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The deadlock of technocratic planning: Quebec City’s urban form and transportation dilemmas

François Dufaux, Martial Labarthe, Martin Laliberté


In 2010, the Quebec City municipal administration published a sustainable transportation policy. The main recommendations were to increase the use of public transit in addition to more pedestrian and cycling movements for the coming decades. Such objectives were congruent with the city’s commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and to combat climate change. In a city where 74 percent of daily trips rely on the automobile, what are the potential and limits for the planning of alternative modes in regard to the spatial structure of the city?

This article explores how space syntax analysis helps first to understand the main traffic patterns and, second to explain how the road network of the metropolitan area is tailored to serve the automobile. The introduction of sustainable transportation modes, like a tramway service, bicycle paths and pedestrian trips, in order to be competitive, would require finer and more comprehensive planning than the conventional engineering methods applied locally. The spatial analysis, by considering both scale and choice with Depthmap, reveals the importance of the spatial structure regarding daily commuters’ transportation preferences.

The Greater Quebec City area covers contrasting historical and contemporary urban fabrics with a layering process of superposed infrastructure improvements. The extensive post-war motorways system is an effective and symbolic statement of a planning strategy centred on the infrastructure. The space syntax analysis offers a more comprehensive framework, closer to sustainable development principles.


North-American suburbs, Quebec City motorways, space syntax analysis, pedestrian and traffic patterns

Full Text: JOSS_2013_P38-73