2.4.1 Layout and Orientation of Buildings within a Block
The layout and orientation of buildings should help to support the creation of pedestrian-friendly streets and open spaces designed to enhance activity around, and connections to, stops and station areas.
The act of locating higher-density development and uses adjacent to a transit stop does not always equate to transit-supportive development. To be transit-supportive, new developments and existing communities should treat transit as a central organizing element and aim to increase ridership by orienting buildings so that activity is focussed on streets and open spaces in and around transit stops and station areas. Transit-supportive development should support a high level of walking and cycling and help to strengthen connections between transit facilities and surrounding areas.
Buildings can help to support an active pedestrian environment through careful consideration of the way they meet the street. Architectural variety, including the creation of prominent architectural features so that buildings can act as landmarks on the street and the use of clear windows and doors, can help to create an interesting and inviting environment, shortening perceived walking distances, assisting pedestrians in navigating to stations and in turn encouraging higher levels of pedestrian activity. Through the use of massing and transitions in height and density, buildings can help to frame and enclose the street giving areas a stronger sense of identity and helping to integrate higher-density station areas into surrounding development.
The layout and orientation of buildings can help to support transit use by focusing activity adjacent to transit stops and station areas and minimizing the impacts of parking.
Applicable Community Scale
- New development and redevelopment should orient towards the street and contribute to a pedestrian-friendly public realm by:
- situating buildings close to the streetline or transit station so that they frame the street or station area and contribute to ground-level pedestrian activity;
- orienting primary entrance points and street level uses to support higher levels of activity along key pedestrian routes, stop or station locations and at waiting areas; and
- designing building façades to actively address public streets and open spaces through the use of transparent glazing, windows, doors and other “active” architectural treatments.
- Buildings with active street level uses should incorporate frequent entrances to increase permeability.
- Avoid the reverse lotting of uses, long stretches of blank walls, berms or high fences adjacent to the street. These limit street activity and prevent natural surveillance.
An undesirable building orientation (top) places entrances and active uses away from the street, while parking becomes the most visible element of the streetscape. A more desirable building orientation (bottom) places active uses and building entrances at the right-of-way (ROW), creating a continuous street wall and a more attractive pedestrian environment.
Long stretches of blank walls and fences adjacent to the street create an unpleasant pedestrian environment with limited activity and no passive surveillance.
responding to context
- Support areas with high levels of pedestrian activity through building setbacks and pedestrian amenities such as integrated waiting areas, pedestrian lighting, and weather protection.
- Locate higher-density buildings close to transit stops or station areas to support a greater mix of uses, higher levels of pedestrian activity and transit ridership.
- Scale buildings to match their specific context. Transitions in building scale can enable higher-density uses close to transit stops/stations while integrating with the scale and character of surrounding communities.
- Opportunities to integrate higher order transit stops such as subways or rapid transit stations into the base of buildings should be pursued where appropriate.
parking & access
- Orient vehicular access, parking and servicing to minimize pedestrian conflicts and impacts on street level activity.
- Coordinate new developments with existing and planned uses to consolidate vehicular access points, minimize curb cuts and share servicing.
- Larger developments that require the use of internal roadways or drives should organize these elements in a manner that strengthens connections between adjacent uses and transit facilities and helps to establish a finely-grained network of interconnected streets and blocks.
- Ensure mid-block connections are direct, well-lit and fronted by or visible from adjacent uses to enhance pedestrian safety and comfort.
2.4.2 Design of Parking Facilities
Locate and design parking so that it can support the creation of an active and attractive public realm.
Parking requirements that respond to a car-oriented environment can often make it challenging to move to higher-density, urban development patterns. As higher-density, walkable places, in close proximity to transit, transit-supportive places require a shift in the way parking is mandated, managed and designed.
It is important that the design and location of parking is unobtrusive and not a detriment to the quality and vitality of surrounding streets and open spaces. This is particularly significant around transit stops and in station areas where the quality of the pedestrian environment and street level activity has been shown to have a direct relationship to ridership levels, perceptions of safety and ease of access. In downtowns, town centres and areas of higher density, this means dramatically reducing surface parking and placing parking underground, in above-grade parking garages and/or screened from pedestrians behind buildings. Where surface parking exists, the creation of a street and block structure within larger lots can help to enhance pedestrian connectivity, establish parcels for future development and provide additional on-street parking.
This surface parking lot in Portland, Oregon is screened from the street, includes provision for pedestrian circulation and cyclists, and incorporates environmental features such as permeable paving and bio-swales that can absorb and filter stormwater run-off. Accessible parking has been located near the principal accessible entrance.
- Provide parking in nodes or corridors in below-grade or structured parking facilities, where possible, to allow for higher-density development and active street-level uses.
- Where feasible, wrap above-ground parking structures in residential, retail or commercial uses to screen parking from the street and increase street-level activity.
- Providing access ramps along active street frontages or on primary pedestrian routes should be discouraged to minimize conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles.
- To reduce the visual impact of structured parking along a street, treat the façade like an active building frontage (Guideline 2.4.1). Reflect the characteristics of more active building types through techniques such as:
- screening diagonal ramps and non-horizontal parking plates with horizontal banding elements;
- screening parked cars from view through the use of walls, windows or parapets; and
- incorporating active uses at grade that can contribute to the animation and activity of the street.
Above ground parking structures should be wrapped with active uses to screen parking from the public realm.
Parking Facilities (National Institute of Building Sciences)
Design Guidelines for Greening Surface Parking Lots (City of Toronto)
- Paid, on-street parking can minimize the need for dedicated parking spaces, providing space for short-stay visitors and helping to support main street retail uses. On-street parking adjacent to bike-ways should provide an additional 0.6m of width indicated by lines or hatching, to accommodate car door openings, which could interfere with cyclists (Guideline 2.2.4).
- Prohibit surface parking between a building and a street within designated nodes or corridors.
- Where possible and costs permit, particularly where there are large areas of parking, design surface parking lots to include dedicated provisions for pedestrian circulation, including internal walkways and pedestrian priority paving treatments.
- Where larger areas of surface parking exist, encourage the introduction of a street and block pattern within the parking lot that can help enhance pedestrian access, enable the introduction of streetscape treatments and create development parcels for infill over time.
- In designated growth areas and where higher densities are planned, encourage development applications and master plans to demonstrate how large areas of surface parking can be redeveloped over time.
- In the design of large areas of surface parking, encourage the inclusion of a range of environmental features, such as solar panels, shade trees, permeable paving and bio-swales that can absorb and filter stormwater run-off. See Guideline 2.5.2 for other measures to address the sustainability of parking facilities.
2.4.3 Intensification of Station Areas
Planning for station areas should take into consideration the potential for intensification over time.
Station areas represent opportunities for transit-supportive development, with the potential to attract new riders and generate much needed revenue for fiscally constrained transit providers. Many station areas are underutilized, with significant amounts of land dedicated to surface parking. The design and location of station area facilities can also make the introduction of new uses difficult. Restricted access resulting from transit infrastructure and multiple authorities with responsibilities in the area can also complicate matters.
Recognizing and planning for the intensification potential of station areas can allow station facilities and infrastructure to be designed and located so that they do not hinder the long-term development potential of the station area.
Phased intensification surrounding a transit station in Oakville, ON. The creation of a station area vision that establishes a framework for gradual intensification can help to ensure that short-term decisions don’t preclude the long-term development potential of a station area.
- Ensure new development within station areas is transit-supportive (Guideline 2.4.1), fronting key pedestrian areas with active uses, helping to integrate the station area into surrounding neighbourhoods and supporting opportunities for new uses and further intensification over time.
- Municipalities and transit agencies should consider the potential for the intensification of station areas when planning for new investments to ensure that they support the long-term development potential for the intensification.
- Weigh the benefits of new development on station lands against the impacts on access and operations.
- Transit agencies should identify and prioritize stations with the potential for further intensification. Give priority to stations where intensification has the potential to generate higher levels of transit ridership or where intensification would enhance the relationship of the station to its surroundings, strengthen connections and provide enhanced amenities for transit users.
A poorly placed parking deck creates awkward development parcels that are too small for intensification of the station area.
By strategically locating the parking facility the potential for long term intensification of the station area can be preserved.
- The creation of station area visioning documents can be a helpful tool in planning for the intensification of station areas by establishing the expectations of the transit agency and creating a starting point for discussions with development partners. A visioning document should:
- identify a long-term vision for the station area that is both compatible with the surrounding pattern of development and consistent with local planning guidance;
- establish a framework for the gradual intensification of the station area while addressing and preserving for the needs of transit operations, including pick-up and drop-off areas, passenger amenities and managed parking spaces;
- identify potential development parcels and the desired characteristics of related development, including appropriate built form, public realm characteristics, transportation networks, key connections and land use characteristics; and
- outline an implementation strategy for achieving the vision that helps to guide both public and private investments within the station area.