LINK to Vancouver

LINK to Vancouver

By Chamber President/CEO Kit Dunlap

What is LINK?

LINK is an acronym for Leadership, Involvement, Networking, Knowledge. The LINK project is sponsored by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) for the purpose of providing close, personal learning experiences and on-site exposure to the successes and challenges experienced in other metropolitan regions.

The Atlanta Regional Commission is the regional planning and intergovernmental coordination agency for a 10-county area, as well as the City of Atlanta. For 60 years, ARC and its predecessor agencies have helped to focus the region’s leadership, attention and resources on key issues of regional consequence. ARC assists Gainesville-Hall County with transportation and water planning.

The Atlanta Regional Commission is dedicated to unifying the region’s collective resources to prepare the metropolitan area for a prosperous future. It does so through professional planning initiatives, the provision of objective information and the involvement of the community in collaborative partnerships.

In May, I was fortunate to be a part of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s 11th Annual LINK program that included a four-day trip to the Greater Vancouver, British Columbia region. Some 125 leaders of government, business, education, non-profits joined together in learning first-hand about growth challenges, economic opportunities, natural surroundings and quality of life in Vancouver and comparing this information with the Atlanta region.

Why visit the Greater Vancouver region?

Vancouver has been recognized internationally as one of the 25 most livable cities in the world. Over two million people currently live in the Vancouver region, and the population growth rate is estimated high for the future. In this region, officials and leaders are faced with maintaining their great quality of life, changing demographics, industry dynamics, demands for housing and infrastructure and economic opportunities.

The LINK program explored how the Vancouver region is addressing these challenges and preparing for its future while developing a 100 year plan. We reviewed their sustainability plan that has been developed to maintain its status as a world-class city.

Transportation was a major topic of discussion.

Vancouver’s strategy of density and transit is a stark contrast to the Atlanta region’s road-oriented sprawl. Vancouver is one of the most thriving urban areas in North America yet has no interstate at its core. They have built a wide pedestrian path around the downtown that is relatively free from cars. They have invested heavily in transit, including electric buses, rapid rail, commuter rail, streetcars and ferries. There are actually fewer cars coming into the downtown area now than 10 years ago.

The guiding principles of Vancouver are to protect green space, develop in compact areas, increase transportation choices and build complete communities. Vancouver has created communities that you can live, work, play and stay in from cradle to grave. And, density is a hallmark of Vancouver. The greater the density, the better it is for transit. Vancouver is truly a “walkable” city, and it is clean and safe.

Planning for a Growing Region

Vancouver is not without its challenges: health care, affordable housing, jobs, growing immigrant population, governance. They are also hosting the Olympic Games in 2010. How thankful I am that I was a part of this LINK initiative. Perhaps the greatest benefit of this trip was the opportunity to meet and network with individuals from the Atlanta region involved in trying to solve the growth challenges of Atlanta and our area.

We came home knowing that it is important that we work together as a region, and Atlanta is a great city with caring leaders that want to make good things happen – LINKing together in leadership, involvement, networking, and knowledge.