In part 1, I took a look at the basic benefits of density. Pretty straight forward stuff. Now for the fun part.
Let’s look at the question of whether or not, despite the benefits of density, Winnipeg is bursting at the seams, citizens rising up and demanding a new neighborhood of suburban delights. Onward to Waverley! Infinite growth!
The city currently occupies 464.1 square kilometers and has a population of 633,451. (2006 Census) That makes for 1365.2 people per square kilometer. If Winnipeg were a perfect circle (ignoring the curvature of the Earth), it would have a radius of 12.15km.
Keep that circle thing in mind…
Now, how big would Winnipeg be if it were as dense as some of the most successful, world-renowed, cosmopolitan, wealthy cities of the world? Would it be much smaller?
Well, if it were as dense as Hong Kong, Winnipeg would now look like:
That’s right. Armstrong Point just barely makes it into the city! No St. James, Transcona, Maples, Fort Garry, Assiniboia, Charleswood, South St. Vital, River East, Linden Woods, or yes, Waverley West.
The city would eliminate over 95% of its area, reducing the burden of roads, snow clearing, sewers, and pretty much everything. The average person would never be more than 20 minutes walk from the center and 20 minutes walk from the edge. It would take me 12 minutes to bike across the entire city, and a slow cyclist could take 25 minutes. All businesses would be within minutes of all their customers; we could service the entire city with 20 subway stations.
What, you say, this is just too dense! Okay, let’s switch to Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto. I lived in Kobe for a few years, hiking in the lush mountains for hours, going to remote parks and hot springs within city limits. Still had great public transportation, though. Osaka is even 5 times less dense than Hong Kong!
So, here’s your new Winnipeg:
There we go. 5 times more spread out. Ah! The space. But wait! Still no Transcona, St. James, Maples, Lindenwoods, Southdale, River East, Fort Richmond, and yes, Waverly West! Surely not!
Well, fine, you say, we could have this kind of density and reduce the burden of infrastucture by 80%, walk more, cycle more, polute less, be healthier, save money, and build a basic train system. But, surely this density must be because you are looking to Asia for your comparisons. Are there any Western examples to look at?
With London, we now add an extra 660 meters to the radius of the city limits, adding no neighborhoods, though finally starting to take in a bit of St. James. Still no Assiniboine Park.
The purpose of this thought experiment is not to suggest that we re-make Winnipeg in circular form or that there is no place for Transcona (where I grew up) or Charleswood. Nope. The purpose is to suggest that we must rethink our development plans. The city could double in population size and would still have enough room without adding a single kilometer of road or pipeline. The city should aim to put all the growth into the center. It would save millions of dollars, dramatically reduce our carbon footprint, increase use of and demand for better public transportation, increase community involvement, reduce crime, reduce the burden of transportation costs on individual families, and much more.
UPDATE: Some of the raw data:
|City||Density (pop/km2)||Winnipeg equivalent area||Radius (KM)|
|Hong Kong||29400||21.55 sq km||2.61km|
|Winnipeg as circle||1365||464.01||12.15|