While municipal planning and design diverges from the sprawling, car-centric model that dominated much of the 20th century, developers and local governments may disagree on how cities can grow sustainably. Transit-oriented development (TOD), which prioritizes population density, walkability, land use diversity, and parking around transit hubs, is a long-standing field. However, much of the research in recent years has omitted the critical component of land development potential.
Carmela Cucuzzella, professor of design and computational arts, recently published an article on the subject in the journal Towns. In it, Cucuzzella and her co-authors create an easily transferable TOD index that assesses the possibilities of creating polycentric cities based on transit hubs outside the inner city.
“Work on this paper started pre-COVID, and now we see how current it is. There is a large portion of the population that works in a hybrid model and they want vibrancy in their environment,” said Cucuzzella, one of the founders director of Concordia’s Next-Generation Cities Institute.
“The core of the inner city will always exist because it is the center of our cultural activities, most of our jobs are located here and it is the densest residential area in the city. It will always be the core.”
Jordan Owen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sherif Goubran of the American University in Cairo and Thomas Walker, a professor of finance at the John Molson School of Business, co-authored the paper.
Layers of the city
Cucuzzella studies how certain cities have successfully changed urban mobility patterns in her research project CoLLaboratoire for Activating Multi-modal Mobility. The current study looks at the development potential based on the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) commuter rail network, which will soon serve the Montreal area and surrounding suburbs with a 67-kilometer, 26-station system.
The index appears to integrate three different layers into its calculations, based on a one-kilometer walkable radius around each REM station. The layers combine socio-environmental characteristics, economic vibrancy and development potential to assess their score. Each station is then ranked according to its development potential.
Socio-economic characteristics look at the walkability of the area, including barriers such as, in the case of Montreal, a river, mountain, train tracks or a highway. It also includes a Green View Index, which essentially measures the tree canopy and green spaces of the area. The last is the car use ratio, which helps assess the potential of a shift to public transport use.
Economic vibrancy is measured using the Yelp Open Dataset to quantify commercial diversity around stations and a commercial land index that quantifies how much land is earmarked for commercial activities. Finally, the development potential is calculated using available building land (residential zone only) and current and maximum density surcharges.
REM as a model
Nineteen of the REM’s 26 stations were ranked based on their TOD index scores. Fairview-Pointe-Claire and Des Sources in Montreal’s West Island and Bois-Franc in Ville St-Laurent were the highest ranked. The stations with the lowest scores were Marie-Curie in Montreal’s Technoparc, close to Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, Ville St-Laurent’s Du Ruisseau, on the border of Cartierville, and Côte-de-Liesse, in the heavily industrial area of Ville St Laurent.
“Those with the highest scores scored well for two main reasons: their car use is very high or they have a very low density and can be developed with the maximum density in Montreal which is 150 units per hectare,” she explains. “That’s equivalent to a six- to eight-storey building on a 10,000 square meter plot, which is not an unacceptable density for such residential areas.”
Those at the bottom scored low, mainly because they are located on or near industrial estates or around the airport. In other locations, the land around the REM station was designated as commercial. Developers should avoid those areas, as it can take decades to change land use from industrial (or commercial) to residential.
For this paper, the TOD index the authors developed was applied to Montreal’s REM network, but Cucuzzella points out that it can be easily applied to the subway system or bus stops, or to any city with enough publicly available data.
“This index brings city planners and the developers and investors together at the same table as they can work together to build the city in an informed way,” she adds.
“This may also help alleviate some of the tensions between city officials and investors, as this index aims to provide important information needed to help them develop the city together.”
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Carmela Cucuzzella et al, a TOD index that integrates development potential, economic vibrancy and socioeconomic factors to encourage polycentric cities, Towns (2022). DOI: 10.116/j.cities.2022.103980
Quote: Light rail stations could form the basis of a polycentric Montreal with proper planning, according to new research (2022, Oct. 18) retrieved Oct. 18, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-rail-stations-basis -polycentric-montreal.html
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