Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Allen Road intensification

Highway and hydro corridors often have plenty of open land, allowing rapid transit to be built cheaply and easily. However, while these areas are usually close to densely populated areas, they rarely pass close enough to offer effective stop placement. The Mississauga busway, for example, has to divert off of the highway 403 corridor in order to serve the Square One terminal, which itself is still very far from the booming areas of Mississauga's City Centre. The Finch-Etobicoke transit city line could easily use the nearby hydro corridor, but doing so would miss key destinations along Finch Avenue. The highway 401 subway proposal of a few years ago is hindered by the fact that while people live and work close to the 401, fleets of buses would be needed to take people the few blocks to their final destinations.

The Spadina subway is an example of the final situation, where the stations are almost completely dependent on bus connections. Downsview has very little walk-in potential due to the vast undeveloped land surrounding the station. Wilson has very little in walking distance, and even if it did, it is in a pedestrian unfriendly environment. Yorkdale and Lawrence West both have malls nearby, but those malls are surrounded by low density developments. Glencairn is completely surrounded by low density housing. Without the high capacity bus routes serving many of those stations, there would be serious questions as to why some stations are kept open.

To boost ridership and ensure a sustainable future, we have to increase density at transit nodes around the region. To that effect, Zeidler Partnership Architects have developed a concept of what can be done to intensify the area around Glenciarn station using existing land owned by the TTC. The concept is not necessarily a development proposal, but shows how housing for 20,000 people could be built on the site of the station, with only two properties being expropriated. The concept features for mid-rise, mixed use buildings and townhouses, introduces open space to the area, and uses some of the best practices in modern urban design.

While Torontonians have often been opposed to intensification in low density areas, concepts like this take into account the existing neighbourhood and attempt to build a gradual transition between single family housing and apartment buildings. Most importantly, the concept is visually appealing, which, in my opinion, is the grounds that we should be opposing projects on. We shouldn't condemn a proposal because it is too tall or because it has too many units. We should oppose a proposal if it's visually unpleasant, or if it doesn't take steps to ease the transition between low density and high density.

I hope that projects like this are built in the near future, as they can help improve transit ridership, improve sustainability in the city, and set examples for other places in the suburbs to use in their plans to improve density and build good urban communities. And, most importantly, this concept is 10,500 housing units on a site in Toronto and not on the Oak Ridges Moraine.



At 1/04/2008 3:36 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds great on paper, and it will certainly increase the walkability of that area. But short of systematic reforms to TTC, it will be hard to pull it off due in part to the fact that TTC is prohibited from entering for-profit businesses like real estate. Also, because you cannot just throw a roof over the expressway/subway and build upwards (remembering that buildings need foundations), the entire corridor might need retrofitting which could disrupt traffic and subway service. The media could magnify this challenge 10 times, and politicians could kill the plan.

Also, my transit plan is 70% done though I'm working on it at a TTC-rebuilding-St. Clair pace. Stay tuned. :)

At 1/04/2008 11:46 a.m. , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

The report calls for the TTC to sell the land at market value, and believes that if built in stages, there could be no disruptions.

There's nothing in the report that raises a "not feasible" flag in my mind.


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