Explores how compact development affects the delivery of transit services.
Of the many roles of transit – from reducing traffic congestion to fostering active lifestyles – few are as far-reaching as transit’s role in shaping our city’s growth.
The relationship between transit and land development is complex. While transit itself doesn’t directly shape the physical design of our city, it plays a critical role in supporting the policies that do. At the same time, how our city develops will largely determine the effectiveness of our transit system. That’s why it’s important to understand the ways in which transit and land use impact each other.
There are generally three ways that transportation and transit investment can influence the land use:
- By enhancing mobility choice and accessibility
- By encouraging complementary investments and policies
- By creating momentum that catalyses changes in existing land uses
What is Transit Oriented Development?
To explore the relationship between transit and land use, it is useful to understand Transit Oriented Development (TOD). This development approach aims for more compact, sustainable growth. It integrates transportation, land use and development by concentrating a mix of housing, jobs, shopping and recreation all within a short walk in any direction of a transit station. TOD has the potential to increase transit use, revitalize neighbourhoods and encourage sustainable urban growth.
TOD can transform the city by:
- Supporting transit system sustainability with increased transit ridership and revenue
- Delivering more efficient use of infrastructure, including transit, sewers, and other services
- Reducing air pollution and energy use
- Revitalizing neighbourhoods
- Contributing to urban and regional sustainability
How does transit investment shift growth and development?
Investments in the transit system in Edmonton can give signals to the development industry about high opportunity development sites. The development of the future LRT network plan has already resulted in interested landowners and developers beginning to invest in their sites in anticipation of the high-quality service to come. Higher density residential development opportunities such as Blatchford and Griesbach have been unlocked as future transit is promised in those areas. These opportunities mean that density is being accommodated strategically in a way that provides choices for people to move around Edmonton without reliance on a private vehicle. Further signals regarding high-quality transit (not just LRT but other transit modes as well) have the potential to continue attracting developers, homebuyers, and employers along transit corridors and in station areas resulting in a redistribution of growth from the new neighbourhoods to existing built up areas.
How does transit help build a more compact city?
Working with the new Capital Region Board policies regarding densities, the City will further densify in suburban areas with planned employment areas nearby. The Edmonton region is projected to accommodate another million people in the next 35 years and the City is the best positioned to ensure that those residents live and work in a city that is well planned, maximizes infrastructure, and is as compact as possible. Suburban developments that house new residents and businesses will be balanced with efforts to infill in older, low density neighbourhoods, and concentrate development in the downtown and around transit.
How does transit affect property values?
Changes in transportation – such as new roads, expressway interchanges, or significant transit investment – tend to affect property values. For example, areas located near LRT stations often see increases in property values, which in turn encourage denser developments. However, the downside of this higher land value is that it can make the area impractical for affordable housing, even though residents of affordable developments may greatly benefit from being near transit. Planning can help direct a mix of housing types across a variety of price points to locate near transit. Transportation’s influence on land values also means that continuing to make major investments in other traffic infrastructure can take some demand for development away from transit investments happening in other areas of the same region; it’s important to be strategic about infrastructure investments to best influence development patterns we desire as a city.
How can transit provide redevelopment opportunities around Edmonton’s nodes and corridors?
Edmonton has the benefit of significant vacant or underutilized land within close proximity of existing and planned LRT stations. Some of these areas are already being considered for significant high-density TOD projects including mixed-use commercial and residential developments, such as Mill Woods and Stadium. The bus network, however, has not seen the same level of development interest in most high service corridors, including in areas around Transit Centres. As the LRT network is expanded, there will continue to be opportunities to accommodate increased density in station areas and for TOD along some high service bus corridors.
As Edmonton continues to grow, we have the opportunity to significantly shape how our city develops. Exploring the relationship between transit and land use – and the opportunities and trade-offs they present – will help us guide our growth. What kind of city do you want Edmonton to become?