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Should cities start blocking urban sprawl?

Johnny Au

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I don't think many people realize just how different US and Canada are in terms of sprawl and car dependence. If you compare Toronto proper to Chicago proper, the difference in transit ridership is 3 times. But if you compare Mississauga or Brampton to Naperville or Schaumburg, the difference in ridership is 10 times. The biggest difference between US and Canadian urban areas is the post-war suburbs.

If you look at urban areas across Canada the past 10-15 years, the density and transit ridership have been increasing, with or without a Greenbelt. US and Canada diverged in the post-war era, and they are only continuing to diverge. Sprawl is happening in US while intensification is happening in Canada.
Look at Atlanta.

It's practically all sprawl (except for a very small part of downtown and Buckhead).

Let's use subway stations.

The Five Points MARTA station (which is the busiest, since it is the only interchange station and has Spanish solution on both levels) has 19,447 riders per weekday in 2013. A comparable TTC station in 2013 would be Lawrence West station ridership-wise with 19,740 riders per weekday (Lawrence West was around 46th among all TTC stations at the time).

The least busiest TTC station in 2013 was Ellesmere with 1770 riders per weekday in 2013. This is comparable with Ashby MARTA station with 1791 riders per weekday (ranked 31st) in 2013.

The least busiest MARTA station is Vine City with only 821 riders per weekday in 2013.
 

doady

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Even by US standards, Atlanta is a very extreme example of sprawl, despite its subway system. Oklahoma City has practically no transit (the entire metropolitan area has lower ridership than Oakville Transit) yet its sprawl is much more compact than Atlanta's.

I think if you guys Google Streets View the suburbs of Atlanta and Oklahoma City and other places in the US, you will realize the 905 is just an extension or continuation of Toronto. The 905 suburbs are so similar to Toronto, they are very different from all those suburbs in the US. To talk about singling out the 905 and installing toll booths along the Toronto border doesn't make sense.

Toronto is not New York City, and Brampton is not Sandy Springs. There is a huge grey area when we talk about sprawl. And it's not static either. Oklahoma City has been expanding transit. They introduced Sunday and holiday service for the first time ever the city's history this year. Ridership is increasing. That's the most important thing, right? Mississauga and Brampton have seen massive transit ridership increase in the past 15 years. I don't see why be so concerned about them.
 

W. K. Lis

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Even by US standards, Atlanta is a very extreme example of sprawl, despite its subway system. Oklahoma City has practically no transit (the entire metropolitan area has lower ridership than Oakville Transit) yet its sprawl is much more compact than Atlanta's.

I think if you guys Google Streets View the suburbs of Atlanta and Oklahoma City and other places in the US, you will realize the 905 is just an extension or continuation of Toronto. The 905 suburbs are so similar to Toronto, they are very different from all those suburbs in the US. To talk about singling out the 905 and installing toll booths along the Toronto border doesn't make sense.

Toronto is not New York City, and Brampton is not Sandy Springs. There is a huge grey area when we talk about sprawl. And it's not static either. Oklahoma City has been expanding transit. They introduced Sunday and holiday service for the first time ever the city's history this year. Ridership is increasing. That's the most important thing, right? Mississauga and Brampton have seen massive transit ridership increase in the past 15 years. I don't see why be so concerned about them.
Milton, Ontario (located north of Oakville) will have high-rise buildings. Located close to the GO Station, of course.

From link.

Three High-Rise Buildings Could See the Light of Day in Milton

...Milton council, as noted in a press release, recently approved the proposed Official Plan Amendment and Zoning Bylaw Amendment for 130 Thompson Rd. S.

So, what exactly does this proposal include?

According to the release, the multi-residential development proposal consists of three high-rise buildings with proposed heights of 31, 29 and 27 storeys. These buildings would be located in the town’s Urban Growth Centre and Major Transit Station Area - east of the Milton GO Station.

The buildings, as noted by Milton Gord Krantz, would help connect the community in a transit-oriented area.

“The three high-rise buildings at 130 Thompson Rd. S. exemplify the next phase of intensified residential development in Milton”, Krantz said in the release.

“These buildings support the access and use of public transit and Milton’s vision for building a complete community.”

These buildings would also help contribute to the town’s growth targets that have been set by the region and province.

By the year 2031, the town must build 5,300 new residential units. Fifty per cent of the 5,300 units have to be either townhouses or multi-storey buildings. The buildings included in this newly approved proposed plan, would contribute 802 units to this target.

The goal of this target is to help support the growth of the town.

“In order to support sustainable growth and the development of a complete community, Milton must increase residential density and provide a range of housing opportunities for residents of all ages and incomes,” Barb Koopmans, Commissioner Planning & Development, said in the release.

“Appropriate intensification in the Urban Growth Centre and transit-supportive locations contribute to place-making and overall community connectivity. Staff will work closely with this developer and future developers throughout the planning and development process to incorporate Milton’s vision to build A Place of Possibility.”
 

doady

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Toronto might be the only urban area in North America which has fewer high rise buildings in the pre-war inner city than in the post-war suburbs surrounding it.

Around 1300 high-rises in Old Toronto, 60 in York, and 50 in East York compared to 400 high-rises in North York, 250 in Scarborough, 200 in Etobicoke, 300 in Mississauga, 180 in York Region, 80 in Brampton, 30 in Oakville, and 20 in Pickering + Ajax.
 

Memph

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Oklahoma City's suburbs are still fairly low density, with bungalows on lots about twice as wide as what's typical with suburban Toronto's single family housing, and few high density apartment buildings. Atlanta has a tonne of homes on lots 3-10 times bigger than what's typical of suburban Toronto though, so it's true that Oklahoma City is still denser than that.

Anyways, just because somewhere else has worse sprawl, that doesn't mean you shouldn't strive to do better in your own city.
 

jje1000

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If the city must sprawl, it should sprawl in a dense manner.

IMO, legislate out of existence all new single family house construction- only townhouses, duplexes and apartments from now on.

Also, legislate that all future growth must be in a grid-like, redevelopable manner.

After all, it's easier to fix bad architecture than it is to fix bad planning.
 

canarob

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Even allowing lot splitting on all 50+ foot lots would do wonders. It's crazy that rebuilds in the 905 are almost always monster SFHs instead of narrower detached homes or semis. Markham is a good example of a city that has a lot of density in new areas around the periphery like Cornell, and of course in Markham Centre as well, but very low density in areas better served by transit and other amenities. Residents in somewhere like Cornell need to drive/bus through low density areas to access pretty much any services or retail.
 

marcus_a_j

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Toronto might be the only urban area in North America which has fewer high rise buildings in the pre-war inner city than in the post-war suburbs surrounding it.

Around 1300 high-rises in Old Toronto, 60 in York, and 50 in East York compared to 400 high-rises in North York, 250 in Scarborough, 200 in Etobicoke, 300 in Mississauga, 180 in York Region, 80 in Brampton, 30 in Oakville, and 20 in Pickering + Ajax.
Not quite a apples-to-applies comparison as the post-war suburbs have a much greater area. East York for example a has a higher population density and high-rise density than Scarborough does.

East York
area: 21.26 km2
pop. density: 5,553.7/km2
high-rise density 2.35/km2

Scarborough
area:187.70 km2
pop.density: 3,367.6/km2
high-rise 1.33/km2

* area and pop. density (2016) per wikipedia
 

Memph

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Even allowing lot splitting on all 50+ foot lots would do wonders. It's crazy that rebuilds in the 905 are almost always monster SFHs instead of narrower detached homes or semis. Markham is a good example of a city that has a lot of density in new areas around the periphery like Cornell, and of course in Markham Centre as well, but very low density in areas better served by transit and other amenities. Residents in somewhere like Cornell need to drive/bus through low density areas to access pretty much any services or retail.
South Etobicoke, Port Credit and Lakeview seem to allow it which has led to quite a lot of redevelopment there.

Calgary is probably the leader in Canada when it comes to this kind of stuff. Ex this inner suburb where a developer took 4 bungalow lots and turned them into 5 lots, each with a 4 unit townhouse structure (so overall, 4 units --> 20 units).

The same city blocks contains four lots containing "four-packs", which are 2 storey buildings with one unit on each corner.
Two lots containing five units in the form of two semi detached homes facing the street, and 3 attached units in a separate structure over a garage facing the laneway.
Two corner lots containing older townhouses (4 units each).
A double-lot with an older 3 storey apartment building, containing what looks like 18 small units.
One lot with an older mixed use building containing a few commercial units, and what looks like a few residential units on the 2nd floor.
One lot with an older 8 unit 2 storey apartment building.
One double-lot with an older 10 unit townhouse block.
One corner lot with a old semi-detached bungalow (will probably get redeveloped once the owner (s) decides to sell).
One lot with an old bungalow (will probably get redeveloped once the owner decides to sell).

So the city block was originally laid out with 20 lots, and now has 95-100 or so, with the potential to increase that by 7-9 more if the two lowest density lots get redeveloped into 4-5 units. I think it's important to point out too that, from the street, most of these redevelopments have essentially the same built form and massing as a monster home, so it wouldn't be out of place at all in most of suburban Toronto.

Toronto (city proper) has 270,000 SFH homes according to the census. The more close-in Pre-WWII small lot SFHs, the monster homes and SFHs in the handful of newer subdivisions like Morningside Heights, Malvern, Milliken, and parts of North Etobicoke aren't particularly viable to redevelop in this manner, but I'd estimate you still have 150,000+ lots that could be redeveloped in this way which would mean an increase in 600,000 units.

Combine that with higher density low-rise infill the pre-WWII lowrise neighbourhoods, midrises along arterials, including 4-6 storey ones on smaller arterials like Landsdowne and Cosburn, Donlands, Rogers Rd, etc, and the highrise development going on as already permitted, and Toronto could definitely accommodate more population. Obviously new infrastructure will be needed but likely still less than if the growth was in the form of sprawl.
 

north-of-anything

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Toronto (city proper) has 270,000 SFH homes according to the census. The more close-in Pre-WWII small lot SFHs, the monster homes and SFHs in the handful of newer subdivisions like Morningside Heights, Malvern, Milliken, and parts of North Etobicoke aren't particularly viable to redevelop in this manner, but I'd estimate you still have 150,000+ lots that could be redeveloped in this way which would mean an increase in 600,000 units.

Combine that with higher density low-rise infill the pre-WWII lowrise neighbourhoods, midrises along arterials, including 4-6 storey ones on smaller arterials like Landsdowne and Cosburn, Donlands, Rogers Rd, etc, and the highrise development going on as already permitted, and Toronto could definitely accommodate more population. Obviously new infrastructure will be needed but likely still less than if the growth was in the form of sprawl.
Redeveloping many of the units on side streets near major arterials can also further the cases for rapid transit expansion along those corridors (eg Eglinton West, Lawrence East, Kingston Road), as those neighbourhoods have plenty of very large lots, aging post-war bungalows, or both. It would also maybe encourage more families to move into those areas, which should help to fill up under-capacity schools in those areas.

I don't think it should be restricted to Toronto, however. Places like the Markham side of Thornhill, east-central Mississauga, and subdivisions next to Highway 7 have way too many SFHs on lots that are bizarrely deep. With the inner 905 racing to build dense downtowns, some of the monster homes in between there and Toronto will look just as jarring as Toronto's yellow belt does now.
 

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