Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
In Canada, as in the United States, cities seemed to many to be in complete disarray in the 1960s. Growing populations and the resultant increased demands for housing fed rapid suburban sprawl, creating a postwar burst of urban and suburban planning as consultants were hired in city after city to address the challenges of the postwar era. During this period expressway proposals sparked controversy in urban centres across the developed world, including every major city in Canada, namely Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montréal and Halifax. Residents objected to postwar autocentric planning designed to encourage and promote the continued growth of city centres. Frustrated by unresponsive politicians and civic officials, citizen activists challenged authorities with an alternate vision for cities that prioritized the safeguarding of the urban environment through the preservation of communities, the prevention of environmental degradation, and the promotion of public transit. As opponents recognized the necessity of moving beyond grassroots activism to established legal and government channels to fight expressways, their protests were buoyed by the rapidly rising costs that plagued the schemes. By the latter half of the 1960s, many politicians and civil servants had joined the objectors. Growing concerns over the many costs of expressways -- financial, social, environmental, and eventually, political -- resulted in the defeat of numerous expressway networks, but most were qualified victories with mixed legacies.
Expressway disputes were an instrumental part of a wider struggle to define urban modernity, a struggle that challenged the basis of politicians and civil servants power by questioning their legitimacy as elected leaders and uniquely qualified experts, respectively. The subsequent emergence of urban reform groups that sought to change the direction of city development by challenging the autocratic municipal bureaucracies was the direct legacy of expressway and other development battles. Despite this, autocentric planning continued and demands for greater citizen participation did not result in significant changes to the form and function of municipal governments.
Robinson, Danielle, ""The Streets Belong to the People": Expressway Disputes in Canada, c. 1960-75" (2013). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7611.
McMaster University Library