For the first time ever, vehicles outnumber people in Saskatoon. According to a new report, the city’s 218,000 people now own more than 245,804 vehicles. It’s the result, says Angela Gardiner, the city’s transportation branch manager, of Saskatoon’s relatively small size, low urban density, and recent prosperity thanks to a wealth of natural resources like uranium, oil and potash. Another key contributor is the increase in multi-car families, which is largely driven by rising numbers of teens earning their licence.
Not everyone, however, is happy with the car culture in Saskatoon, where 79 per cent of people drive to work (the national average is 72 per cent). “You’re seeing a combination of aging infrastructure and more cars causing traffic jams and headaches,” says Charlie Clark, a city councillor. Most Saskatonians, he adds, used streetcars for much of the 20th century. He thinks the clock could be turned back with public education, improved bike lanes and express bus routes. But Gardiner doesn’t think that’s realistic. The city just started “Saskatchewan Speaks,” a community consultation process aimed at discovering how residents want their expanding city to grow, and so far, she says, “there isn’t an interest in public transit.”
Though there isn’t a national database tracking the car-to-resident ratio of every city, a survey of several major urban areas, including Edmonton and Toronto, as well as cities with similar population numbers to Saskatoon, such as Surrey, B.C., and Burnaby, B.C., shows that only Regina—which also has more vehicles than people—is as car crazy.