This weekend was the stag party for friend of mine, so naturally I ended up on a beach on Bowen arguing about mass transit in Vancouver, Portland, and Bogata. Why? That’s just how we roll. Anyway, something came up that bears a little thought.

I was, as I typically am, arguing for more rail transit in the city proper, to make Vancouver look more like European cities, with their extensive networks of subways and els anchoring their city transit systems. A friend brought up a common objection to this. Of course those European cities–like New York and Chicago, for that matter–have great systems of subways and els. After all, they were built before cities were planned around cars. But that means those cities can’t really serve as models for Vancouver.

I think this complaint is really confused. European cities were built before people planned cities around cars. That’s true! But how is this an objection to making Vancouver more like that? Shouldn’t the whole point of mass transit planning be trying, over the long term, to build a city where people don’t depend on cars? How are we ever going to get there if we don’t take those kinds of cities as our models?