On July 1st, 2017, the updated Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe came into effect. The purpose of the Growth Plan is to manage and guide development in southern Ontario in a manner, which is sustainable, both economically and environmentally, while also building complete communities where families can live, play and work.

The 2017 edition of the Growth Plan includes new policies relating to the expansion of settlement areas, employment lands and to areas around higher order transit. The latter of which is perhaps the most interesting addition to the plan, with respect to urbanism, intensification and transit-oriented development.

As of Canada’s 150th birthday, municipalities in the Golden Horseshoe will be required to delineate areas near planned or existing higher order transit stations in their Official Plans. And it requires that new development in said areas achieve specific density minimums depending on the category of transit in the vicinity.

The Growth Plan defines major transit station areas as lands within a 500 metre radius or 10 minute walk to higher order transit, which include subway, GO, light rail and bus rapid transit stations. However, it will be up to the discretion of the municipality to delineate the boundaries of the station areas depending on land use, context and redevelopment potential.
The density requirement of a particular transit station area will be dependent on the typology of transit present. Areas near a GO station will require a minimum density target of 150 residents and jobs combined per hectare. While areas near LRT and BRT stations will required 160 residents and jobs combined per hectare and a minimum target of 200 residents and jobs combined per hectare will be required for areas near subway stations.

While these density targets may be difficult to visualize, it is worth noting that the “urban growth centres” of municipalities outside of the City of Toronto are also required to plan for at least 200 residents and jobs per hectare. Although the “urban growth centres” are generally larger geographically than what the major transit station areas will be, the intent of this newly created policy is quite telling.

The ramifications of this policy can be quite positive with respect to introducing density and development to areas that previously may not have seen a lot of growth. Particularly in the inner suburbs where the built form context around transit stations can still be relatively auto-dependent. In the long term, this policy may prove to redistribute development more uniformly across the region and to capitalize on infrastructure spending.

Written by: Roman Tsap







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