Choosing the Happy City: Transportation Lecture at SFU


For years, self-help experts have told us that we need to do inner work in order to improve our lives. But new insights in psychology, economics and brain science suggest that our cities themselves have the power to make or break our happiness.

In his new book, Happy City, Charles Montgomery shows how urban systems shape our emotions and behaviour in ways most of us never recognize. Can we build transportation systems that maximize future happiness in Metro Vancouver? It won’t be easy: In the complex modern world, humans have proved not to be experts at what economists call “maximizing utility”—or choosing what’s actually best for us. But there is hope.

In this lecture at Simon Fraser University, Montgomery offered a powerful new vision of city life and novel strategies for how to get there.

An award-winning author and urban experimentalist, Charles Montgomery has advised and lectured to planners, designers and decision-makers across America, Canada and England. Working with the BMW Guggenheim Lab, the Museum of Vancouver and other institutions, he also creates experiments that challenge us to see our cities—and ourselves—in entirely new ways.

Montgomery’s Home for the Games initiative led hundreds of people to open their homes to strangers during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. His writings on urban planning, psychology, culture and history have appeared in magazines and journals on three continents. His awards include a Citation of Merit from the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society for outstanding contribution to public understanding of climate change science. His first book, The Last Heathen, won the 2005 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.

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