It’s a simple question, but the answers are not. The answers come wrapped in expectation and are coloured by perception, history and experience. Still, the question should be asked. Without it, our city will never improve.
That’s why we’re posing it. It’s what’s driving Project Calgary, a new initiative of the Calgary Herald that kicks of today and runs for the next 100 days. In hundreds of ways, we will seek answers to that question, and we want your help.
At the heart of Project Calgary lies an ever-growing archive of data that we have spent months compiling. In nearly 50 different areas, we have collected data on Calgary’s 200 individual neighbourhoods that collectively shed never-before seen light on community life in the city. We have crime statistics, housing data, affordability indexes, and measures of neighbourliness and much more. Want to know how much parkspace your community has compared to your best friend’s? We’ve got that. Want to know where your neighbourhood ranks on an index of coffee shops? We have that too. Worried about growing enclaves of poverty, or the plight of seniors living alone? We have data that can shed light.
Over the course of the project, all of that data and more will be made available to everybody, as spreadsheets or in more easily understood maps and interactive charts, on our website. It’s a project of open data, so we want you to take it, interpret it, post it on your blog, share it with your friends on Facebook, and tell us what you think.
The data, however, is just the starting point. It will kick off conversations about how we can make our neighbourhoods, and thereby our city, better. Our journalists have spent months combing the data, looking for stories and trends that will illuminate, inform and perhaps even enrage all of us.
There are a few points to remember as we begin this journey. Calgarians like their city. A poll commissioned for this project found 83 per cent of people satisfied with the quality of life in the city. And Calgarians like their neighbourhoods even more — 85 per cent said they were satisfied with 39 per cent saying they were very satisfied. There is, however, room for improvement.
“I think a question like this shows that (Calgarians are) content,” said Jaideep Mukerji, managing director of Angus Reid, who conducted the poll. “It’s a positive feeling but it’s not necessarily a very intensely positive feeling with respect to Calgary in general.”
Affordability, for example, is still a concern for many Calgarians, and along with this comes questions of poverty, charity and community. Interestingly, our poll found the most important part of neighbourhood life to Calgarians is not safety or amenities, but the old-fashioned notion of neighbourliness.
“It’s the quality of your neighbours and the quality of your housing that really tend to drive overall satisfaction,” said Mukerji. “It’s very much ‘Do I live around nice people?’ and ‘Do I live in a nice place?’ And those seem almost banal, but they actually really do have a pretty big impact on people’s overall satisfaction with their neighbourhood.”
These are just some of the issues that will be addressed over the coming 100 days. We’re kicking off Project Calgary with a look at one of the most contentious areas of civic life: Transportation. Over the next two weeks, you’ll see data and stories related to walkability, traffic and transportation, and it’s sure to spark a discussion — as the launch this week of a new bike lane in the city has proved.
In addition to the stories, photos, maps and data you’ll see in the print edition of the Herald, our website will feature even more.
Project Calgary is intended to be an ongoing conversation about neighbourhood life, so we invite you to get involved. Share your comments on our blog, discuss the data, tell us why you love your community or what would make it better. Project Calgary is being set up as a living initiative, so if you have an idea for us to explore, or some data you think we should track down and share, let us know. Tell us about your community, share your photographs and take part in our regular live chats. This project is intended to be a journey, and we’d love some company for the ride.
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