Transit-Supportive Guidelines

Chapter 4: Implementation

This chapter provides an overview of a range of implementation tools that can be used to achieve the principles of these guidelines. It discusses the role of transit agencies and the various planning and policy tools, strategies and processes that play a part in developing more transit-supportive communities including:

  • Inspiring Change
    Building support and fostering partnerships for transit-supportive uses and transit investments
  • The Planning Process
    Using existing tools to establish a framework for the creation of a transit-supportive environment
  • Innovative Planning Approaches
    Exploring new tools for the creation of a transit-supportive environment
  • Funding and Investment
    Employing strategies to pay for improvements or initiatives that can help to support transit ridership

Inspiring Change

The creation of transit-supportive communities requires the cooperation and contribution of many different actors working towards a set of common goals. In some communities, transit service or the implementation of transit-supportive land use policies may be new and unfamiliar. Under these circumstances, it is common that people may resist change, particularly when the nature of that change is unknown. Effective communication, consultation and the fostering of partnerships is needed to build greater support for transit and the creation of more transit-supportive communities.

Building support for change by tying the benefits of transit to a larger vision for the community

Build support for transit initiatives by expanding the debate and tying transit initiatives to the achievement of wider community objectives. Broadening the discussion can help municipal planners, transit planners and private developers negotiate polarized views, tie together a range of diverse initiatives and ensure that new investments are coordinated to achieve a range of objectives such as community health, economic competitiveness, growth management, social cohesion or household affordability.

Demonstrating the benefits of transit is particularly important in suburbs and smaller to mid-sized communities where investments in transit or transit-supportive development can be perceived as running counter to the existing character and/or lifestyle choices of the community. Under these circumstances, tying transit-related investments to a strengthening of cherished community characteristics and values such as respect for the natural environment can help to frame change in a holistic light, encouraging a more meaningful discussion of the issues and benefits. Care should also be taken to clearly present the benefits of and need for coordination between plans for transit and land use. Higher densities and more compact urban forms need dependable transit systems and viable transit systems rely on transit-supportive land use; in order to build community support for both transit investments and changes in land use it is important to communicate the interdependent relationship between the two.

There are a number of areas where investments in transit and transit-supportive development can be tied to a discussion of broader community goals including the relationship of transit to:

  • Achieving a larger vision for the community: Attaching transit investments, or a change in land use policy in favour of transit, to a community visioning process or the achievement of an existing community vision can help to relate transit initiatives to wider objectives such as the creation or strengthening of neighbourhoods, expansion of housing choice, community sustainability, access to jobs and place-making.
  • Managing demographic change: Transit investment and creation of walkable communities are long-term strategies that can meet the needs of different population groups and demographic shifts by allowing residents to age in place, providing independent mobility to youth and affordable transportation to new immigrants.
  • Community health: Neighbourhood design and access to public transit are increasingly being recognized as significant factors in the promotion of healthy living and improvements to air quality. It has been demonstrated that neighbourhoods that support higher levels of walking and cycling display lower rates of obesity, reducing the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Understanding and communicating this relationship can help to tie transit investments and the creation of more transit-supportive environments to broader community health and welfare initiatives.
  • Protecting the environment: Many communities are trying to operate more sustainably, reducing their environmental footprint and energy consumption, protecting natural areas and using resources more wisely. These initiatives can all be strongly linked to the provision of transit and higher-density, transit-supportive development.
  • Economic competitiveness: By helping to reduce travel times and the associated costs of commuting, transit can ease the movement of goods, reduce household costs and help to attract investment. Investment in transit and related transit-supportive development can help to revitalize areas, bringing underutilized sites into reuse while delivering increased municipal revenues from new property taxes.
  • The more efficient use of infrastructure: By encouraging more compact development and reducing or eliminating the need to expand infrastructure, transit-supportive development can help to reduce infrastructure costs for the community.

Use the planning process to identify and respond to community issues

The planning process represents a strategic opportunity to engage the public, identify issues and ensure that new investments or policy changes not only help to implement transit improvements but achieve a full range of community benefits. The public engagement process associated with transit investments, including the preparation of district plans or secondary plans, can help to explore and define the nature of proposed changes and how they can be leveraged to address wider community objectives. Transit investments can be seen as a component of a broader community building initiative and this should be reflected in communication strategies related to transit-supportive initiatives.

Ensure effective public consultation

The introduction of transit infrastructure and creation of transit-supportive communities with a mix of uses and higher densities often means that communities must change. This can sometimes be controversial amongst existing residents. Effective planning and consultation should actively engage all stakeholders in decision-making at every stage of the process to identify solutions and help to address concerns. There are a number of ways that planners, municipalities, transit agencies, developers or others can support public engagement including:

  • ensuring representation by various groups and individuals including transit users, local businesses, residents and public stakeholders as processes are initiated, priorities are established and policies are developed;
  • engaging stakeholders through a variety of means, such as interviews, open houses, surveys and specific information sessions;
  • engaging stakeholders early in decision-making processes and often throughout the duration of a project including the design and construction process;
  • establishing community/stakeholder steering committees to ensure public input and community representation; and
  • utilizing highly illustrative and clear presentation material to illustrate planned changes, such as 3-D physical models, can give participants a more tangible understanding of what change might mean and allow them to provide more informed feedback.

The planning process varies widely depending upon the scope and scale of the project but typically includes the stages as illustrated in the process flow chart above. Involving stakeholders early on in the process to identify issues and establish an agreed vision for the project can help to align investments in transit or transit-supportive development with wider community objectives.
The planning process varies widely depending upon the scope and scale of the project but typically includes the stages as illustrated in the process flow chart above. Involving stakeholders early on in the process to identify issues and establish an agreed vision for the project can help to align investments in transit or transit-supportive development with wider community objectives.

Foster partnerships

The participation and cooperation of numerous agencies, stakeholders, the development community and various levels of government is a prerequisite for transit-supportive community design. Strategic partnerships can leverage diverse roles and resources to promote and facilitate more transit-supportive environments. This can increase the collective capacity of the development community as well as the approval and regulatory bodies involved in the development process. Examples of strategic partnerships may include:

  • a partnership between a transit agency, municipal transportation planning office and a public health unit to produce a communications and/or advocacy campaign on the health benefits of transit-supportive neighbourhoods;
  • a partnership between a transit agency, municipal planning office and public health unit to award a developer recognition for championing a transit-supportive and health-promoting development;
  • a partnership between a transit agency, municipality and private developer to provide additional density in exchange for an integrated transit stop or station;
  • a partnership between a transit agency and a local university to provide discounted transit passes to local students; or
  • a partnership between a community arts organization and a transit agency to incorporate local artwork at, or in the design of, transit stops and station areas to enhance user enjoyment and promote local artists.

Change the Culture

Transit investments alone will not necessarily result in a change to transit culture. The Province, regions, municipalities and transit agencies can develop and implement a range of training and education tools to promote more transit-supportive communities and encourage transit ridership. These include:

  • educational initiatives encouraging implementation of transit-supportive planning, design and ridership initiatives among staff, Council, the development industry and community stakeholders. These could involve workshops, roundtable discussion and working groups that are dedicated to generating solutions for common challenges.
  • community-based programs that promote transit use, carpooling, cycling and walking to school or work and for recreation. Fun and informative campaigns can be implemented in partnership with business associations, local newspapers, school boards and local organizations. Examples include cycling clubs, competitions run in association with local businesses, running groups and walking tours.
  • collaborative initiatives with public and community health organizations, schools and major employers to encourage transit ridership and underscore the relationship between transit-supportive communities and healthy living.

Economic Impacts of Transit Investment

  • The economic benefit of Canada’s existing transit systems is at least $10 billion/year.
  • Transit reduces Canadian household vehicle operating costs by about $5 billion/year.
  • Transit reduces the economic cost of traffic collisions by almost $2.5 billion/year.
  • Transit saves about $115 million in annual health care costs related to respiratory illness.

Issue Paper 35: Measuring Success: The Economic Impact of Transit Investment in Canada (Canadian Urban Transit Association)

The Planning Process

The planning process, including statutory and non-statutory plans and approvals processes, has a major role to play in ensuring the realization of key principles and strategies highlighted throughout this document. Regional official plans, municipal official plans and secondary plans embed transit-supportive policies in the municipal planning process and are enforced through zoning by-laws and approvals, including plan of subdivision and site plan approvals.

Ensure upper-tier official plans set the stage for the creation of transit-supportive communities both at the regional and municipal level.

Regional official plans provide regulation and guidance on matters relating to the overall structure of a region, mix of uses and the integration of transit and transportation by coordinating decisions across multiple municipal boundaries and setting objectives to guide single tier municipal official plans. In many of Ontario’s regions, transit is planned and operated by regional bodies and it is often at the regional planning scale where decisions are made with respect to the layout and design of arterial roads. Regional plans should:

  • address the overall community structure including the identification of designated settlement areas and rural settlement areas;
  • establish urban boundaries and structuring elements within settlement areas including nodes and corridors suitable for intensification around existing and planned investments in transit;
  • establish land use density and high level built form direction, regional transportation demand management (TDM) strategies and policies to encourage a more compact urban form, infill and intensification;
  • identify regional transit corridors and coordinate them with land use patterns, including identifying density targets for areas along designated corridors;
  • encourage seamless transit connections within the region and identify strategies to coordinate services across municipal boundaries; and
  • develop transit-supportive arterial road cross sections and prioritize efforts to implement transit-supportive road infrastructure.

Incorporate transit-supportive policies into municipal official plans.

Municipal official plans are key tools in the creation of transit-supportive communities. They provide the statutory framework to facilitate a strong connection between land use planning and transit service at the scale of our towns and cities. More than any other policy process or document, the municipal official plan relates directly to the widest array of guidelines within this document. When drafting municipal official plans, it is important to emphasize:

  • the clear establishment of local community structure including settlement areas, non-settlement areas, urban growth boundaries, nodes, corridors and built-up areas;
  • policies related to the establishment of minimum density standards in secondary plans and zoning by-laws capable of supporting the desired level of transit service in different areas of the town or city;
  • policies related to the creation of complete streets capable of supporting all modes of transportation;
  • parking and transportation demand management policies to promote a shift towards higher levels of transit use and more active modes of transportation;
  • transit-supportive built form and urban design policies to ensure the creation of a transit-supportive urban form, applicable to both new areas and the retrofit of existing areas to support higher levels of transit ridership;
  • transit network design and the relationship between the transit system and land use patterns or major specialized uses within the town or city;
  • policies enabling site plan control in areas where transit services exist so that municipalities can evaluate development proposals at a detailed level; and
  • the identification of secondary plan areas, particularly at key nodes and corridors where more detailed transit-supportive planning and design direction is necessary for the creation of more transit-supportive environments.

Use transportation master plans to strengthen the integration between land use planning and transit

A transportation master plan outlines policies and establishes a framework of projects and programs to meet the transportation needs of a municipality. As documents that establish the strategic priorities for investment in a municipality’s transportation system, they can have a significant impact on transportation patterns within a community and be used to strengthen the integration of land use and transportation policy. Transportation master plans should help to shift modal split in favour of walking, cycling and transit use and strengthen the integration of land use and transit by:

  • emphasizing the integration of land use and transportation decisions and directing transit investments to support planned areas of higher-density and mixed-use development;
  • identifying and prioritizing strategic transit initiatives and capital improvements needed to enhance transit service and promote a shift towards higher levels of transit usage;
  • identifying deficiencies in land use planning policy that may prohibit planned transit investments;
  • encouraging more active modes of transportation through the incorporation of complete street policies and assisting in the development of a comprehensive network of complete streets through the phasing of capital improvements;
  • identifying strategies such as the consolidation of access points to support the creation of an interconnected network of secondary streets in employment and commercial centres;
  • identifying and promoting transportation demand management measures that promote a shift in modal split to higher levels of walking, cycling and transit usage; and
  • coordinating transportation decisions with adjacent jurisdictions to promote the establishment of a seamless regional transportation network.

Create district-level plans that provide detailed place-specific policy to guide transit-supportive development

District-level plans, including secondary plans and corridor studies, are crucial to guide development of transit-supportive nodes, corridors or specialized uses, providing place-specific planning and design direction. When drafting district level plans, include detailed policy and guidance for:

  • the establishment of a transit-supportive local road network including the layout and spacing of streets and inter-connectivity with existing street networks;
  • supporting access and transit-supportive development both pre- and post- introduction of new transit services, where plans precede investments in transit;
  • the planning and design of complete streets within the district to support a range of users;
  • enhancing access to area transit, including strategies to improve key connections leading to and from stop/station areas;
  • the location and design of transit stops and station areas as well as enhancing transfers between modes of travel;
  • built form and urban design to ensure that the area is pedestrian and cyclist-friendly and integrated with existing and planned transit facilities;
  • the distribution of land uses and densities to ensure that they are supportive of transit services and that stop and station areas contain a mix of uses; and
  • parking management, particularly related to the design and location of parking facilities to ensure they do not detract from the pedestrian environment while supporting the function of transit services.

The goals and directions of district level plans can be embedded within a municipality’s official plan through the creation of a special policy area and supported through zoning amendments.

Ensure plans of subdivision and condominium plans support long term transit-supportive development patterns

Plans of subdivision and condominium plans set the pattern of land parcels and public rights-of-way. These are important elements that can either establish a transit-supportive pattern capable of accommodating a mix of uses with strong connections to transit or create a disconnected pattern of streets and blocks that limit connectivity, relate poorly to transit facilities and support only a limited mix of uses. Plans of subdivision should:

  • be organized to ensure that new uses face onto and help to animate streets, open spaces, and key routes leading to and from transit stop or station areas, working in conjunction with site plan control by-laws;
  • establish a pattern of streets and open spaces that are interconnected and organized to strengthen connections between, and relationships with, existing and planned transit facilities;
  • delineate land parcels that are of a suitable size and shape to encourage transit-supportive urban form and a range of land uses and densities;
  • have regard for the extent to which a plan of subdivision’s design optimizes the available supply, means of supplying, efficient use and conservation of energy;
  • consider approval conditions to require land dedications for pedestrian and bicycle pathways, public transit rights-of-way, commuter parking lots and transit stations; and
  • designate street rights-of-way capable of supporting a broad range of users including pedestrians, cyclists, transit vehicles and private automobiles.

Enact zoning by-laws that support transit-supportive land use and urban design policies

As the mechanism through which municipalities implement policies related to built form, density and land use, zoning by-laws are important tools in the creation of transit-supportive environments. It is vital that zoning by-laws have standards, regulations and metrics related to:

  • minimum densities sufficient to support transit use and consistent with density and urban structure policies embedded within the municipal official plan;
  • permitted uses linked with planned levels of transit service, encouraging a greater mix of active uses in and around transit stop or station areas while restricting auto-oriented uses such as drive-throughs;
  • built form and orientation requiring buildings to actively address streets and encouraging design characteristics to establish a pedestrian-friendly streetscape;
  • maximum parking standards and alternative parking standards that can be applied in conjunction with the implementation of transportation demand management strategies; and
  • transportation demand management provisions such as minimum bike parking requirements that encourage more active forms of transportation.

Use site plan control to evaluate how development applications contribute to transit-supportive environments

As with many planning efforts, the implementation of each individual development or site can have a significant impact on the character and function of a district. This is particularly true when planning for transit, where a poorly designed site can significantly impact access to transit facilities and create an environment which is difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to navigate. Site plan review should be used to evaluate transit-supportive elements including:

  • the location and design of parking facilities and driveway access to ensure that they do not conflict with pedestrian access and promote continuous pedestrian streetscapes;
  • site/building access and circulation including entrances and orientation to ensure that buildings help to enliven streets and open spaces as well as key connections leading to and from transit;
  • transportation demand management (TDM) elements such as preferred parking for car share users or bicycle parking/shower facilities;
  • the massing and design of proposed buildings including the relationship of buildings to streets, open spaces and transit facilities; and
  • the design of new streetscapes and open spaces adjacent to and within development sites, including pedestrian and cycling infrastructure to ensure that they are of a high quality and supportive of a range of users.

The establishment of a checklist or other tool can be helpful in evaluating development applications for impacts on transit-supportive environments.

Involve transit agencies in the planning process

Effective planning for transit-supportive communities requires a comprehensive approach, one that coordinates land use policy, development approvals and implementation with the operational needs of transit agencies.

The inclusion of both planning and operations branches of transit agencies in the development of municipal planning documents is fundamental to ensuring that the spatial organization, mix of uses and development densities are coordinated with existing and planned investments in transit. From a development perspective, the input of transit agencies in the review of applications and amendments can help to ensure that the needs of the transit system are being addressed at the more local level of the stop or station area.

Key areas of involvement include:

Official plans, transportation master plans, secondary plans and district plans

Transit agencies have an important role to play in the development of official plans, secondary plans and district plans, ensuring that the mix of uses and densities are sufficient to support planned levels of transit service and that the layout and design of streets and open spaces is conducive to supporting ridership.

Key areas of input include the:

  • identification of the role and objectives for transit service within the community;
  • identification of transit needs regarding arterial and collector road layout and spacing, local street layout, densities and mix of uses along transit routes;
  • development of policies relating to the phasing and timing of future urban development;
  • identification of future transit routes, transit nodes and stop locations;
  • identification of intermodal transit hubs;
  • development of modal split targets;
  • development of transit service standards, to indicate conditions which should be met prior to extending transit routes;
  • identification of overall urban densities required to support desired levels of transit service;
  • identification of development densities required at various activity nodes and corridors in the urban area;
  • review of proposed densities and mix of uses in development applications to ensure that they are appropriate for projected levels of transit service;
  • the development of proposals for future transit stop locations and planning of future space requirements for bus shelters, benches, amenities, compliance with AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) requirements; and
  • input into the identification of developer requirements for the installation of basic transit infrastructure, such as bus stop pads.

Zoning by-laws

The review of draft by-laws by transit agencies can help to ensure that regulations regarding lot frontages, densities and permitted uses along transit routes will support the service and financial objectives of the transit agency.

Site plans and plans of subdivision

A review of site plans and plans of subdivision by transit agencies can help to ensure that the broader policies related to transit established at the municipal level are being adequately reflected at the scale of the site.

Key areas of input include:

  • providing an assessment of local road layouts, arterial/collector road layouts, analysis of the costs and feasibility of servicing the proposed development (e.g. route length per number of residents served);
  • reviewing walking distances to transit stops and ensuring that they are properly sited and designed to enhance user access and comfort;
  • providing a review of the proposed staging of development with respect to planned expansion of transit services and the cost/benefits of providing transit services if development is located away from the current transit service area; and
  • providing comment on the orientation and design of buildings to ensure that they are appropriately addressing key pedestrian routes leading to and from transit stations and that there is a positive relationship between the location of entrances and transit stops.

In both subdivision and site plan applications, transit agencies should be given the opportunity to recommend changes to initial development proposals. Where major changes to an application are requested by the transit agency, the agency should play a direct role in consultation and negotiation with developers. Transit agencies should also be given the opportunity to review revised plans to ensure appropriate changes have been made.

Ensure that transit-related Environmental Assessment (EA) processes account for infrastructure impacts on the full range of transportation modes and the potential for new transit-supportive development

All public projects including transit infrastructure must comply with the Ontario Environmental Assessment (EA) Act and, if triggered, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Environmental assessment is both a planning and decision-making process used to promote environmentally responsible decisions. This is achieved by considering the potential environmental effects of options and selecting the preferred option in consultation with agencies and the public.

As transit agencies, municipalities or regions perform required EAs, it is useful to:

  • incorporate evaluation criteria for alternatives that includes consideration of:
    • the impacts of infrastructure on all modes of transportation;
    • the impacts of infrastructure on surrounding land uses and the potential to create transit-supportive development;
    • the potential effects on the natural, social, cultural and economic environment including potential aboriginal interests; and
  • undertake an effective engagement process so that the public understands the impacts of projects and can provide meaningful feedback.

When contemplating a transit project, the transit agency, municipality or region should determine which EA process best applies and may consult with the Ministry of Environment on that decision. The following options are also available for non-dedicated transit projects (where transit will operate in mixed traffic) or when notification is provided to the Ministry of the Environment under Ontario Regulation 231/08 of a Class EA process:

  • The streamlined transit EA process in Ontario Regulation 231/08
  • The Municipal Engineers Association Class EA: Transit Chapter; and
  • If the provincial transportation system is affected, the Ministry of Transportation’s Class EA for Provincial Transportation Facilities and GO Transit’s Class EA.

Innovative Planning Approaches

Planning, designing and building transit-supportive communities often requires new ways of thinking about problems and their solutions. Traditional planning standards and processes, which were developed to manage conventional growth patterns, may need to be re-examined and adapted to support transit-supportive planning and design.

Create an alternative set of development standards and processes for transit-supportive development

The development of a series of alternative transit-supportive development standards can be used to guide public and private investment in designated areas or districts such as nodes or corridors. They can be incorporated into guidelines or official plan policies and include items such as:

  • streetscape standards designed to encourage higher levels of walking and cycling;
  • parking standards such as reduced parking requirements and maximum parking supply;
  • building standards such as minimum ground floor height requirements to support more active uses; and
  • transportation demand management requirements.

Alternative development standards can help to guide public investment in facilities, streets and open spaces to ensure that they meet objectives related to supporting transit. Implementation of standards can be achieved through municipal development approvals processes such as the establishment of plans of subdivision, rezoning processes, official plan amendments and/or site plan approvals.

Use the development permit system to enable faster approvals and greater design flexibility

The development permit system is a land use planning tool that combines site plan, zoning and minor variance processes into a single application and approval process. This can be beneficial for transit-supportive development which often incorporates a greater mix of uses and as a result more complicated building types and classifications. The development permit system is available to all local municipalities and can be applied to all or part of a municipality.

City of Calgary Mobility Assessment & Plan

In order to better support and balance all modes of transportation around their light rail stations, the City of Calgary developed an alternative tool, the Mobility Assessment & Plan process.

  • engages the community at a higher level than typical transportation studies to identify issues and generate solutions to addressing community concerns;
  • assesses existing, medium and long term transportation conditions considering all modes of movement;
  • accepts and allows for a higher degree of congestion in the high-density station area and prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists and transit over the private automobile;
  • provides a list of hard and soft infrastructure recommendations such as cycling, pedestrian, transit, parking and road network improvements over the short, medium and long term to support planned levels of development; and
  • aims to gradually improve walking, cycling and transit quality of service over time in relation to the automobile.

Brentwood Station Area Mobility Assessment and Plan (City of Calgary, Transportation Planning)

Recommended Resources

Ontario Development Permit System (Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing)

Consider utilizing the development permit system in locations where:

  • high quality development is paramount;
  • there is a desire to incorporate the provision of discretionary uses under certain conditions;
  • there is the desire for a quicker approvals process; and
  • more flexible building standards would be beneficial for generating a more transit-supportive development pattern and mix of uses.

Implement multi-modal transportation impact assessments

One of the most common problems associated with standard traffic impact assessments is that they tend to over-value the impact of new development on vehicular movement while discounting new opportunities for increased walking, cycling and transit use. This can be addressed by implementing multi-modal transportation impact assessments that:

  • examine the wider catchment area of the stop or station in relation to the proposed transit-supportive development in order to understand the broader transportation issues of the surrounding community;
  • require a comprehensive assessment examining impacts on all modes within the transportation network including existing and planned modal split and trip generation rates;
  • assess the appropriateness of modal split targets against existing and planned levels of road capacity and levels of transit service;
  • explore the impacts of development on existing transit routes in order to identify whether there will be the need for service enhancements such as increased frequency and/or capacity, the addition of new stops or the implementation of transit priority measures;
  • consider the potential for transportation options and transportation demand management (TDM) measures to mitigate projected traffic impacts, such as improved transit service, pedestrian and cyclist-friendly site design strategies and/or other measures; and
  • recognize that under some circumstances higher levels of congestion associated with a project can be beneficial, supporting a shift in modal split.

Consider using multi-modal transportation impact assessments as a basis for negotiated agreements between developers and the city to assist in servicing new developments. This could include providing support for capital investments such as new transportation infrastructure and/or operation agreements related to the provision of transit service prior to full build-out of development.

Funding and Investment

The development of transit and the creation of transit-supportive communities require investment. While transit infrastructure itself is often funded through large capital funding programs, other less traditional funding mechanisms can be utilized to pay for improvements vital to the creation of transit-supportive communities.

Lead by example

Some of the most successful transit-supportive communities are developed through public sector leadership. Where the province, municipality or transit agency owns land in strategic locations associated with transit, consideration should be given to developing or partnering with private developers to redevelop the area in a more transit-supportive manner.

  • Successful development of public lands can set a high standard for private sector development near transit and create an increased market for similar developments.
  • Consideration can be given to developing partnerships with private enterprises, where a partial transfer of strategic land holdings can be sold for development and in exchange the developer could create and maintain public amenities such as parks or facilities such as libraries.
  • Proceeds from the sale of capital should only be used to reinvest in capital infrastructure or start-up costs to expand services (for example, expanding the bus/train fleet to service a new community). Operating costs, including amortization, need to be supported fully by current and future operating revenue streams.
  • Governments may also benefit from increased property tax revenues, as strategic investments in infrastructure may provide an incentive for the private sector to construct new developments or to redevelop existing properties to a higher and better use, resulting in an expansion of the property assessment base.

Establish Community Improvement Plans (CIP)

Community Improvement Plans (CIPs) can be established through appropriate official plan policies and designating by-laws which identify CIP areas. CIPs allow municipalities to make grants or loans to finance certain project costs, typically those with a focus on maintenance, rehabilitation, development and redevelopment. CIPs can be used to:

  • advance public realm, transportation and public infrastructure elements important to creating transit-supportive communities;
  • assist in funding the rejuvenation of existing infrastructure;
  • promote and stimulate private sector investment in targeted areas; and
  • help fund difficult redevelopment sites such as environmentally contaminated brownfield sites adjacent to planned investments in transit.

Leverage parking assets into revenue

Municipalities may wish to establish a levy on paid parking locations, including on-street metered parking and/or parking lots. Another effective way to gain revenue from parking is the establishment of a parking authority. A parking authority is a corporation owned by the municipality, whose primary responsibility is the provision of shared commercial (and residential, in some instances) parking, during both on- and off-peak demand hours. Key benefits of parking authorities include:

  • costs of operations and maintenance can be covered through parking revenues;
  • additional revenues can be reinvested to contribute to the funding of valuable public amenities such as cycling infrastructure or public realm enhancements that can support transit-supportive communities;
  • parking supply can be adjusted where appropriate to promote higher levels of transit use;
  • overall supply of parking within an area can be reduced in favour of shared parking arrangements; and
  • management of spaces can be combined with innovative programming to promote carpooling and carsharing.

Use density and height bonusing to achieve transit-supportive objectives

Section 37 of the Ontario Planning Act permits some forms of height or density bonusing. This tool allows buildings to exceed heights or densities permitted by zoning by-laws in exchange for community facilities, services or benefits that do not increase the financial burden on municipalities. Contributions are typically negotiated between the municipality and the developer. Benefits in exchange for height or density could include:

  • community amenities such as daycares or cultural spaces that can be located adjacent to transit facilities;
  • public realm improvements or amenities that support pedestrians such as a plaza or public art; or
  • financial contributions to fund community enhancements in and around transit stops or station areas.

Conversely, density bonusing can be an important tool that can be used to help attract investment and the creation of transit-supportive development by rewarding developments that support a community’s transportation objectives, helping to promote a shift to higher levels of walking, cycling and transit usage. This can be achieved by specifying and providing incentives to developments that:

  • are infill in nature or designed to increase densities in areas with higher levels of transit service;
  • incorporate specific measures to support transit use such as integration of a transit stop or station entrance into the development; or
  • incorporate transportation demand management strategies in line with municipal transportation policy objectives.

Use municipal capital facilities agreements to deliver new transit facilities

Municipalities can enter into municipal capital facilities agreements with other parties, whether public, private, First Nations or not for profit, in order to deliver transit and transit-supportive transportation facilities, such as cycling or pedestrian infrastructure, where this can be done more effectively by an outside party. This can include the provision of a facility, leasing of a facility to a partner, operating a service or facility or maintaining a facility on behalf of the municipality.

Establish municipal services corporations to raise capital for transit projects

Municipalities can establish municipal services corporations for most services and/or facilities that the municipality itself could provide including transit and transit-supportive measures through Section 203 of the Municipal Act, 2001 (and the corresponding Regulation 599/06).

Establishing a municipal service corporation is one way for municipalities to bring in capital to deliver transit, by selling shares in a for-profit municipal services corporation or offering membership in a not-for-profit corporation to deliver transit and transit-supportive services. In addition, municipalities have the authority to use an area rate levy (Municipal Act, 2001 s. 326 (1)(a)) which can be provided to a municipal services corporation for economic development services, such as public transit.

Structure development charges to recoup costs associated with expanding service areas

Recommended Resources

Brownfields Ontario (Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing)

Community Improvement Planning Handbook (Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing)

Height and Density Bonusing (s.37) (Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing)

Center for Transit-Oriented Development (Reconnecting America)

The Development Charges Act, 1997, allows municipalities to levy charges on new development to help finance the growth-related capital costs of providing roads, transit and other transit-supportive land uses such as daycares, recreational facilities and libraries. Municipalities must undertake a background study to show estimates and calculations used to establish development charges. The study must include a 10-year growth projection, estimates of future service needs and estimates of the cost of the infrastructure required to provide those services.

Municipalities can recoup up to 90% of the costs calculated to pay for transit, parkland development, daycares and recreation facilities through development charges. A municipality may choose to levy a development charge for transit in order to recoup costs associated with the growth of transit in new service areas.


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