Official Plan Review: updates to transportation policies
The City of Toronto has completed a review of the policies in the Official Plan relating to transportation. On February 26, City Council debated and approved Official Plan Amendment 456, which introduces comprehensive policies related to integration with land use, complete streets, and active transportation. Cycle Toronto submitted comments twice throughout the consultation period, of which some comments were accepted and others were held for consideration during the next five year review. We also provided a statement to City Council supporting some of the proposed policy changes.
What is an Official Plan? Why does it need to be updated?
Changes to the Official Plan were completed as part of a mandatory Five Year Review of the Official Plan, which is required per provincial law. Toronto's Official Plan is an important document that guides the discussion of how to plan and build the city from a high level. It is hierarchical, which means that the Official Plan must conform to provincial legislation. In turn, other more detailed plans, such as zoning by-laws, secondary plans, and planning frameworks must conform to the Official Plan.
Outlining goals in an Official Plan is the first stop in policy-making for cycling infrastructure. The Plan provides the justification for why improving transportation and creating more transportation choices, such as by building cycling infrastructure, is essential.
Cycle Toronto's suggestions
Cycle Toronto recommended defining bicycle use as a means of commercial activity in addition to transportation and recreation; this submission was accepted and has been added to s. 2.14:
Guidelines, programs and infrastructure will be developed and implemented to create a safe, comfortable and bicycle-friendly environment that encourages people of all ages, abilities and means to bicycle for everyday transportation, recreation and commercial activity [...]
Many of our comments, however, were in areas that had been updated during the previous five year review. We provided feedback on Transportation Impact Studies (TIS) that are required as part of major land redevelopment projects. For instance, we recommended explicitly defining “traffic needs” as “including active transportation such as cycling and walking, as well as transit and driving” to explicitly position cycling as a form of “traffic”.
We also recommended updating the Guidelines for the Preparation of Transportation Impact Studies because they are currently dated July 2003 and to likewise make cycling an explicit form of “traffic”. This was not a part of the Official Plan review process, so we recommend revisiting the guidelines in the future.
Key changes to the Official Plan
There are some key proposed changes to the Official Plan that strengthen the policies related to cycling and active transportation. These policies will:
- direct the use of a “Complete Streets” design philosophy to consider the needs of all users including cyclists,1
- strengthen the provisions related to expanding the Cycling Network,2
- strengthen the provisions protecting pedestrians, such as by requiring adequate crossing time for pedestrians at signalized crossings,3
- introduce parking measures to encourage sustainable and active mobility choices, including:
- policies to increase bicycle parking requirements near higher-order transit stations, which will help reinforce the potential of “last mile” trips from transit stations,4 which is particularly impactful in suburban neighbourhoods
- policies encouraging retrofitting of existing buildings and facilities,5 which addresses many buildings that are not captured by bicycle parking rates in zoning by-laws
These changes will do much to incorporate and normalise the benefits of cycling in transportation and land use planning and operations.
With the amendment approved at City Council, the next step is to submit it to the province for final approval. There is also an opportunity for appeal.
- City Council agenda item, amended
- Current City of Toronto Official Plan
- Recommended Policy Revisions Incorporated with the In-Force Official Plan Showing Differences
- Official Plan Review - Consultation history
1 City of Toronto Official Plan: Recommended Policy Revisions, s. 2.4.14(b)(v)
2 s. 2.4.14
3 s. 2.4.17(e)
4 s. 2.4.14(d)(i)
5 s. 2.4.14.(d)(ii)
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Header photo by Devin McGloin