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Trip to Montreal

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Recently got back from a 4 day weekend in Montreal. Unbelievable. As a native of Western PA and having lived in a number of cities in the Mid Atlantic, Montreal has everything our cities lack:

1. High density thoughout the city with noticeably little suburban sprawl- tons of mid rise apartments and condos mixed with more traditional brownstones- college students, families, gays, all types of people all mixed up in one city.

2. Streets packed with people all hours of the day and night- great shopping and restaurants downtown for the daytime - the whole city turns into party mode at night- couldn't help to notice families of 4 eating breakfast next to the clubbers coming out of the afterhours Sunday morning at 10 am!

3. Safety- you can walk across the city all hours of the night with no problem- plenty of pot smokers, strip clubs, a few french girls from the University of Quebec working the streets, some bikers, but no feeling of danger.

Any city that wants ideas on how to successfully rebuild their inner core need only to look to Montreal for a model.

However, I feel that America's value system may be too far different from that in Canada and thus our cities may never see the prosperity that Canadian cities see- in America, we have build mass highways so that we all can commute to work in the day and then go home to our gated community maybe after stopping at Wal-mart and shield ourselves from the outside world. Americans value private (at times grotesque) consumption as the model for healthy living (i.e. big home in the suburbs with a plot of land and very few neighbors and low taxes and lawn mowers). Canadians pay much higher taxes- but the value system is different- these taxes go to create world class park systems (Mont Royal in Montreal) and urban environments which create a sustainable, affordable living environment. Streets have cafes, shops, clubs, where people value meeting others, networking, and living in a truly culturally diverse environment.

In constrast, Pittsburgh, the city nearest my hometown, has no density in its inner core. While noted for its museums, educational institutions, and safety, the majority of the population lives in these "gated communities" I speak of such as Bethel Park and the North Hills. (Note that Pittsburgh has the lowest ratio of city population/ metro population in the U.S. (e.g. most dispersed and suburban population) hence its so called "high quality of life"- it really depends what your value system is). I could not see the average Pittsburgher living in the middle of Montreal...

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