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Growth Patterns Across Canada

The Neptis Foundation study learned that 80 per cent of Calgary's growth in the 1990s had occurred through greenfield development. Yikes! Thanks to Michael Soron on Flickr for the stunning Creative Commons aerial photo.

It’s been almost two years since I transplanted myself from Ontario to British Columbia, and I continue to be fascinated by the differences in attitude and political will around planning issues in the two provinces. I recently stumbled across an interesting study by the Neptis Foundation that compared recent growth patterns of three Canadian metropolitan regions: Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver.

It’s a thought-provoking study, if not altogether surprising. It’s no secret that Vancouver is reputed as a model of sustainable development and good planning while … Continue Reading

CTRF 2010: Linking land use and transit

Transit service and land use patterns are inextricably linked. Thanks to Wylie Poon on Flickr for this Creative Commons photo showing a transit expansion in Toronto!

One of the session topics on the last day of the CTRF 2010 conference was Urban Transit, which for the transit planner at heart was a great way to close off the event! The first paper was presented by Sybil Derrible, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. The paper, prepared with Bilal Farooq, categorized four types of neighbourhoods based on the type of land use development and corresponding transit potential. The four styles were exemplified by Toronto-based developments, but can be applied to most North American settlement patterns. They are: urban sprawled, … Continue Reading

CTRF 2010 – Active Transportation Part Two: Cyclists in the big city, what are you worried about?

The second part of the active transportation series included a more specific paper presentation on cyclists which I thought was deserving of its own post due to the appropriate season and continuing push for bike plans across North America.

Cycling as a mode of transport for utilitarian purposes was the focus of Asya Bidodinova’s presentation. Asya is a MA candidate at the University of Toronto, where the research took focus, studying the policies and infrastructure that accommodated for cyclists making utilitarian trips. While her research focused primarily on the downtown campus of the University of Toronto, the implications of her study apply to the city at large and any city seeking ways to encourage bike use to current- and non-users. The study highlighted the concerns of cyclists (and non cyclists) in order of priority to what deterred cycling for utilitarian purposes … Continue Reading

CTRF 2010 Conference: Active Transportation – influences and policy support for the built environment

From May 30th to June 2nd, Toronto hosts the 45th annual Canadian Transportation Research Forum, with the theme ‘transportation and logistics trends and policies: successes and failures’. The spectrum of papers being presented this year ranges from container shipping trends and implications, to the benefits of roundabouts for pedestrian safety; needless to say there is no shortage of critical ideas! This series of posts will include brief summaries with critiques and links in hopes to evoke critical discussion and questioning on some of the issues.

Thanks to Arti Sandhu on Flickr for this wonderful Creative Commons illustration of active transportation components. She entitles this photo "The Chase"

The two stage sessions that I attended on Monday were on the topic of Active Transportation. The first set … Continue Reading

Vancouver’s New Year’s Resolution to encourage transit use

On a day when millions of people around the world were making New Years resolutions about shrinking their waistlines, Vancouver quietly saw a policy enter into action that may end up seriously shrinking the city’s carbon footprint. Effective January 1st, gasoline taxes will rise in Greater Vancouver by three cents, and the parking sales tax will rise by 300%. While the taxes come amid fiscal turmoil at the region’s transportation agency Translink, they are good policies that will help build a better city. If only Vancouverites knew how lucky they truly are. . .

A walk through Canada’s densest neighbourhood

This fence is known as a bicycle graveyard due to high chance of theft. St. James Town has terrible bike facilities.

This fence is known as a bicycle graveyard due to high chance of theft. St. James Town has terrible bike facilities.

A few months ago, I wrote about Jane’s Walks, a yearly weekend of walking tours in cities all over the world. Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in one of these walks, held especially for the Creative Places + Spaces conference. It took place in one of the most curious neighbourhoods in Toronto – St. James Town. After a major zoning change in the 1950s, maximum heights were raised drastically, and developers quickly bought up the Victorian homes in their way. In … Continue Reading

Participatory Budgeting in Toronto’s Public Housing – Canadian Conference on Dialogue and Deliberation

Millions of dollars are collaboratively allocated each year according to the priorities of residents in Toronto’s public housing units. This participatory budgeting process was invented 20 years ago in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and is now transforming budgeting processes in cities around the world.

The Canadian Conference on Dialogue and Deliberation presented a panel on Toronto Community Housing’s experience with participatory budgeting from academic, management and participant viewpoints.

How Participatory Budgeting Works
Dr. Daniel Schugurensky, University of Toronto professor, outlined five stages of participatory budgeting: (1) diagnosis to identify community needs, (2) deliberation to understand, (3) decision-making, (4) implementation of agreements, and, (5) follow up, including monitoring and evaluation.

Each year, Toronto Community Housing spends $9M on capital projects (infrastructure, improvements, etc). Twenty per cent of this budget, $1.8M, is allocated by residents according to their priorities. Once a … Continue Reading

CIP Conference: From edge city to urban place: Tysons Corner revisited

This session took place on October 1.

Uri Avin of Parsons Brinckerhoff and Iain Dobson of the Real Estate Search Corporation discussed edge cities and how they can be transformed into urban places. Avin described Tysons Corner, Virginia, a prototypical “edge city” and the 12th largest business district in the United States. Although Tysons Corner, located just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Dulles Airport corridor, is generally considered to be an economic success, the city suffers from an increasingly dysfunctional environmen. Dobson contrasted Tysons Corner with Mississauga, Ontario, a similar city in terms of square footage, population, jobs, and other statistics, but stagnating nonetheless.

Edge cities are typically suburban commercial, retail, and residential developments built in areas that contained no development 30 years ago. They are usually outside a larger urban area and tend to be close to highways and airports. … Continue Reading

CIP Conference: Non-Traditional Practices in Growth Management

Perhaps the last installment in live blogging from the 2009 CIP conference, this session (held October 3) dealt with growth management, a critical issue for many North American cities. This summary focuses on the presentations of two of the session’s speakers.

Russ Mathew, a planner from Toronto, ON with Hemson Consulting, spoke about the new Growth Plan for Canada’s most populous urban area. The Greater Golden Horseshoe includes the Greater Toronto Area as well as smaller subcentres. Looking ahead to 2031, the Plan sets numeric targets for residential and employment density (an average of 50 residents + jobs per hectare) as well as intensification of currently built-up areas (40% of new housing is to be accommodated within the current built-up area, especially transit-oriented growth centres.) Russ is concerned about the plan’s focus on predictive numeric targets instead of livable design, and … Continue Reading

CIP Niagara Conference: Contemporary Approaches to Urban Heritage

This post comes to you from an afternoon session entitled “Saving our cities: Contemporary approaches to heritage planning.” The two joint speakers are Phil Goldsmith and Antonio Gómez-Palacio, who have worked together on several projects. Mr. Gómez-Palacio works with the Office for Urbanism, while Mr. Goldsmith has extensive experience in adaptive reuse of Toronto’s heritage buildings.

Contemporary Approaches to Heritage

Phil Goldsmith and Antonio Gómez-Palacio argue for a hybrid approach to heritage restoration and new architectural styles. Photo by author.

The session opened with the quote “Although […] heritage belongs to everyone, each of its parts is nevertheless at the mercy of any individual” (Amsterdam Charter, 1975). Intensification of urban fabric places stress on heritage buildings, so the present is an important time for the heritage of … Continue Reading

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