Imagine having access to everything you need within a fifteen minute walk, bike, roll, or bus ride from your home. This is the experience of living within a 15-minute community.
Need more details? I won’t reinvent the wheel, check out the following video to learn about this concept.
Sounds pretty sweet right? Even if you personally aren’t sold on the idea, I think we can all agree that this is the kind of city our kids and our aging parents deserve. At some point in our lives, we will not be able to drive around to access the services and amenities we need. So let’s build a city that works for everybody.
How do we make this happen in Edmonton? In December 2020, City Council passed a plan that will help us get there. It’s comprehensive and exciting, but it is important to remember that plans are only words on paper until they are implemented and acted on.
Edmonton's City Plan & 15-Minute Communities
Aptly titled “City Plan,” this document provides a road map for how we build a city made up of 15-minute communities for everyone as we grow to a city of 2 million. It plans for strategically building up our city instead of continuing to build out.
This means that our neighbourhoods in Ward Metis will welcome back the residents that we have lost over the last few decades. This is depicted in the neighbourhood life cycle below. Families move into neighbourhoods, expand, and eventually kids move away and they become “empty nests.”
Additionally, we’re seeing a downward trend in the size of households. We built most of our houses half a century ago when they held 3-5 of people. Now, we essentially have the same number of houses with fewer people living inside of them. We have fewer children to attend local schools, and families to patronize local businesses.
What does this look like in Ward Metis?
The map below (left) compares the change in population in our neighbourhoods between 1971 to 2011, showcasing that almost all of Ward Metis’ neighbourhoods have shrunk by hundreds, if not more than a thousand residents. In most cases that represents a 15-30% drop in the total populations.
Ward Métis has experienced over half of the school closures in Edmonton (see below, right). This means 13 of 24 school closures have been in Ward Métis. When you look at the data it is not hard to see why.
A shrinking population means a smaller base of customers in the area for local businesses, fewer kids attending our schools, and less demand for municipal services like transit or recreation centres. As we have seen in our Ward, if our population shrinks, these community assets either scale back, close entirely, or are put on the chopping block year after year.
When local amenities close, we stray further away from the vision of a 15-minute community. Suddenly, we live a 30-minute city if you are able to drive, and a 1-hour to 2-hour city if you get around actively or take transit.
How do we welcome people back to our neighbourhoods to build up a “customer base” that supports our goal of 15-minute communities? This is what the City Plan helps us do. It charts a path for us to achieve that “rebound” in growth that is shown in the neighbourhood life cycle figure above.
This path is complicated, but the benefits that this change will deliver are well worth it. Getting there will take time, courage, and councillors who understand that day-to-day decisions must be in alignment with this long-term goal.
In part two of this blog series, I will be taking a deeper dive into the implementation of the City Plan and how we can work towards achieving 15-minute communities.
Written by: Ashley Salvador & Stephen Raitz