Suburban growth is not a bad thing IF it is properly planned. In most cases in Canada, suburban growth is very poorly planned and you end up with massive expanses of low-density residential with what urban planners call "shopping nodes". That is a growth model that does not create a sense of community, does not create a sense of place, and encourages people to drive everywhere.
Where I used to live in suburban London, within a 15-minute walk, the only things other than houses were a couple of elementary schools, a couple parks, and a ski club. The nearest variety store was a little more than 15 minutes away. Everything else, you had to drive to. The nearest place selling hardware-related items was a 14-minute drive away. The nearest place selling clothes was about the same distance. And everything is corporate - there's virtually no local businesses owned and operated by your neighbours. The street I lived on for over 25 years was dead - lots of people living in the houses, but never seen outside except when shovelling snow or cutting grass. Some of my neighbours I only ever saw after snowstorms, and I never knew most of the people on my street. Nobody except next-door neighbours ever talked to each other. There were almost never kids playing outside. A very dull place I could never go back to.
I now live in the northern suburbs of Mexico City, but it is not a suburb in the Canadian sense. Within a 10-minute walk there's a laundromat, supermarket (with a real bakery, not what passes for a bakery at Metro), several variety stores, several restaurants, elementary school, park, police detachment, car repair shops, soccer fields, tortilla shops, hair salons, hardware store, dental clinic, medical clinic, and extensive public transit. On Mondays there's a farmers' market on one of the nearby streets. You can easily buy local. Most of these establishments are operated by your own neighbours, and you don't have to live in the area very long to become a regular customer and get to know them. You don't have to drive 15 minutes to the corporate Home Depot to buy a light bulb, you can buy it in your own community from your own neighbours. There are no backyards here; if you want to go outside you go to the front of your house, and you get together with your neighbours. In this suburb there is a strong sense of place and a sense of community like I've never seen in a Canadian suburb. If you want anything even remotely resembling this in a city like London, you have to live in the older central part of the city. At least Downtown Toronto has everything.
There is no reason why new Canadian suburbs have to continue being cold places where you have to drive everywhere and never see your own neighbours. But, as long as new developments continue to be built by corporate interests whose "market research" shows that "today's families" want to drive long distances to buy the basics and only buy from major corporate retailers, drive long distances to get to the hockey rink, use drive-thrus exclusively to avoid having to deal with real humans at Tim Hortons, avoid human contact with others on their street, and hide in their backyards where they can't be bothered by those pesky other humans. I will never live in a North American suburb ever again.
I enjoy chicken of the cave
Last edited by manny_santos; Feb 18, 2012 at 9:02 PM.