal
one of the reasons that i appreciate this is because i've lived in two other cities that seem strangely indifferent, if not outright hostile to their downtown hubs. although there will always be things going on in the centre of toronto, the city seems determined to do what it can to make it as difficult as possible to get in and around, while i'm consistently deflated when i visit halifax to see the stretches along main thoroughfares dwindle while businesses decamp for suburban industrial parks.

there are reasons for these urban declines: toronto's suburban population massively outnumbers those in the city and, in every electoral issue, their voices will dominate; halifax's awkward geography makes it difficult to get traffic into the city centre and years of socially suspect urban planning have created barriers to better city living.

i'm a fan of cities and of the diversity that urban culture tends to bring. nothing against the country, but for someone who's imaginative, liberal and easily bored, i've found the urban environment to be a healthy match. and i'm glad to know that montreal, despite its considerable shortcomings in other areas [*cough*] has done things like make the lachine canal into a walkable/ bike-able urban oasis. i'm always curious to hear what other cities are doing and what they're doing better. in canada, approximately 80% of the population lives in urban areas, which means that we'd all better start learning from the success stories as quickly as we can.

2 comments:

Jen said...

I have always wanted to visit Montreal. Several of my friends used to go up to parktake in activities that an 18 year old could do there but not here in Boston. I never went though.

PS - They are all down in Massachusetts. I see so many Quebec license plates!

flora_mundi said...

Montreal has a lot going for it (at any age). I wouldn't dream to say that we've solved our urban problems, but I do appreciate living somewhere that isn't ashamed to admit it's a big, diverse city.

Personally, I've always wanted to see Boston, but I've never managed to take the trek down.

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