Melbourne’s 20-minute neighbourhoods could shape new Metro Vancouver growth strategy

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      Metro Vancouver is looking to learn from the metropolitan planning strategy for the Australian city of Melbourne.

      Called ‘Plan Melbourne 2017-2050’, the program’s objectives include the creation of 20-minute neighbourhoods.

      “Creating accessible, safe and attractive local areas where people can access most of their everyday needs within a 20-minute walk, cycle or local public transport trip, will make Melbourne healthier and more inclusive,” according to the plan.

      Plan Melbourne was cited in a report by Heather McNell, general manager for regional planning and housing services with Metro Vancouver.

      McNell’s report is included in the agenda Friday (March 6) of the district’s regional planning committee.

      McNell wrote that the “principles of Plan Melbourne 2017-2050, in particular the notion of 20-minute neighbourhoods, is something that Metro Vancouver can learn from”.

      She noted that Metro Vancouver planners are developing Metro 2050, an updated version of the region’s current growth strategy.

      In 2011, the region adopted ‘Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping our Future’ to guide and manage growth in the Lower Mainland.

      According to McNell, the 20-minute neighbourhood principle is “very similar to the intent” of one of Metro Vancouver 2040’s goals, which is to develop “complete communities”.

      “Complete communities are designed to support walking, cycling and transit, and to foster healthy lifestyles,” Metro Vancouver 2040 states.

      The plan notes that complete communities are “walkable, mixed use, transit-oriented communities where people can: find an appropriate place to live at all stages of their lives, earn a living, access the services they need, and enjoy social, cultural, educational and recreational pursuits”.

      Complete communities can be developed through two strategies.

      One strategy is ensuring adequate housing.

      The second is emphasizing the importance of designing neighbourhoods that are “accessible for people of all ages and physical ability, promote transit, cycling and walking, provide access to employment, social and cultural opportunities, parks, greenways and recreational opportunities, and promote healthy living”.

      In her report, McNell wrote that regional planners are “reviewing the policy language of the Complete Communities goal through the policy review work underway as part of the development of Metro 2050, and exploring how to enhance or make improvements to the policy language, where appropriate”.

      According to Plan Melbourne, 20-minute neighbourhoods provide services and destinations that “support local living”.

      These neighbourhoods also “deliver housing/population at densities that make local services and transport viable”.

      “If 20-minute neighbourhoods existed across Melbourne, it could reduce travel by nine million passenger kilometres and cut Melbourne’s daily greenhouse gas emissions by more than 370,000 tonnes,” according to the plan.

      The plan notes that neighbourhood activity centres are an “integral part of the city’s vibrant community life and critical to the creation of 20-minute neighbourhoods”.

      “These high streets and specialised strips of shops, cafés, small supermarkets, service businesses, community services and public spaces serve the needs of the surrounding community and provide a focus not only for local jobs but also for social interaction and community participation,” the plan states.

      Moreover, 20-minute neighbourhoods “create a more cohesive and inclusive community with a vibrant local economy—reducing social exclusion, improving health and wellbeing, promoting a sense of place, reducing travel costs and traffic congestion, and reducing carbon emissions across the city as a whole”.

      The plan acknowledges that because of the “specialised and diverse nature of many people’s work, access to employment will often be outside the 20-minute neighbourhood”.

      According to Australian planners with the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, research shows that 20 minutes is the maximum time people are willing to walk to meet their daily needs locally.

      “These daily needs may include accessing local health facilities and services, schools and shopping centres,” the state notes online.

      In addition, a 20-minute journey represents an 800-metre walk from home to a destination and back.