Everyone his own roof | A child has to walk to school

This summer, the editors of The press brings you a series of texts on urban densification as the key to overcoming the housing crisis, a widespread problem in Quebec that will surely be at the center of the next election campaign.

Posted at 5:00am

The best indication to see whether your neighborhood is sufficiently dense: do your children and their friends all walk to school?

In every major city in Quebec, children should be able to walk to primary school. Because we have built close enough so that all houses and apartments are close to the school.

In 1971, about 80% of children aged 7-8 in the country were attending school.

This share has fallen significantly.

In 2008, about 30% of children walked to primary school (2% also cycled), according to a study by urban planning professor Paul Lewis. There are no more recent figures (the Quebec Ministry of Education does not know the percentage of primary school students who walk to school), but the trend has certainly not reversed.

“Who am I to say to a young family: are you going to live in a 12-storey tower, since the fashion is for densification? »

The statement by Quebec’s Minister of Transport, François Bonnardel, about densification caused a lot of talk. Let’s investigate, because he’s not the only one in Quebec to think so. To condense, it will be necessary to convince many skeptical people that their fears are not justified.

Let’s forget for a moment the immense collective benefits that need to be condensed, for example by contributing to the fight against climate change. And let’s approach the debate from a strictly individual point of view.

In his statement, Minister Bonnardel only proposes the individual disadvantages of densification… not to mention the individual advantages!

With closer neighborhoods in Sherbrooke, Gatineau, Quebec, Laval or Rimouski, it is possible to have public services within walking distance. The best example: primary school. If children can walk there, it makes life easier for families, promotes physical activity and combats obesity.

But that is not everything. In a fairly densely populated area, other public services (eg childcare) and local services (eg supermarket, pharmacy, convenience store) are within walking distance.

Families then do almost all their daily activities on foot. Their cars are leaving their parking spaces less and less, because the neighborhood is close enough to be easily accessible by public transport and a car-sharing service (for example: Communauto).

In such a neighborhood, families save hundreds of dollars a month by giving up or avoiding buying a second car. They even ask if they really need a full-time car, or if a cocktail of public transport and car-sharing is the solution…

Of course, this calls for different thinking, planning and development of our neighborhoods. Make concessions to prevent urban sprawl. To sometimes have buildings of a few floors, and more small townhouses. Accept that the terrain is smaller or shared. Large individual courtyards replaced by communal areas.

In order for citizens to fully reap the benefits of intensification, cities need to plan well. The example not to follow: one of Quebec’s densest neighborhoods, Griffintown in Montreal, where there is no primary school yet.

This vision of well-planned density is accessible to all major cities in Quebec. We also feel a wind of change in the field of urban planning. This week, Laval presented a new urban plan to make the city greener and reduce the number of cars and parking spaces. This is an excellent first step, a refreshing vision. It means things are changing. But we shouldn’t stop there: Laval and the other cities of Quebec must also take their turn for intelligent densification.

If cities take this turn, an overwhelming majority of young Quebecers will be able to walk back to elementary school in a few years.

Because dense, modern neighborhoods are provided for them.

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  • 2.4 times more expensive
    For cities, providing municipal housing services in suburban areas costs 2.4 times more than in an urban neighborhood. In the Halifax metro area, the annual cost of municipal services was $1,416 per unit in an urban neighborhood, compared to $3,462 per unit in the suburbs, according to a compilation from the Smart Property Institute.

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