Development = $Transit
When Toronto's planning established its re-urbanisation strategy it called the practice 'intensification'... meaning to increase magnitude, to make a quantum leap.
Other cities addressing re-urbanisation - London, Paris, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne - called it 'consolidation'... meaning to merge things together, to view matters comprehensively considering balances and equilibriums.
Over the past decade Toronto has approved development projects justified by their intensity without duly focusing on how these work in concert with each other and their urban context, nor how such development trends play out over time.
Intensification has abetted short-sighted thinking, for instance, intensification at subway stops have proceeded as if by some noble right, and in the process sidestepping financial support for transit.
The added-value transit invests upon these projects is simply pocketed. As one developer put it to the OMB... 'First In, Best Dressed!' implying timeliness over veracity, blindsideding recognition of the equilibrium between development and transit. Development = Transit
THE TALK ABOUT 'TOWN'
In this past week the interlacing of urban development and transit has been at the forefront of Canadian Urban Institute talks:
Only a few weeks earlier in October Torontonians asserted at the polls a preference for subways over the current transit strategy of LRT solutions.
Then new mayor Rob Ford confirmed his intent to redirect transit development towards subways.
FUNDING STRATEGY Development = $Transit
The talk about town supports building the Eglinton Transit Corridor by means of a straight forward funding strategy that:
LRT's and subways are distinctly different systems; they are not to be considered as interchangeable.
ANTICIPATING POPULATION DISTRIBUTION
Toronto's future population distribution falls into physical segments of opportunity with quantifiable footprints. Capacity models can be created by applying multipliers of new density over top of existing development, and similarly applying presumptions about the percentage of build-out over time. Through a process of 'rocking' back and forth truthing a diversity of models against sample sites, a resonance emerges about where density can and will be achieved over the next 30-40 years, as follows:
Toronto's re-urbanisation ambition is reliant upon public transit AND sustainable funding for that public transit.
Toronto should be continuously busy building its transit infrastructure, delivering a stream of improvement to keep up with its growth, and putting certainty into Toronto's big-picture of growth and change.
It shifts the focus of attention to drill-down on the work at hand. It ensures a knowledgeable, experienced management and workforce is in place, which can be relied upon without surprises rather than experiencing such things as St. Clair's cost overrun.
What follows is how development and building transit infrastructure can be linked together hand-in-hand to fund itself through loans repaid by the build-out of development.
1 - FUNDING TRANSIT INFRASTRUCTURE
Toronto has a history of devolving into transit debates... prone to falter, prone to failure... contributing to our current shortfall in public transit.
Recently, a variety of transit-funding strategies have been considered, none of which have connected transit-development with property-intensification along transit corridors. Instead these funding proposals have targeted transportation segments: road tolls, gas taxes and increased transit-user fees; whilst others have been broad-based tax proposals: raising city taxes and calling upon provincial and federal tax resources. However, all these funding proposals fail to acknowledge that Toronto's 'urban growth and transit' are integrally, intimately, and reflexively intertwined. AND property-development continues to go on independently, ignoring transit reciprocity.
The provision of assured, sustainable, transit funding lies within the 'intensification-dividend'. It requires no rocket-surgeon to appreciate that introducing a transit corridor creates increased property values throughout its traverse. This transit stimulates intensification initiatives pushing up densities. Rather than unwittingly gifting away the intensification-dividend, as if satisfying some urban-imperative, we need to apply a funding-formula linking transit-development with property-development intensification.
The solution involves prescribing a blanket of densification ranging between 1, 2, 3 and in some points more, additional coverage based upon local circumstances, and subject to conditions. Then as development intensifies transit-funding levies come into effect. Establishing what is effectively an 'intensification-bank' dispenses with the elusive, broad quandaries about transit funding. It moves the focus along to managing the practicalities of bridge-financing; and in so doing ensures that intensification automatically provides for transit infrastructure.
2 - INTENSIFICATION COMES ABOUT AS PART OF CONSOLIDATION
City-building is not about intensification for the sake of intensification, nor simply perpetuating super-sized 'more-of-the-same' urban productions. The paramount objective of re-urbanisation is consolidation; and to treat it otherwise is to put 'the cart before the horse' with all its consequences... more rightly a cart without a horse!
Over the past decade we have experienced super-sized developments, over-concentrating rather than diversifying and distributing density blended into the existing urban fabric. In many instances these are predilective developments that have chosen to clog-up vital locations in the emerging transit matrix. Furthermore, they have avoided contributing funds for the very same transit infrastructure upon which their market-strategies rely.
To be fair, they have failed to exercise good consolidation principles because there is no planning framework in place to set out, define, orchestrate and inform these city-builders of preferred and comprehensive outcomes.
As a result of this current state of affairs Toronto endures lost opportunities. Meanwhile the city's population continues to intensify within its finite bounds with its finite community facilities and finite (and, ahem, dwindling) public resources.
In truth it's an unsustainable urban development practice, which left to its own, undermines the city's ambition and the very veracity of the city's expectation of successfully bringing about consolidated growth.
3 - TRANSIT CORRIDOR PLANNING
To date transit corridors, such as along Eglinton, have been described in terms of the core-conduit or 'pipe'... track-alignments, transit-stations, the confluences with intersecting transit routes, and pedestrian access-ways or gateways to the surrounding environment. There remains to be described, in a similar fashion, the broader corridor of potential intensification surrounding the transit-pipe, articulating the elements of this urban structure.
A transit-corridor structure-plan will identify and clarify the diversity of local circumstances, and articulate appropriate development- morphologies throughout the corridor including: mainstreet-typologies of varying heights commensurate with their surrounds, point-loading tower opportunities, areas of high-rise, mid-rise and low-form development. The planning corridor should extend 500-meters back on each side of the transit-pipe equivalent to a five-minute walking distance.
Within this context can be reasoned the extent, character and new-order configuration of intensification, and articulating the integration with adjacent neighbourhoods maximising benefits and minimising impacts.
4 - EGLINTON TRANSIT CORRIDOR
Thr Transit infrastructure along Eglinton is estimated to cost $4.6 billion over its 33-kilometre traverse. To fund this through development levies will require 85,000 dwelling units be built over time in a variety of configurations satisfying local conditions along this corridor. Applying the simplest rule-of-thumb-averaging produces a homogeneous measure of 2.6 dwellings per linear metre.
Development will in fact be varied, reflective of local circumstances extending from the obvious non-developable park-environ of Jane and Eglinton to the enterprise Centre of Yonge Eglinton. Accounting for this, and allowing for 50% of sites coming to fruition, preliminary analysis suggests that 35% of the transit corridor's intensification can be achieved through mainstreet-typologies, 20% in high-rise and mid-rise configurations, 40% in low-form developments, and 5% in neighbouring infill.
Besides satisfying immediate considerations, preparing a structure-plan enables a broad array of community considerations to be brought into play including strategies for accommodating the on-going changing demographics of ageing population, the inclusion of affordable housing, and the inclusion of local community infrastructures (services, facilities, amenities and open space provisions).
5 - LOCAL PLANNING
Planning is provided to ensure orderly growth.
Informed by the overarching structure-plan, Local Planning can then articulate and in turn inform city-builders how best to attain beneficial results. Local Planning is needed to describe in urban characteristics the realms of street-level, below-grade, immediately above-grade and over top... the residential and work-place silos. By declaring these features, just as Metrolinx describes its pipe, Local Planning can establish frameworks that on-going property intensification can then materialise incrementally, project by project, over time.
Such a planned approach ensures that all this takes place in a comprehensive, astute and cooperative manner; whereas, without an expressed framework development tends to proceed in an unplanned self-serving manner that fails to fulfil city interests.
In the current practice neighbourhoods are confronted with un-bridled development, and they challenge these propositions lest undue impacts bear-down upon them. On the other hand, when it can be demonstrated that neighbourhoods are accommodating a proportioned share and in so doing acquiring beneficial transit - neighbourhoods will positively embrace and get on with the matter at hand. This has been demonstrated in the adoption of a Local Planning Framework for the TTC Block at Yonge Eglinton.
6 - CONCLUSION
For Toronto to accomplish its transit-based re-urbanisation it requires transit corridor planning supported by an established, sustainable funding practice that harnesses the intensification-dividend to perfect the necessary transit infrastructure.
Failing which... when the intensification-train leaves the station... urban objectives, cost-burdens and lost-opportunities will be left standing on the platform.