Workshop explores urban transportation-land use interaction

aerial view of Toronto and Lake Ontario
Aerial view of Toronto (Photo: Maarten van den Heuvel, Pexels)

Guests actively contributed their expertise and opinions at a September 10 workshop led by UTTRI associated faculty Professor Chris Higgins in support of “An Integrated Approach to Transit System Evolution,” a research project supported by a Knowledge Synthesis Grant on mobility and public transit.

[This] particular project [is] broken into three modules. The first module is what we’re working on today. It’s about revisiting the core works that inform the way that we, as academics, think about how transportation and land use are connected in cities, and the role that transportation plays in shaping land use and vice versa. So revisiting those core theories that inform the way we think about this.

The next one we’re working on after this is about understanding the role of new transportation technologies and trends. So technologies like, potentially, autonomous vehicles, e-scooters, all sorts of things, their role in reducing transportation costs (potentially), and trends like COVID on how it’s changing travel patterns and how it’s affecting that system that we’ve set up in module one.

And then module three is about reinterpreting this transportation land use connection going forward, updating these core theories and works, and how to guide the way we think about transportation and land use in Canadian cities. – Professor Chris Higgins, Principal Investigator, “An Integrated Approach to Transit System Evolution.”

Over 50 knowledgeable individuals from a cross section of academia, government, NGOs and industry thoughtfully revisited the changing landscape of transportation-land use theory and research and shared their views.

Five aspects of transportation-land use interaction were framed as discussion questions for moderated small groups:

  1. How can the land use benefits of public transit projects be balanced against achieving social outcomes, such as minimizing displacement and supporting affordable housing?
  2. Does transit create a “locational advantage” in real estate prices in practice, and is there a real role for land value capture from transit projects in Canada?
  3. Is the transportation-land use connection strong enough for public transit alone to affect land use change (or vice versa)? Which policy supports have proven effective in Canada?
  4. What role will new mobility technologies play in shaping the transportation and land use connection in post-COVID Canadian communities?
  5. Are the connections between public transit and land use strengthening or weakening, and will public transit investments be effective in shaping Canadian communities during the post-COVID recovery?

Workshop discussions provided investigators with a rich array of perspectives and essential source material for the synthesis of existing knowledge and identification of knowledge gaps.

About “An Integrated Approach to Transit System Evolution”

Understanding the role of public transit in the wider transport-land use system of great importance for guiding effective policy and planning at all levels of government. While it is widely recognized that transit performs best when closely integrated with land use planning, recent transformational trends including new mobility technologies and the COVID-19 pandemic are fundamentally altering the way we think about transportation and land use interaction in cities. In response, this project seeks to conduct a targeted literature review and synthesis that revisits core theories, reviews recent research, and reinterprets the transportation-land use relationship in light of the challenges and opportunities that have occurred and are likely to occur over the next decade in Canadian communities.

“An Integrated Approach to Transit System Evolution” is supported by Co-PIs Professors Eric Miller, Steven Farber, Amer Shalaby, and Khandker Nurul Habib; collaborators Professors Shauna Brail, Sara Diamond (OCAD U), Michael Widener, and Antonio Páez (McMaster); and research assistants Billy Zhang and Yixue Zhang.

About Knowledge Synthesis Grants

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) collaborated with Infrastructure Canada to launch a Knowledge Synthesis Grants competition on mobility and public transit in 2020 to examine and synthesize existing knowledge on mobility and public transit issues.

Knowledge syntheses are comprehensive analyses of literature and other forms of knowledge on a particular question or issue. Knowledge Synthesis Grants are intended to support the synthesis of existing research knowledge and the identification of knowledge gaps. This call was particularly focused on the state of research knowledge emerging over the past 10 years.