Streets Paved with Gold: Urban Expressway Building and Global City Formation in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver

  • Anthony Perl Simon Fraser University
  • Matt Hern Simon Fraser University
  • Jeffrey Kenworthy Curtin University


Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are Canada’s most signifi cant locations of global city formation today. Their distinctive spatial development and mobility mix were greatly infl uenced by decisions regarding inner-city expressway building. This article explores the hypothesis that choices made regarding how to move motor vehicles through Canada’s three major metropolitan areas between 1960 and 1980 can be better understood by examining the dynamics of global city formation in these jurisdictions.
    Montreal implemented a comprehensive expressway network to align with its status as Canada’s leading global city during the 1960s. Toronto’s attempt to complete an expressway network was partial, reflecting fragmentary global city aspirations during the 1970s. Vancouver, where global city ambitions only began to form during the 1980s, cancelled urban expressway plans and became Canada’s ‘freeway-free’ major city. New insight into the structure of these cities can be gained when a global city analytical framework is applied to their urban expressway development experience.

Author Biographies

Anthony Perl, Simon Fraser University
Urban Studies Program
Matt Hern, Simon Fraser University
Urban Studies Program
Jeffrey Kenworthy, Curtin University
Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP)