Transit is the talk of the region these days and Edward J. Levy’s webbook Rapid Transit in Toronto: A Century of Plans, Progress, Politics and Paralysis is a timely body of work that provides useful historical lessons and insights as today’s politicians, planners and citizens discuss ways to build and finance transit infrastructure.
The webbook published in collaboration with The Neptis Foundation is a treasure trove of rare, historical maps and plans dating back to the early 20th century which tracks numerous but unsuccessful attempts to build a rapid transit network that placed Toronto at the centre of a vast, interconnected region.
Levy says there has never been a shortage of creative and robust rapid transit plans which, had they come to fruition, might have created the integrated network Toronto never built and now needs more than ever.
Instead the history of attempts to build a rapid transit network in Toronto has been a sad story of missed opportunities.
Many of these plans contained the concept of a U-shaped subway line extending east and west of the city core, the long sought “network builder” that would have allowed Toronto’s skeletal subway system to become a true network offering several well distributed and integrated interchanges, built-in redundancies in the case of train breakdown, area-wide connectivity and operating flexibility for the benefit of the majority of riders across the city and region.
In the postscript to his book: Completing the Regional Connection, Levy argues that the rebirth of regionalism with the creation of Metrolinx and the Province of Ontario’s “Places to Grow” plan for south/central Ontario provides the backdrop to what should be our next grand in-city subway building exercise.
“In doing so the Greater Toronto Region must learn from its history and do it right,” said Levy.
His solution is the Regional Relief Line which builds on the idea of the proposed but very limited Downtown Relief Line, and places it squarely in a regional context, showing how a series of modifications would reduce congestion across the region, and allow a 50-year discussion about the integration of GO Transit and the TTC to become a reality.
“It is crucial that the tiresome downtown-suburban dichotomy over such projects be expunged from the discussion because this line could become the ultimate network builder, linking TTC and GO Transit services, thereby serving the whole region,” said Levy.
- Three city's apples-to-apples comparison: Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver
- Where and how growth happened was analyzed through: changes in population and dewelling, landuse plans and growth policies
- Conclusions are drawn on the relationship between type of policies, its effects and associated circumstance
- Vancouver accomodated 80% of its residential growth through intensification, while in Calgary, 78% of housing growth occurred as greenfield developmet in the urban fringe. Toronto has a rate of 44%, between Calgary and Vancouver's values.
The project is an innovative collaboration between the fields of remote sensing (the use of satellite imagery), spatial analysis and statistics, and policy analysis. The approach represents a new way to evaluate the results of planning policies and governance structures across different jurisdictions. The study found that there is a high degree of correspondence between long-term planning goals and urban development patterns in each metropolitan area. Each city pursued a different approach to planning urban growth, and that these different approaches have shaped and channelled that growth in distinctive ways. The report concludes that planning policies are more likely to be effective if they are pursued over the long term and buttressed by a sense of shared objectives and supportive institutions, and that provincial governments play a central role in shaping the institutional environments within which regional planning operates
The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2006), the Province of Ontario’s growth plan for the Toronto region, requires all municipalities to accommodate growth by first looking inward to their already-urbanized areas before considering greenfield development. This principle is formalized through an intensification policy and target. However, Ontario municipalities had not been tracking residential intensification in a uniform manner before the policy and target were put in place, so there were no records of just how much intensification was already occurring. This paper describes how the Province’s intensification target works both in principle and practice through an examination of historical rates of intensification. It takes a closer look at the concept of defining the urbanized boundary for the purposes of implementing and measuring the intensification target. Although the research is primarily directed to Ontario municipalities that are in the process of implementing the intensification target and developing a strategy for intensification, the findings of the research will interest all planners and policy-makers who are striving to achieve more compact and sustainable development.
Today, with advances in technology such as Google Earth and Bing online maps, it is possible to zoom into an intimate view of one’s own backyard. But the bigger picture is often overlooked. It is only by zooming out that we can see the region as a whole, with all its interconnections. The Neptis Foundation, in collaboration with As the Crow Flies cARTography and the Cartography Office in the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto, created this unique view of the Toronto metropolitan region to help its residents and policymakers visualize those connections and better understand the region. Going forward, the map will be used as a base for layering other information to convey important policy issues.
Although retail and service industries contribute greatly to Canada’s economy and the economies of Canadian city-regions, the effects of new forms of retailing on transportation patterns are often overlooked in planning. Most often, transportation planning has focused on the journey to work, rather than travel for other purposes, including shopping. The rise of big-box stores in the outer suburbs and the clustering of big-box stores in power centres and power nodes has affected travel patterns, but these patterns are not yet well understood.
The researchers examined 16 districts in the Greater Toronto Area to assess the relationship between density and (1) era of development; (2) standards for public facilities; (3) housing type mix; (4) street configuration; (5) employment; (6) travel behaviour. They also analysed 24 hypothetical development scenarios to estimate the effects on density of changes in housing mix, house prices, environmental protection standards, public facilities requirements, and employment patterns. The findings have implications for public policy relating to urban growh management.
Dr. Frisken describes the institutions and policies that were put in place at different times to provide region-wide services and assesses the extent to which they achieved the objectives of effective regional governance. She argues that while the provincial government responded sporadically and often reluctantly to regional population growth and expansion, its interventions nevertheless contributed to the region’s most noteworthy achievement: a core city that thrived while many other North American cities experienced population, economic, and social decline.
This comprehensive examination of the evolution of a metropolitan region is essential reading for city and regional planners, officials at all levels of government, urban historians, and those teaching and researching in this field. This retrospective view is especially timely, as the Ontario government is once again advancing regional plans, policies, and institutions for the Toronto metropolitan region.
Dr. Frances Frisken is Professor Emerita and Senior Scholar, Division of Social Science (Urban Studies), at York University, Toronto
The research, writing and publication of this book has been supported by The Neptis Foundation. To order the book please contact the publisher directly here: http://www.cspi.org/books/the-public-metropolis.