Summary of empirical findings

This necessarily brief discussion of current (and longer-term) trends in the Central Ontario Zone provides a compelling case that the fundamental elements of transportation-urban form interaction are known and demonstrable based on experience within the Central Ontario Zone. Key findings include the following.

  • Coordinated land use-transportation planning can work and can make a difference. The Metropolitan Toronto experience of the 1950s through the 1970s (the benefits of which we enjoy to this day) is clear and unambiguous evidence of this.
  • Trends over the past 15 years equally clearly indicate that current land use and transportation policies are not promoting a smart or sustainable urban form or pattern of travel behaviour.
  • Employment density is a critical element in transit-supportive urban form. The Toronto downtown obviously is the dominant example. Schimek argues, however, the relatively high employment densities in other parts of the City of Toronto and, arguably, other portions of the Central Ontario Zone, can also support transit, provided that other elements promoting transit usage are also in place.
  • Residential density is also important for transit usage, but housing must be built in a way that is effective in providing convenient access to transit and in facilitating the provision of transit services.
  • Mixed-use development, in which residential, commercial, and recreational activities are intermingled in a cohesive and attractive way, is critical to promoting non-motorized modes of trip-making. In most communities outside the City of Toronto, walking and cycling are more important modes of travel than transit. From any criterion imaginable - personal health, environmental impact, individual or societal costs - non-motorized trip-making is obviously optimal. Moreover, walkability is a hallmark of great urban centres and great small towns. Thus, promoting neighbourhoods that support walking and cycling should be a primary concern of town and city design. A notable failure of "classic" postwar suburban design (which, unfortunately, also applies to much urban design within this same time period) is the patent lack of walkability of such areas, because of the absence of mixed land uses and the physical layout of the built environment (including curvilinear streets, no sidewalks, the priority given to parking lots and vehicle movements, boring or even hostile streetscapes). Mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood design is also transit-supportive, for fairly obvious reasons.
  • Coordinated, reliable, competitive transit services obviously must be provided if transit is to be a viable alternative to "choice riders" (trip-makers who have a choice between using transit and driving a car for a given trip). Downtown Toronto is the primary example, in which 53% of all morning peak-period trips and 38% of all daily trips are made by transit, many of them made by choice riders. The challenge for extending this sort of performance to other activity centres (appropriately scaled for the size of the given centre) is the chicken-and-egg nature of the transit-land use interaction: high-quality, competitive transit can be provided cost-effectively only where land use patterns support such services, but such transit-supportive built forms can only be built if the appropriate transit service is provided. The question of which comes first (the land use or the transit service) and of how to create such a symbiotic system (given the long lead times, high costs, and risks involved in the system's development and evolution) is, perhaps, the critical question facing planners and decision-makers in the urbanized portions of the Central Ontario Zone where such transit-oriented development makes the most sense.

After extending this discussion of the urban form-travel behaviour interaction to the question of goods movements in the next section, we will consider apply the lessons learned within the Central Ontario Zone so that in the coming decades the Central Ontario Zone can grow smarter.