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  • Writer's pictureMatthieu Gagnon

The Urbanist YouTube Rabbit Hole

Last year (2022), during the municipal election, I was doing some research and fell in the urbanist rabbit hole and got seriously “orange-pilled”. This led me to a better understanding of what I have felt and observed in the various cities where I have visited and lived in my life including Ottawa. I thought I would share some videos on what I think are important questions for our community. Of course some of these are mostly high level videos so there is a lot of nuance that is missed and there is more to the problem than good urbanism but I think it is still worth listening and thinking about the issues from an urbanist perspective. 

Woman going down a urbanist rabbit hole

Why are our taxes so high while city services and infrastructure so mediocre?

This question is best answered in the book Strong Towns by Charles Marohn, the founder of the US non-profit also called Strong Towns (note that I am part of a group that is in the process of formalizing a local chapter called Strong Towns Ottawa). The organization has many videos on its YouTube Channel but I find that the best summary of the basic principles is made by another urbanist channel called Not Just Bikes who is run by a man from London, Ontario who moved to Amsterdam who is often maybe a bit too acerbic in his commentary. I recommend watching the video series below and picking up the Strong Towns 

Why is there a housing crisis?

For an explanation on the housing crisis, I am going to refer you to a channel based on the city that has been the poster child for the housing crisis and housing affordability for many years. A lot of what is seen in Vancouver can be seen in Ottawa.

I will also recommend the housing playlist by Oh The Urbanity!, a channel created by a couple in Montréal who have previously lived in Ottawa.

CBC has also done a few good explainer videos.

What are the problems with OC Transpo and the LRT?

When it comes to transit in Canada and pretty anywhere, RMTransit is my go to channel. RMTransit is run by a transit professional in Toronto who covers public transportation around the globe. He has done a few videos on our LRT that do a good job of explaining the system.

For transit in general:

Why are people so antisocial?

There is an urbanist argument that say that car-centric urban design, single family homes and restrictive zoning prevents people from interacting with people and more specifically, people who are demographically different. Here is a Not Just Bike video on the topic.

Why are our streets so dangerous?

For a good video on this issue, I am going to turn to Strong Towns to explain the basics.

If you want to take a deeper dive, here are a few videos from various sources:

One topic that has come up a lot in our community is speed camera. I really like the approach proposed by Strong Towns and I recommend you check it out even though it is not a video.

Why are kids not playing outside?

Kids today are often accused of being lazy or too busy playing with screens. There are a lot of reasons to believe that the built environment prevents our kids from playing outside.

Why don’t I don’t just leave Ottawa?

With all this, you may ask why I don’t just move out of Ottawa. I grew up here, my friends are here, my family is here and I work for the Federal Government so I can’t easily pack up and move.

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