Transit-oriented communities: The future of city life in Ontario?

Cities across the world have successfully implemented the transit-oriented development (TOD) strategy as a way to intensify their urban centres and to promote sustainable and healthy living. Mixed uses are found in the local communities. Residents of transit-oriented communities enjoy easy access to public transit. They are also able to find and meet their basic daily needs by walking or cycling a short distance. Neighbourhood businesses thrive as a result of the increased foot traffic. Dependence on cars is reduced, as are traffic congestion and air pollution. The many benefits of TOD are well-documented.

It is evident that the Ontario government is committed to making a significant investment in transit infrastructure. Importantly, the Building Transit Faster Act, 2020 (the BTFA) was introduced in February 2020. Its emphasis is on streamlining the construction and delivery of the four priority subway projects in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

In addition, the Transit-Oriented Communities Act, 2020 (the TOCA) was passed in July 2020. It provides a framework to implement the province’s TOD vision. Under the TOCA, an expropriation of land which is designated as transit-oriented community land and which is for a transit-oriented community project is exempt from a hearing process under the Expropriations Act.

What’s next? Bill 222, Ontario Rebuilding and Recovery Act, 2020 (the ORRA) was introduced in October 2020. It has just passed third reading and is awaiting royal assent. When it becomes law, it will broaden the application of important provisions from the BTFA and TOCA to major provincial transit infrastructure projects and related developments outside of the GTA. Notably, other significant amendments will be made to the TOCA to provide broad powers and greater flexibility to the Minister to enter into new commercial arrangements and to collaborate with the private sector. The ORRA will further the province’s objective of accelerating the development of transit-oriented communities. More vibrant, higher density communities close to transit stations are on the way soon, both in the GTA and beyond.

Read more in our Update, "Transit-oriented communities: The future of city life in Ontario?"