Metro Morning

Focus on 905 to 905 transit, less on downtown Toronto, says planner

Planners from Peel and York say intensifying growth means people should live, work and play in same community

Mississauga waterfront plan

As 905 populations continue to grow at a rate faster than that of the city of Toronto, Mississauga's waterfront area is in for an overhaul, with homes, boardwalks, businesses and cultural spaces set to be built in the coming years. (mississauga.ca)

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Ask the director of integrated planning for Peel what kind of growth he envisions for the region and he'll point you to the Mississauga waterfront.

"We have a new community that's going to spring up there, with a population that's planned for about 20,000 people, and about 9,000 jobs," said Arvin Prasad in an appearance on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

Construction kicked off in September 2016 on the 300-acre Lakeview development, which will include homes, boardwalks, businesses and cultural spaces.

It's exactly the kind of "complete community," hooked up to transit and close to necessary services, that planners like Prasad and York Region chief planner Valerie Shuttleworth are hoping become the norm for their regions.

The latest census numbers from the federal government show that Toronto's outskirts have booming populations that far exceed growth in the City of Toronto proper, a fact that doesn't surprise Prasad or Shuttleworth.  

"We now have 1 in 10 Ontarians who live in Peel," said Prasad. "It's the place to be in many ways."

"We now have 1 in 10 Ontarians who live in Peel. It's the place to be in many ways." - Arvin Prasad, director of integrated planning for Peel region

Shuttleworth told CBC that most of the growth in her region is coming primarily to urban centres like Richmond Hill and Markham.

Like Prasad, her focus is on densifying urban parts of York and moving away from the sprawling development model of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Attitudes towards 905 transit need to change

Prasad and Shuttleworth described the challenges of effective planning in areas that are experiencing such rapid growth.

For York Region, a primary issue is transit, said Shuttleworth.

Though she said the region has fared "better than some of the other 905s" thanks to the Spadina subway extension and rapid transit along Highway 7, she would like to see transit be less oriented towards getting people in and out of downtown Toronto.

"There's an awful lot of urban growth centre to urban growth centre commuting going on, east-west commuting," she said before calling on the province to "take a different look" at how they plan transit for the GTA.

Brampton

Brampton in Peel Region is one of the fastest growing areas in the GTA, behind only Milton, King, and Whitchurch-Stouffville. (Statistics Canada)

Attitudes also need to change, she said, pointing to the need to get the "development industry on board with the kinds of complete communities and urban growth centres that we're planning."

In Peel, similar densifying efforts are planned, though Prasad said the market for freestanding suburban homes with backyards still exists.

His greatest challenge is figuring out how to keep costs down while pushing development forward.

"The biggest challenge for us is providing the services, providing the infrastructure, and providing that in a cost-effective way."

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