In a previous article, I gave a grand tour of the Ontario line showing the general layout of stations and the alignment of the route. However, Metrolinx has yet to publish anything beyond station footprints – the areas stations will occupy, and by extension the buildings that will be removed or altered to accommodate them.
See: Webinar for Smart Density: An Ontario Line Tour
Infrastructure Ontario (IO) has a parallel process for the design of Transit Oriented Communities (TOCs) which are intended to focus development at stations and, in part, to recoup the cost of construction. To date they have conducted public consultations for four locations: Corktown, Exhibition, King-Bathurst, and Queen-Spadina.
Within each site’s page there are links to the videos, presentation decks and to the detailed building plans as submitted to the City of Toronto.
The illustrations in this article are taken from these presentation decks:
- Corktown Station: Virtual Open House 1 – September 27, 2021
- Corktown Station: Virtual Open House 2 – December 6, 2021
- Exhibition Station: Virtual Open House 1 – October 4, 2021
- Exhibition Station: Virtual Open House 2 – November 30, 2021
- Queen-Spadina Station: Virtual Open House 1 – November 6, 2021
- King-Bathurst Station: Virtual Open House 1 – September 29, 2021
- King-Bathurst & Queen-Spadina Stations: Virtual Open House 2 – December 2, 2021
The online sessions have a format familiar to those who have watched or participated in Ontario Line sessions: a lengthy presentation followed by a short, moderated Q&A. For those interested in details of specific sites, to the extent that IO revealed them, I recommend watching the videos of the consultation sessions.
The proposals shown are conceptual, and there is no guarantee that what is eventually built will include key details worked out with communities and city planners. The provincial record on transit projects and consultation is far from trustworthy.
These developments are quite large compared to what is there today. Affected communities have pushed back about the scale and density. IO has made some changes, but mainly by rearranging the physical volume of buildings while leaving their overall size intact.
A common point IO makes, just as any other developer would do, is that the neighbourhoods around stations should be judged not on their current form, but on what they will become with developments already in the pipeline. This sort of catch-22 plays out all over the city. Once a very tall building is approved, often by force of provincial decisions, not by local planning, this sets a precedent for everything that will follow.
Land nearby a transit station (defined as within 800m or a 10 minute walk) puts a great deal of the city under its umbrella. Provincially-mandated growth is a blanket excuse for larger buildings even if the resulting density greatly exceeds provincial targets.
There is a more general issue about TOCs in that they are primary residential. Transit demand is easier to concentrate with commercial buildings such as in the core because of the many-to-one commuting pattern. Residential buildings tend to generate trips outward in whatever direction there is a convenient path such as a nearby highway or transit line provided to a destination. A related issue with new residential development is the amount of parking included and, therefore, the relative attractiveness of longer road trips vs transit trips.
If a so-called transit community features parking for all of its residents, this does not give transit a “leg up”. These sites, as planned, do have a preponderance of bicycle parking over auto spaces, and many buildings have no auto parking at all. Whether this ratio survives to actual construction remains to be seen.
Another key point is timing. Occupancy of the proposed buildings is aimed at the early 2030s because they will sit on top of future stations. Even at Exhibition where the TOC development is north of the joint GO/OL corridor, construction is not slated to start until 2029.
The upside is that transit will already be there when residents move in. This is totally unlike what happened on Queens Quay where development has preceded good transit service.
To jump to a specific station, click the links below:Continue reading