Transit lines and density

Posted by | data-driven musings | 2 Comments

I recently stumbled on a map I made last year that plots present and proposed transit lines against population density. Density  shown at the level of the city block using information from the 2011 Census.

Higher-density areas — those where the density is above 50 people per hectare — are shown in pink. Lower-density areas are shown in blue. Very low-density areas, which are typically employment lands and utility corridors, are white or grey. The threshold of 50 people per hectare is considered by some to be the minimum threshold for the provision of frequent-service transit.

What the map shows, I think, is that the case for surface LRT over subways is strong along the corridors proposed by Metrolinx and the TTC. The proposed LRT lines along Eglinton West and East and Finch would largely run through lower-density areas. Much of the existing subway system runs through broad areas of high density corresponding to the prewar city. The underground central portion of the Eglinton Crosstown line also runs through this zone.

While some corridors and transit station areas (but not the broader residential areas that would feed into them) have been intensified over the past 20 years — the North York City Centre area, the Sheppard corridor east of Yonge, and the Kipling/Islington Station areas — I’m not convinced that this can be replicated, at least anytime soon, in the blue zones where Mayor Ford wants to run subways.

Project: Ward boundary review in Toronto

Posted by | projects | 3 Comments

The disparity in the populations of the City of Toronto’s wards is large and increasing. This undermines equality of electoral representation, residents’ access to councilors, and the quality of constituency services provided by councilors. All councillors have identical office resources and time constraints, yet some must interact with more constituents than others. This imbalance will be resolved one or way or another before the next election as the City undertakes a review of ward boundaries. The question is — how? And can it be done in such a way as to improve civic democracy, accountability, and responsiveness?

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Project: Growing Cities

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This project was a comparison of long-term planning policies with measurements of urban development patterns in the Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto metropolitan areas. It showed that each city pursued a different approach to planning urban growth, and that these different approaches have shaped and channelled that growth in distinctive ways.

Commissioned by the Neptis Foundation, this project was produced in collaboration with Marcy Burchfield, Byron Moldofsky, and Jo Ashley.

Project: Shaping the Toronto Region

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This report examines 16 districts in the Greater Toronto Area to assess how density is related to era of development, standards for parks and schools, housing type mix, street configuration, employment, and travel behaviour.  We also analyzed 24 hypothetical scenarios to estimate the effects on density of planning policy changes. The findings have implications for urban growth policy.

Prepared with John van Nostrand, PlanningAlliance Inc., for the Neptis Foundation.

The report won an Excellence in Planning Award from the Canadian Institute of Planners in 2009.

Project: Simcoe County – The New Growth Frontier

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In this project we investigated plans for several very large-scale developments in the county to the north of the Greater Toronto Area found that developers, rather than municipal authorities, were driving the county’s growth pattern and infrastructure investments.

The report anticipated subsequent provincial actions to protect the Lake Simcoe watershed and ensure orderly development.

Commissioned by the Neptis Foundation and prepared with Leah Birnbaum and Lorenzo Nicolet.