Transit-Oriented Development in Smiths Falls, Ontario: A Comparison Between Two Sites

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Adam, Bentley
Transit-Oriented Development , Smiths Falls , VIA Rail , Commuter Suburb
In 2007, the Mayor of Ottawa’s Task Force on Transportation suggested connecting Smiths Falls with Ottawa via commuter rail. While planning for this rail line continues, VIA Rail is preparing to move its operations from a historic urban station to a new unstaffed building at the edge of the Town. Does the existing or future train station have more potential to accommodate commuter transit-oriented development (TOD), as defined by the City of Ottawa’s guidelines? A combination of TOD guidelines from the City of Ottawa and Robert Cervero’s Developing Around Transit were used to evaluate the potential for existing land uses and policies to accommodate TOD around one of two potential sites for a commuter rail station in Smiths Falls. Twenty-five guidelines were divided into six categories: land use, layout, built form, pedestrians and cyclists, vehicles and parking, and streetscape and environment. All guidelines were compared to existing land use conditions and relevant policies for within a 600-metre radius of the existing and future VIA Rail stations. Upon applying the evaluation criteria to the existing and potential attributes of the two site areas, and the policies of the municipalities of Smiths Falls and Montague, the conclusion drawn from the detailed analysis was that the existing VIA station and site area are in a better position to use existing land use patterns and municipal policies for positive commuter TOD. To properly take advantage of any future commuter rail station, Smiths Falls should connect its existing core commercial area on Beckwith to the station via attractive amenities at higher densities along Daniel Street and promote Victoria Avenue as a new destination for a wide variety of land uses. The Town should amend its Official Plan and Zoning By-Law to promote biking as a viable mode of local transportation and implement a local mass transit network to connect the station to other areas of the Town. Should Canadian Pacific Railway move its yards to another part of the city, the Town should determine what transit-oriented uses could be made of the current rail yards.
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