Why “TOD” is great news for all of us

A rendering of transit-oriented development in Markham

A rendering of transit-oriented development at the future Markham Centre

Recently, I wrote about transit and the role it has in shaping communities, in particular, the development that tends to spring up along transit routes and around stations. This time, I want to talk more about what we mean by “transit-oriented-development” ( TOD for short), and why this kind of development will be good news for people in York Region—whether or not they are transit users themselves.

Most people get around York Region by car – possibly because they want to – but also because some people find it challenging to do all the things they need to do in a day by transit. That’s not surprising in a region like this one; in communities where development has been shaped by a long-standing car culture, destinations are more likely to be spread out, with greater distances between live-work-play destinations. Even the design of buildings may be shaped by car usage, with large parking lots separating buildings from roads.

The idea behind TOD is that people using transit are also likely to be pedestrians at some point during their journey – either at the beginning, or the end (or both). Studies have shown that people are willing to walk about 5 minutes to or from transit, which is somewhere between 400 and 600 metres. So TOD uses the approach of creating a complete community within walking distance of transit – including workplaces, homes, shopping, recreation and services. The thinking is that if new developments are designed to be conveniently compact and appealing to pedestrians, people are more likely to leave their car at home for at least one of their trips. Obviously, the good news is that more people taking transit means fewer cars on the road, less pollution, and less gridlock.

So York Region planners have linked the plans for the vivaNext rapidways to land use policies that will result in more TOD along Viva routes and near vivastations. These policies will likely mean that much of the new development built around vivastations will be compact and mixed-use, providing housing, employment, retail, dining, services and recreation, all within a walkable distance of transit. Developments will also include more welcoming public spaces, attractive landscaping, and other amenities so that people enjoy being out and about.

How will this affect you? In a pre-TOD scenario, a typical day could start with a drive to work, then a drive to a restaurant for dinner, ending with a drive to a movie or concert before driving back home. With more TOD, you would have the choice of taking transit to work, then walking around the corner from the office to dinner, then strolling across the street for a show before grabbing a coffee and getting home again by transit. Same day, two different ways of getting around.

The point is that transit and TOD don’t have to change the way people live in York Region, but it will give us all more choices – in what we do, where we do it, and how we get there. We think that’s good news for everyone.

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