Following two years of extensive consultations, the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs released a major update to the Places to Grow – The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe in May 2017. As part of the update, the province has adopted a Complete Streets policy, mandating that streets be designed for all users. This makes Ontario the first province in Canada to adopt a Complete Streets policy.
The Growth Plan covers the entire Golden Horseshoe region, from Peterborough to Niagara to Kitchener-Waterloo, with over 9 million residents. It is designed to guide population and employment growth in the region to 2041, and to direct growth within existing built-up areas. It promotes the development of complete communities, which “are well designed to meet people’s needs for daily living throughout an entire lifetime by providing convenient access to an appropriate mix of jobs, local services, public service facilities, and a full range of housing to accommodate a range of incomes and household sizes.” (2.1)
The update strengthens a commitment to building transit-oriented, complete communities with well-designed, convenient and continuous active transportation networks. The updated Plan requires that “In the design, refurbishment or reconstruction of the existing and planned street network, a complete streets approach will be adopted that ensures the needs and safety of all road users are considered and appropriately accommodated.” (22.214.171.124)
In addition to mandating Complete Streets, the Growth Plan requires the integration of active transportation and public transit by requiring that transit station areas to include “infrastructure to support active transportation, including sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and secure bicycle parking.” (126.96.36.199)
In conjunction with the Toronto Cycling Think & Do Tank, Dr. Paul Hess (University of Toronto) and Dr. Raktim Mitra (Ryerson University), TCAT provided feedback for the Growth Plan review in October 2016. The joint submission identified seven priority recommendations to prioritize active transportation and complete streets. The updated Growth Plan incorporates many of the recommendations, and places considerable emphasis on promoting active transportation on Ontario’s streets.
There is still some room for improvement, however. The updated Growth Plan does not include an evaluatory framework for assessing the success of transportation projects. In addition, there is presently no standardized, provincial funding model for new active transportation projects in Ontario.
Nonetheless, Ontario’s status at the first Complete Streets province is an extremely exciting development that will lead to the proliferation of streets designed for all users across the Greater Golden Horseshoe. It should also lead to a greater emphasis on building active transportation networks to connect the region through cycling and walking.