Density

Comparing overall densities

As Table 13 shows, the highest densities tend to be in the most central locations within the metropolitan region. Downtown Toronto is unchallenged in this regard, with a joint residential-employment density more than 55 per cent higher than that of the Yonge-Eglinton node, which comes second among the study areas. Not surprisingly, given the important concentration of jobs in the Central Business District, employment is by far the main contributor to the high downtown joint density. More so than in downtown Toronto, residential density contributes to the high Yonge-Eglinton population-plus-jobs density. It is remarkable that residential density within this node surpasses that of downtown Toronto. In North York Centre, which comes third in terms of joint density, the contributions of employment and resident population are about equal. Finally, the Yonge Street Corridor owes its density primarily to its residential function, while downtown Oakville has an employment density considerably higher than its residential density.

Table 13: Population, dwellings, and employment density, study areas and two suburban business parks

 

Population
per km2

Dwellings
per km2

Jobs
per km2

Population plus

jobs per km2

Downtown Toronto

7,950

4,500

39,450

47,400

Yonge-Eglinton

12,950

8,400

17,600

30,550

North York Centre

11,250

5,200

12,500

23,750

Yonge Street Corridor

7,850

4,100

5,100

12,850

Downtown Oakville

3,650

2,000

6,700

10,350

Downtown Kitchener

3,450

1,800

5,800

9,250

Scarborough Town Centre

2,250

950

6,350

8,600

Mississauga City Centre

3,800

1,650

4,300

8,100

Mississauga East Corridor

4,900

1,700

900

5,800

Highway 404, North East Steeles Business Park

120

37

3,350

3,500

Highway 401, Airport Corporate Centre

18

1

3,300

3,300

Centres are ranked in order of combined (population plus jobs) density.
Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census, special tabulation

All the other study areas have joint densities below 10,000 per km2. Downtown Kitchener, the highest scoring among these lower-density areas, owes its density primarily to employment, as does Scarborough Town Centre, the next study area in terms of joint density. In Mississauga City Centre, in contrast, there is less difference in the respective roles of residential and employment density, similar to the North York Centre situation. The Mississauga East Corridor owes its density nearly exclusively to its residential population.

The general drop in density as we move from downtown Toronto to inner-city Toronto, and then to suburban study areas, corresponds with the familiar metropolitan-wide density slope from the core to the periphery (see the classical models of Alonso, 1960; Clark, 1951; Wingo, 1961; see also Chen, 1997).12 Downtowns, nodes, and corridors present a higher-density version of their urban and suburban surroundings. As we shall see, the mode of transportation that dominates within each urban zone clearly influences the density of the study areas. Density reflects a mutual adjustment between travel patterns within these areas and their land use. Transit use and walking require far higher densities and mixtures of uses than automobile-oriented environments (see, for example, Anderson, Kanaroglou and Miller, 1996; Badoe and Miller, 2000; Cervero, 2002; Dittmar and Ohland, 2004; Pushkarev and Zupan, 1977). 

A comparison of the study areas to two large, fully developed automobile-oriented business parks, one at the northeast corner of Highway 404 and Steeles Avenue and the other along Highway 401 south of the airport (the Airport Corporate Centre), shows that study areas all achieve joint densities that far exceed those of the two business parks. Such business parks are the usual location of office and manufacturing employment in the suburbs (Cervero, 1989; Hughes, Miller and Lang, 1992; Lang, 2003). At first glance, the low density of the business parks could be blamed on a near-absence of housing within their areas. But even in terms of employment alone, the density of all selected downtowns, nodes, and corridors, with the exception of the Mississauga East corridor, which is predominantly residential, exceeds that of the two business parks.

Yet in most cases, study areas remain well below the Places to Grow density thresholds set for 2031. Of all the study areas, only downtown Toronto meets these density objectives — 474 people and jobs per hectare, versus a goal of 400 for City of Toronto Urban Growth Centres.13 The population and employment densities of other nodes in the City of Toronto are below this threshold: 305 for Yonge-Eglinton, 237 for North York Centre, and 86 for Scarborough Town Centre. Likewise, the density of other study areas is considerably less than the objective of 200 people and jobs per hectare by 2031 for UGCs in the Greater Toronto Area (outside the City of Toronto) and Kitchener-Waterloo: 81 for Mississauga City Centre, 103 for downtown Oakville, and 92 for downtown Kitchener. Even nodal developments that have achieved a high level of development (which is the case of nodes under study in the report) will need considerable intensification to meet these objectives. The gap between present and projected density levels in investigated nodes casts doubt on the ability of present configurations to reach these density objectives.

Population and dwelling density

The relationship between population and dwelling density indicates that, because of smaller household size (1.7 persons per household on average), it takes more dwellings in downtown Toronto and the Yonge-Eglinton node to accommodate a given population than it does in Mississauga City Centre (2.9 persons per household), Scarborough Town Centre (2.9), or the Mississauga East corridor (3.0), where household sizes are much larger.14 The Yonge Street corridor (2.0), North York Centre (2.4), and downtown Oakville (1.9) occupy a median position. 

Here again, the study areas reflect a metropolitan-wide trend: increasing household size as we move from the core of the region to its periphery (Davies and Murdie, 1994; Murdie, 1969). Downtown Oakville is an exception, which will be investigated later. Factors accounting for this situation include the predilection of single-person or childless households for downtown and transit-oriented life-styles, along with the higher prices and smaller sizes of housing units in Toronto’s central areas.

Table 14 presents the percentage of study area units belonging to different housing types. One cannot make a simple connection between household size and housing type distributions. In all the nodes, units in buildings with five or more storeys represent the vast majority of units. The housing profile of downtown Toronto is comparable to that of the nodes, despite important variations in household size. On the other hand, the two corridors and downtown Oakville have a more even distribution of housing types, with units in buildings with five or more storeys either at or below 50 per cent. Finally, in downtown Kitchener, the percentage of units in buildings with five or more storeys is considerably lower than in any other study area. 

Table 14 further indicates that in all cases, including downtown Kitchener, the proportion of units in buildings with five or more storeys is much higher in the study areas than in their respective urban zone or municipality. Even in downtown Oakville and downtown Kitchener, where the over-representation of such units is less pronounced, all types of multiples together far surpass proportions registered in their respective municipalities. 

Table 14: Per cent dwelling types in study areas and their respective urban zone or municipality, and ratios of study area proportions relative to those of their urban zone or municipality 

 

Single-

detached House

Semi-

detached House

Row House

Apartment,

Detached Duplex

Apartment,

Building with

Five or More Storeys

Apartment,

Building with

Less than Five Storeys

Other

Single-detached

Movable

Downtown Toronto

1.5%

3.0%

3.3%

0.5%

80.4%

10.8%

0.6%

0.0%

Inner City

19.9%

14.4%

4.7%

3.2%

38.8%

18.5%

0.7%

0.0%

Ratio: Downtown Toronto / Inner City

0.08

0.21

0.70

0.16

2.08

0.58

0.90

0.0

Yonge-Eglinton

5.7%

2.9%

2.6%

1.0%

70.9%

16.5%

0.7%

0.0%

Inner City

19.9%

14.4%

4.7%

3.2%

38.8%

18.5%

0.7%

0.0%

Ratio: Yonge-Eglinton / Inner City

0.29

0.20

0.56

0.30

1.83

0.83

1.00

0.0

North York Centre

8.8%

0.5%

5.0%

0.1%

83.6%

2.2%

0.0%

0.0%

City of North York

31.3%

9.8%

6.2%

10.1%

41.5%

10.1%

0.1%

0.0%

Ratio: North York Centre / North York

0.28

0.05

0.80

0.10

2.01

0.22

0.37

0.0

Scarborough Town Centre

5.8%

0.0%

2.1%

0.0%

92.1%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

City of Scarborough

44.2%

5.6%

8.0%

3.1%

34.8%

4.3%

0.1%

0.0%

Ratio: Scarborough Town Centre / Scarborough

0.13

0.0

0.27

0.0

2.65

0.0

0.0

0.0

Mississauga City Centre

2.7%

2.9%

3.8%

0.2%

90.2%

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

City of Mississauga

44.5%

12.5%

13%

0.8%

24.7%

4.2%

0.1%

0.2%

Ratio: Mississauga City Centre / Mississauga

0.06

0.23

0.29

0.23

3.65

0.0

0.0

0.0

Downtown Oakville

14.2%

2.1%

8.9%

0.5%

45.8%

27.4%

0.0%

0.0%

Town of Oakville

66.0%

4.2%

12%

0.5%

13.2%

4.0%

0.1%

0.0%

Ratio: Downtown Oakville / Oakville

0.22

0.5

0.75

1.04

3.48

6.78

0.0

0.0

Downtown Kitchener

30.5%

2.5%

0.4%

8.9%

32.7%

23.6%

1.5%

0.0%

Kitchener CMA

55.5%

6.9%

9.9%

1.8%

10.8%

14.6%

0.3%

0.2%

Ratio: Downtown Kitchener / Kitchener CMA

0.55

0.37

0.04

5.05

3.02

1.61

4.64

0.0

Yonge Street Corridor

22.7%

6.0%

1.9%

2.8%

50.5%

16.0%

0.3%

0.0%

Inner City

19.9%

14.4%

4.7%

3.2%

38.8%

18.5%

0.7%

0.0%

Ratio: Yonge Street Corridor / Inner City

1.14

0.41

0.41

0.87

1.30

0.86

0.41

0.0

Mississauga East Corridor

27.5%

10.6%

14.6%

0.1%

43.0%

3.6%

0.0%

0.65

City of Mississauga

44.5%

12.5%

13%

0.8%

24.7%

4.2%

0.1%

0.25

Ratio: Mississauga East Corridor / Mississauga

0.62

0.85

1.12

0.12

1.74

0.85

0.0

3.21

Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census.
Notes
12. Unlike most other variables studied here, density scores of study areas are not compared with those of their respective urban zone or municipality. The difficulty in measuring density at a zonal or municipal scale that would be consistent with those of selected downtowns, nodes, and corridors prevents such comparisons.  Downtowns and nodes, and to a somewhat lesser extent, density corridors, were defined to include mostly land uses that are compatible with their status as high-density concentrations of activities. The calculation of the density of zones and municipalities, by contrast, would take in all kinds of land uses, including large swaths of land occupied neither by housing nor employment. The presence of these large surfaces would depress the overall density of zones and municipalities, and reduce the usefulness of the results for a comparison with the study areas. Still, to provide a benchmark mirroring common suburban employment location patterns, the density of the study areas is compared to that of two large automobile-dependent business parks.
13. The density figures presented here differ from those in Places to Grow documents describing the present state of UGCs because downtown and nodal spatial definitions adopted in this report do not correspond to the larger UGC territories used in Places to Grow (Ontario, 2005c). 
14. See Table 9 for household size data.