It is important to recognize the connections between transportation system planning and land use planning. When roads are built or expanded in southern Ontario, either farmland or natural areas are almost always lost. The loss of either carries a significant environmental penalty. For example, the continued availability of local sources of produce, meat and dairy products is key to strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Transportation trends in Ontario show: a preference for the use of automobiles for mobility; an average of one vehicle for every two people across the province; and low vehicle occupancy rates of typically 1.2 persons. If these trends continue, the province will need to continue to devote thousands of hectares of land in the GGH to new or expanded roads and highways to accommodate the transportation of Ontario’s growing population, in addition to freight transportation of goods and raw materials.
The link between transportation system and land use planning is noted in the Planning Act, which was amended in 2006 to recognize, as a matter of provincial interest, “the promotion of development that is designed to be sustainable, to support public transit and to be oriented to pedestrians.” The PPS includes policies on transportation systems and requires that transportation and land use considerations be integrated at all stages of the planning process. The Provincial Policy Statement promotes a land use pattern, density and mix of uses “that minimize the length and number of vehicle trips and support the development of viable choices and plans for public transit and other alternative transportation modes, including commuter rail and bus.”
The GGH Plan under the Places to Grow Act seeks to move more people by transit and fewer by automobile, while continuing to accommodate a high volume of freight on highways. The plan states that public transit will have first priority for transportation infrastructure planning and major transportation investments, and includes policies that: promote transit-supportive densities; and, support a transportation network that links urban growth centres through an extensive multi-modal system anchored by efficient public transit along with highway systems to move people and goods.
Some of the municipalities identified in the GGH Plan as urban growth centres, like downtown Guelph and Hamilton, Mississauga City Centre and Kitchener are already very close to achieving the density targets they are expected to meet by 2031 under the GGH Plan. However, these centres have not moved substantially away from automobile-based mobility and toward an integrated live-work and transit-based environment. Road expansion will continue in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) unless and until there is a major shift in lifestyle by the residents of the GGH. The lack of progress to date in shifting away from a car-based culture calls into question the efficacy of the GGH Plan’s density targets in promoting the hoped-for mobility changes in the future.
Along with transit upgrades, highway network expansion continues to be a significant element of transportation planning in southern Ontario. Both public transit and highway infrastructure projects for the GTA have been announced since the GGH Plan was finalized. New roads, particularly the multi-lane 400-series highways, can have a profound impact on green spaces. The preferred alignment and most economical method of road construction is frequently a straight line – that being, by definition, the shortest distance between two points. This approach usually results in the alignment passing through green space at some point. Natural heritage features, such as provincially significant wetlands “protected” under the 2005 PPS, are not exempt from encroachment. A “balanced” approach to investing in both highway and transit infrastructure is unlikely to achieve the GGH Plan’s landscape protection goals. The Ontario government’s 2007 budget dedicated $6.5 billion to the provincial highway system and $4.5 billion to transit improvements. Preventing further infringement on agricultural and green space by road-based transportation will be difficult if the majority of transportation spending continues to be dedicated to highway and road expansion.
Over the long term, the GGH Plan is seeking densities for satellite communities that are about half of the densities set for the City of Toronto. Furthermore, the GGH Plan envisages that 60 per cent of new development will continue on greenfield sites and this development must achieve only one-quarter of the density of a major urban area; this density is only slightly higher than that achieved in recently built suburbs. Most transit experts agree that these densities are not sufficient to succeed in significantly raising transit ridership. If communities in southern Ontario do not achieve a dramatically more compact and integrated urban form, then these communities likely will not succeed in raising transit ridership, improving rates of walking and cycling, diminishing automobile use and, thereby, curbing the need for further road expansion.
To ease congestion on southern Ontario’s road network, even greater changes will be needed through measures like prioritizing transit over automobile use in the GGH, and making much greater use of rail and, where viable, water transport to transport freight. Highly effective efforts to intensify urban settlement patterns, prioritize transit use, and reduce the use of automobiles will be critical to ensuring that existing green spaces and agricultural areas in the GGH are not further fragmented by road expansion. The province will likely encounter increasing difficulty in the years ahead reconciling the goals of green space protection in the GGH and providing for personal mobility, if mobility is achieved mainly through highway and automobile-based travel. These two competing priorities will continue to clash and cause further environmental degradation in the GGH unless improvements are made to the GGH Plan.
This category has the following 2 subcategories, out of 2 total.
- [+] Greater Golden Horseshoe (1)
- [+] Provincial Policy Statement (2)
Pages in category "Transportation"
The following 15 pages are in this category, out of 15 total.