Here are frequently asked questions and answers about Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and the City's draft TOD Guidelines.
We’ve had LRT and Transit Centres for a long time, why are we only talking about Transit Oriented Development (TOD) now?
The Way Ahead, Edmonton’s strategic plan, sets out a vision of a more compact, transit oriented and sustainable city, where more people walk, cycle and use transit than they do today.
The Way We Move, Edmonton’s Transportation Master Plan, outlines a vastly expanded LRT network to all areas of the city. More than 40 new LRT stations will be added to the network over the next 30 years.
The Way We Grow, Edmonton’s Municipal Development Plan, directs that guidelines be prepared for land use and design to build higher density and mixed use communities at LRT stations and transit centres. That expansion of the LRT and transit system and an emphasis on a more compact city means the time to plan for TOD is now.
Why do we need or want TOD in Edmonton when the LRT might not be built in my neighbourhood for another 20 plus years?
TOD is an exciting approach to building a city that can help to achieve Edmonton’s vision. It concentrates housing, shopping and employment along a network of walkable and bikeable streets within a five minute walk of transit stations.
With the expansion of our LRT network, and with greater emphasis on transit use, walking and cycling in the future, it makes sense to pursue TOD as land use change takes time.
TOD incorporates good design principles in urban planning. Even where a transit station may not be present for many years to come, TOD principles make for good neighbourhoods. TOD's will be served by higher levels of transit service, including LRT, higher frequency bus routes and/or express bus routes where warranted.
Who prepared the TOD Guidelines?
The TOD Guidelines were prepared by Crandall Arambula, a planning / architecture consulting company based in Portland, Oregon, along with City of Edmonton staff. The firm has extensive experience with TOD and station area planning.
What consultation on this has taken place to date?
The City worked with an Advisory Committee of professionals from a number of City departments to develop the guidelines. We also worked with a group of key stakeholders representing a variety of groups and interests, such as the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Home Builders Association. By April 2011, those groups helped us get the guidelines to the stage where we could present them to the public and get feedback.
From April to June 2011, the City met with 10 different stakeholder groups such as the Urban Development Institute and the Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board to deliver a brief presentation on the draft guidelines and invite questions and feedback. As well, the city held five public open houses in May 2011 at locations along each of the current or planned LRT routes in the city – again featuring a short presentation followed by an opportunity for questions and discussions. Information was also available on our website, including an online feedback questionnaire.
In all, more than 200 people directly participated in the consultations by attending an open house, one of the other presentations or filling out the online questionnaire.
What happens next with the TOD Guidelines?
These are draft guidelines and must be approved by City Council before they are finalized. City administration is now preparing a TOD Guidelines report for Executive Committee of Council, which we expect to present in November 2011. At that time, there will be an opportunity for the public to participate at the meeting.
Are there TOD plans for transit stations that already exist?
There is a conceptual TOD plan for the Stadium LRT Station that has not yet been approved by Council. There have been some prominent rezonings near existing / future LRT stations (for example, Century Park, Strathearn Heights, Vision on the Corner) that are transit supportive, but may not truly reflect transit oriented development.
One of the most important things about developing these TOD Guidelines is that they will allow us to set out expectations for TOD before specific development plans are done for current or future transit stations. We can be ahead of the game.
What changes can I expect in my neighbourhood if TOD goes ahead and these guidelines are approved?
It depends on a number of different factors: market conditions, available land for redevelopment and if property owners take initiative to rezone or develop their property. For example, if you are in a mature neighbourhood with little or no vacant land available to be developed, there may be very little change in your neighbourhood. Unless a property owner wants to change the zoning and undertake a major re-development, the development in your neighbourhood might look very similar to what it is today.
Will the City force TOD style development if a community doesn’t want it?
No, the City has no plans to force TOD in existing communities. It is up to individual property owners to change or develop their properties to support transit. Within mature neighbourhoods (Neighbourhood Station Area Type), the expectations are limited to two storey town houses or duplexes. Low-rise apartments are expected along major roads and on large redevelopment sites.
The Guidelines will apply to rezoning proposals, statutory plan amendments and the creation of station area plans that property owners or developers put forward within 400 metres of an LRT station or Transit Centre.
How will TOD affect property values?
Studies show that homes and property become more valuable to people when there are more transportation options to move around the City such as better transit service or access to bicycle and walking paths, and where there are local services and opportunities for employment that a TOD should provide. The Edmonton Transportation Effect report shows a 10% to 20% increase in property values within 800 metres of LRT. In general, the experience in other cities has been that property values rise.
Will the City be buying private property to make way for TOD?
In general, no. The City has no plans to buy private property within neighbourhoods for TOD.
The Guidelines are not intended to force TOD, but rather, be in place for the time when existing property owners or developers begin to consider their development options. It is possible, though, that the City might choose to use land it already owns to foster TOD – for example, the City Centre Airport lands. The City also occasionally buys key properties as determined through a station area plan or as opportunities arise. In some cases, the City may also choose to acquire land for public realm improvements such as urban parks or plazas in station areas.
How does TOD tie into the City’s neighbourhood renewal work?
Great neighbourhoods are the building blocks of a great city. The City of Edmonton is enhancing its investments in the physical and social infrastructure of our communities. These investments improve the long-term livability of Edmonton's neighbourhoods and the lives of the people who live and work in them, and who visit them.
TOD is complementary to initiatives like neighbourhood renewal. There will be efforts made to coordinate neighbourhood renewal projects between internal agencies such as Drainage Services and Transportation to fall in line with TOD.
Is there an example of Transit Oriented Development in Edmonton now?
Some developments in Edmonton have been referred to as “Transit Oriented” because they are close to an LRT line or a bus route, but this is often inaccurate because they do not have all of the features of TOD that the Guidelines include - things like a mix of housing, retail and public spaces, walking and biking paths, and so on.
However, when it is completed, one example of a development in Edmonton that could be considered transit oriented is Century Park. This is a higher density neighbourhood (Enhanced Neighbourhood Station Area Type) that will include a good mix of land uses, pedestrian connectivity, high quality urban design, and open spaces. It was initiated in anticipation of the Century Park LRT station, which now exists.
What other Alberta or Canadian cities have TOD Guidelines? Are they similar to ours?
Other cities have adopted similar TOD Guidelines.
Calgary adopted their Transit Oriented Development Policy Guidelines in 2004 to provide land use and development polices and design guidelines for the development or redevelopment of properties within Transit Station areas. Design guidelines provide options for implementing TOD within the contexts of the different station types throughout Calgary. Guidelines provide direction for all levels of planning processes and development applications in station areas, which help to clarify the City's intent for development and achieve Council approved policy.
The City of Hamilton adopted Transit Oriented Development Guidelines in 2010. The TOD Guidelines serve as an implementation tool and complements existing City land use policies like the Hamilton Official Plan. Similar to Edmonton, station area types and development expectations differ based on site specific criteria.
The City of Vancouver established rezoning guidelines along the Cambie Corridor on the Canada Line prior to undertaking station planning.