The city is a global phenomenon. It is also a regional and cultural variable. Even within the seemingly homogenous North American cultural realm, the city shows subtle but significant differences—not only between older eastern and newer western United States cities but also between cities of Canada and those of the United States. Although the urban expression is similar in the two countries, it is not identical, and the truly “North American” city is more a myth than a reality.
The Canadian city, for example, is more compact than its United States counterpart of equal population size, with a higher density of buildings and people and a lesser degree of suburbanization of populations and functions. Space-saving, multiple-family housing units are more the rule in Canada, so a similar population is housed on a smaller land area with much higher densities, on average, within the central area of cities. The Canadian city is better served by and more dependent on mass transportation than is the United States city. This dependence gives form and structure to the Canadian central city, qualities now lost in the sprawling United States metropolis, whose residents view the central district as increasingly less central to their lives. Since Canadian metropolitan areas have only one- quarter the number of kilometers of superhighways per capita as United States metropolitan areas —and at least as much resistance to constructing more –suburbanization of peoples and functions is less extensive north of the border than south. It is likely to remain that way.
Besides these physical differences, Canadian- United States contrasts are also apparent in their cities’ social structures. While cities in both countries are ethnically diverse—Canadian communities, in fact, have the higher proportion of immigrants — in the United States there are pronounced economic contrasts between central city and suburban residents.
That is, there has been much less “flight to the suburbs” by middle-income Canadians. As a result, the Canadian city shows greater socialstability, employment opportunities, and urban amenities than its United States counterpart. In particular, it does not have the rivalry from well-defined competitive “outer cities” of suburbia that so spread and fragment United States metropolitan complexes.