Suburban growth in the Toronto CMA, 1996-2016: A Case of Johnny Town-Mouse and Timmy Willie

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Willms, Christopher R
suburbs , toronto , growth plan
This report addressed three questions: 1. What proportion of Toronto residents live in suburbs, and what is their distribution? 2. How has this proportion and distribution changed over time? 3. Are local growth management policies achieving their targets and objectives in Toronto? To help answer these questions, proven methods to describe population distribution were employed using data from the Statistics Canada Census for 2016, 2006 and 1996. The results classified all 1,151 census tracts in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) as either active core, transit suburb, auto suburb, or exurb. Active cores and transit suburbs were generally considered to be locations of more sustainable development. In these locations, higher proportions of commuters walked, cycled, or used some form of transit. Auto suburbs and exurbs were generally considered to be locations of less sustainable development. In these locations, higher proportions of commuters drove personal vehicles and population densities were lower. Policies from the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe emphasize intensification and compact development. Despite a slowed growth rate, auto suburbs account for the same proportion of CMA population in 2016 as they did in 1996. Their large volume makes for slow work to decrease their proportion. For every success where an auto suburb in 1996 became an active core (Newmarket Centre) or transit suburb (Etobicoke Centre or Scarborough Centre) for 2016, scores of other examples exist where greenfield lands in exurban areas were developed and became auto suburbs – from Milton, Oakville, and Brampton to Vaughan, Markham, and other municipalities. Growth in transit suburbs was primarily experienced along major transit corridors in the inner suburbs of the City of Toronto while growth in active cores was primarily expressed as an expansion of the CMA core area. The stark lack of active cores, and even transit suburbs, outside the City of Toronto demonstrates an ineffectiveness of plan policies promoting suburban transit-oriented development to date. Perhaps a review of census data in 2021 will reveal improved results.
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