This past week I journeyed to Vancouver; a beautiful, clean, shining port city that I had never been to before. Vancouver is the third largest city in Canada, with just over two million in population for surely beats Winnipeg with its whopping 700 thousand people.
The transit system is wonderful for exploring the city, and the tram system is great for getting to and from the airport. The public transport system reminded me of a cleaner, newer version of London's great bus, tram and subway system sans the "mind the gap."
Vancouver's success and beauty then started to make me question Winnipeg's flaws.
Despite population size, what makes a city a city?
And a great city at that?
Sky scraping buildings brushing the clouds and causing awe and wonder?
The many opportunities presented by the city its self?
A well operated transit system?
Many shops, restaurants and boutiques?
Finally I came to ask myself: Is a city ultimately defined by its downtown core?
Vancouver's warm climate yet expensive rents and property taxes provides positive and negative reasons to live there. Whereas Winnipeg's low rent, taxes and cold weather also provides positive and negative aspects as to why one may inhabit here.
Both cities have their pros's and con's, but what keeps Vancouver's watch ticking at a faster, more advanced rate than Winnipeg's? Despite population size and economy, what else causes Winnipeg to be less "|advanced"?
After taking the ol' Transit Tom downtown this morning to my favorite area of the city, the exchange district, then walking over to Main something struck me as surprising; how deserted our downtown core is.
Further down toward U of W's and the Hydro building, there are plenty of people but get to Main and it became a lot more desolate.
Vancouver's streets and transit system is always bursting with life, encouraging citizens to take to the streets and thus put forth more consumerism. Whereas Winnipeg's downtown core closes off the area by providing bad parking, not being easily accessible and gives off a dangerous and desolate feel.
As Jane Jacobs may say in her famous book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," that sidewalks primary uses are "safety, contract and assimilating children." By providing a public/private ratio people may find comfort, and safety with the many people around them.
Winnipeg has done the opposite, by closing off downtown specifically Portage and Main, making it less accessible and almost deserted in some areas; the city has caused itself to become more dangerous. Crime in the downtown area of Winnipeg, rather than in Vancouver, is much more likely despite the lower population.
This is because less people are likely to go there, thus providing less protection to others by simply having people walking around there.
In this respect, Vancouver has taken Jane Jacob's first chapter in her novel to heart and provided a thriving, safe and ultimately great downtown core which makes Vancouver the great city that is.
Portage and Main's way of forcing people below ground to promote consumerism in the underground mall has done the opposite Instead of people going downtown to shop, they're rather go elsewhere.
Winnipeg downtown core is lacking, in turn makes me wonder: if a city is defined by it's down town core, then would Winnipeg be considered "one great city" after all?