What drives waterfront development?

Kurt Reid

Kurt Reid

This week I had the opportunity to visit Waterfront Toronto head office and tour some of the revitalization projects taking place with my urban planning program. The organization was formed through a partnership of three levels of Canadian government (municipal, federal. and provincial). With the main objective to revitalize the harbour through sustainable developments, building affordable housing, and by redeveloping brownfields. Since brownfields are an interest of mine, the discussion was very captivating. After hearing about the organization and  having them present both their future and completed projects it was time for the tour. We visited the Courus Entertainment Site, the new George Brown Waterfront Campus, and Sherbourne Common. All of which that look amazing and all have some form of sustainable design.

During both the presentation and the tour a question which I wanted to ask came to mind, what drives waterfront development? Now, I am aware of the decentralization of industries which are one of the processes behind the changes the waterfront. The decentralization of industrialization saw industries move away from the city-core and into the fringes. This is associated with  land development, geographic industrialization, and metropolitan planning. Another process is the suburbanization of industry. this is related to decentralization, where industries began to move away due to advancement in technology and transportation. These industries no longer had to rely on ports and  railways lines as a method of moving their goods. These two changes are instrumental for the creating of brownfield sites.


evolution of port - Bird


However, there is another theory by Bird (1963) that examines the evolution of ports. Bird’s model can be used for almost any port transformation in the Global North. The steps involve in the evolution of ports include:

  • Setting (Geographic Consideration)
  • Expansion (Construction of Docks and Railway Lines)
  • Specialization (Ports being specialized for certain activities)

With these spaces now unoccupied and no longer serving use, it’s time  for them to be re-purpose. To me, the driving forces behind Toronto’s transformation are  due to both the decentralization of industries and the need to attract investment. One of the objectives from Waterfront Toronto was to attract the creative class and the tech-based economies to the waterfront.

In summary, the transformation of habour in Toronto and other ports around the world are intriguing. Ports were always a form of trade and economic activity. From the trade of fish and pelts to coal and the shipping of goods. Ports are currently being modernized to fit today’s current economic market, with spaces for the creative class. The transformation of brownfield sites is beneficial since it is a form of reducing sprawl by re purposing these landscapes for residential and commercial uses. My hopes are that these future brownfield sites located in Toronto are equitable.


Further Reading

Lewis and Walker (2001) – Beyond the Crabgrass Frontier: Industry and the Spread of North American Cities 

De Sousa (2001) – Turning Brownfields into Greenspaces in the City of Toronto

Birds (1963) – The Evolution of a Port (The Anyport Model)

The Globe and Mail – Sun Life moving away from Bay Street 


Photos by:

Eric Aranu – Toronto Skyline 

Andrew Badgley – Sugar Beach 





Induced Demand

I recently read an online forum with Torontonians posting how they could solve congestion in the GTA. I was surprised when a large amount of commenters agreed that adding more highways and widening roads would equate to a decrease in congestion. I must inform you that this is not the case. Adding additional lanes and creating more highways will not solve congestion, it will actually increase this problem in the GTA. Matthew Turner (2009) an economist from the University of Toronto found that this is a direct relationship with increase road capacity and the addition of more vehicle on the roadway. They also found out that increase in public transit infrastructure did not reduce the these traffic woes. This excerpt from the article perfectly describes what roads allow drivers to do:

The answer has to do with what roads allow people to do: move around. As it turns out, we humans love moving around. And if you expand people’s ability to travel, they will do it more, living farther away from where they work and therefore being forced to drive into town. Making driving easier also means that people take more trips in the car than they otherwise would.

I believe that there needs to be a complete paradigm shift around public transit and single vehicle transportation. Firstly, I agree that tolls on our highways will work to partly reduce congestion. With the funds collected from the tolls going towards infrastructure development, transit improvement, and providing reduce transit passes to members of the public that needs it. Secondly, having tax incentives for using public transit, such as tax cuts to businesses that have most of their employees taking public transit. Thirdly, providing incentives to commuters that use alternative modes of transportation – cycling, electric vehicles, hybrids. Although, one could say that electric vehicles and hybrids are an elitist mode of transportation.

More importantly, I believe that today’s society are realizing the true cost of having a vehicle and the additional cost that comes with it; gas, insurance, maintenance.

In the end, to solve congestion woes in the GTA there needs to be a paradigm shift around transportation. There needs to be a cost associatied with driving, tolls are a solution for that.There also needs to be both promotion and proper funding towards public transportation infrastructure.

Read more here: Wired – Traffic Engineering Here


Uncategorized Urban

How do you get to the city-core?

For the most part, we either drive to Downtown Toronto or take rail (TTC Subway, GO Train, and the TTC Streetcar). The opposition for having buses in the city core is that most believe that 40 feet vehicle would add to the already congested core and reduce business and development along its route.

This is not the case, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has been proven to provide quality-uninterrupted service along its path. It has the ability to increase pedestrian traffic, reduce congestion, and introduce and increase transit orientated development.

Although, we are not currently seeing any type of BRT construction in larger cities, they are predominant in suburban spaces through the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Mississauga, Brampton, and Vaughn all have BRT routes. With the case of the VivaNext line along Highway 7, there is a number amount of development and investment projects taking place due to the expected traffic.

Read more: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/05/importance-running-true-brt-through-downtown/9033/

Image from: NuPress Group Australia