According to an article in The Vancouver Province, the answer is transit. Larry Beasley, who spent 32 years in Vancouver’s planning department, argues that it all started with streetcars.
“When you look at what makes a successful street, I go back to the old prewar neighbourhoods, the streetcars suburbs,” says Beasley.
Beasley further argues that “the most successful areas even today are consequence of what we had 100 years ago. It’s my argument that given that legacy we should respect that. […] When you talk about neighbourhoods, people tend to forget that transit provides the image.”
The article goes on to note that by the time suburbs like Burnaby and Surrey started developing, cars were the dominant form of transportation and this changed the ways communities were built in those areas. With streets moving away from residential neighbourhoods and toward highways and strip malls, the desire to get out and walk in communities started to dwindle.
However, Beasley notes that “The more you create a circumstance where it’s convenient to walk the streets, where people can talk to one another, what congeals around that can be a viable neighbourhood.”