Shooting TOD in the cradle

In a story earlier this week I enthused about the McRae Avenue progressing from blah to an attractive Transit Oriented Development. Did I speak too soon? Is the city trying to thwart TOD before it can leave the cradle??

Here’s the sentence from a few days ago: Given that all this is on the doorstep of the Westboro Station it seems textbook Transit Oriented Development (TOD).

So what has the city done this week to cause me to reassess my view? Look at the evidence:


That’s the new mixed use development (and Farm Boy) to the left, and giant new surface parking lot in the centre, running all the way up to Bushtuka on the far right. Presumably the fence will delineate two separate users of the site (long term vs short term parking? Auto car storage vs ?).

Here’s a view right up the new east side sidewalk on the street:


Other than the first 30′ x 10′ or so with what might become a buffer of planting, the rest of the site is just a sea of asphalt going lot line to lot line.

So the city wants pedestrian friendly, transit oriented development here that encourages people to walk and enjoy the streets as public places … then permits an enormous parking lot that isn’t even wearing a fig leaf border of greenery to separate from the attractive pedestrian realm? It is so fun to walk somewhere with cars pushed up tight to the sidewalk.

In my mind, this is just as bad as the city building new roads that parallel new LRT routes and then wondering why the modal split isn’t improved. Hey, let’s have higher density walkable neighbourhoods right beside a transit station and permit new parking lots in addition to the kilometer of free no-time-limit parking the city provides along Scott Street itself ! What could possibly constitute a mixed message? (reminds me of the city development approval requiring SOHO Champagne developers to landscape the future-second-tower-vacant-lot beside the first tower, then not minding when it turns into a car lot). I think the progressive voters of Kitchissippi would have crucified Hobbs if these things were happening on her watch.

All this flies in the face of the city’s policies toward mixed use developments and intensification near transit stations which specifically discourages land-sprawly uses like surface storage yards, parking lots, car dealerships, etc.

Or maybe this part of the new practice of building things in a rush, then going back to try to fix mistakes with expensive band aid repairs a la Booth Freeway?

Now of course we don’t force existing land users to leave, we wait for market forces to do that. But neither should we be facilitating massive expansions of these older-generation dumb-growth land uses.

Until redevelopment on McRae got going in a big way, this sea of asphalt had two buildings on it and some parking under the Hydro One right of way. In the bad old days, no one thought twice of permitting a public right of way being asphalted. Today we should have thought better. Why isn’t the Hydro right of way a greenway running from Scott (or the River) all the way up to Carling?



(above: former pedestrian Hell looks rather like the brand new one, but the new one is bigger yet)

I am sure someone will tell me that this parking paradise is just a temporary land use, pending another wonderful new mixed use building. But that lot has been regraded, repaved, and it maximizes the amount of parking that can be stuffed into it, sans perimeter buffer zone of any type. The joy of this for the owner is that the revenue from the parking exceeds the low taxes on a “vacant” lot. Meanwhile, the value of the land goes up …  So there is no pressure or encouragement to redevelop, the property owner can be quite financially well off by keeping it parking for decades and decades. There are even some planners at city hall who would describe this as an “exciting mixed use” that attracts people to live in the neighbourhood.


One thought on “Shooting TOD in the cradle

  1. They tore down paradise (the iconic Trailhead building) and put up a parking lot. My regrets to Joni Mitchell and her Big Yellow Taxi.

Comments are closed.