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Comment: Development is needed in the right places

Transit-oriented development — TOD — is basic to good city-making.
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The Blink No. 95 B.C. Transit bus at t at the Uptown stop in Saanich. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A commentary by a Victoria city council member and Capital Regional District director.

Transit-oriented development — TOD — is basic to good city-making. We need more new homes and amenities near transit stops. This allows more people to live car-free and car-lite lifestyles, and reduces our overall community greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.

Of course, a principled approach holds that there is no need to limit the added development to areas well-served by transit. We should also be allowing more in five-minute (and 10-minute) walkable, complete neighbourhoods, where people can access groceries, cafes and other destinations without having to drive or take transit. We have several of these around Victoria – our urban villages.

And of course we should allow more homes and amenities near protected bike-and-roll routes. We used to call these bike routes, but there has been amazing growth in the use of mobility scooters, e-bikes, e-scooters, e-skateboards, and more. It’s not just bikes anymore.

Also, when it comes to safety on such routes, paint is not adequate; it can actually be worse than nothing. We need high-quality, protected bike-and-roll routes if we want the quiet majority to consider using those routes, rather than getting in their cars and adding to traffic.

So the term “transit-oriented development” is actually a bit dated. We can just say more development (more homes and amenities) in the right places.

And the right places are:

• In five- or 10-minute, walkable, complete communities

• Near transit stops

• Near protected bike-and-roll lanes.

In my opinion, most city councillors are strongly in favour of greater density in the right places. You can see it in our votes, in our comments on development applications, and in our strategic plan:

I hope we see a lot more proposals for development in the right places. And I expect we will.

It also looks like the provincial government will be directly involved in building in the right places. It introduced legislation in 2022 to allow the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority to acquire land “for the purpose of building housing and community amenities to serve people near transit stations and bus exchanges.”

It would be great to see the provincial government building massive amounts of non-profit housing and co-operative housing, along with needed amenities, in the right places.

Please do!

If the province chooses to rely on the market to provide some of that homes-and-amenities-in-the-right-places, then municipalities will need to change their zoning bylaws to enable it.

And if municipalities fail to do so, then I’d welcome the province mandating it.

The federal government has been making it clear that federal dollars depend on municipalities allowing more development in the right places, having publicly told several municipalities as much in recent weeks.

The provincial government will make significant housing announcements this fall, including bringing forward new legislation. I look forward to significant investments and policy changes that pave the way for far more homes and amenities in the right places.

We need this. This is what sustainable, low carbon cities look like.

This is the future. Bring it on.

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