Accessibility and Land Prices

GEOG 1050
Urban Structure:
Accessibility, Land Prices, and Density
Accessibility and Land Prices
• Accessibility—to customers, to suppliers, to work, to all the
city has to offer—is important.
• People and business will pay for accessibility, so land near
transportation routes and nodes is more expensive.
• When land is more expensive, it is used more intensively—
e.g. denser development, or high rise building.
An example: Toronto
• The Central Business District or CBD of Toronto occupies the
historic centre. The city has grown outward from this point.
• The transportation system (road, rail, subway) focuses
on the CBD, so this is a highly accessible location.
• Also, the numerous businesses (e.g. banks), institutions
(e.g. U. of T.) and cultural activities (e.g. galleries)
concentrated in the CBD are highly accessible to each
other by foot.
Queen St. W.
Art Gallery of Ontario
U of T
The View from the CN Tower
The relationship between the pattern of development
and the accessibility provided by the transportation
system can be seen on the ground in the view from
the CN tower. Areas of greater accessibility are more
densely developed.
The Financial District
In Toronto, as in most large cities, the area with the highest density—and the highest buildings—is the
financial district.
The Waterfront
The original waterfront was off the picture to the lower left. All the land here is fill. This area had port activity in the
twentieth century, but now it is being redeveloped as an expensive residential area, because of the amenity (lake views)
and the accessibility (directly adjacent to the downtown core). For these reasons too the land is extremely valuable.
The Effect of the Subway
When the subway system was built under Yonge, University
and Bloor Streets, accessibility was enhanced for locations
along these streets. This increased land values, and
consequently the density and type of development.
The point of maximum accessibility is Union Station, where
commuter trains link with two subway lines, and the
Gardiner expressway passes just to the south.
The Subway Lines in Central Toronto
2 km
Union Station
The point of maximum accessibility
In the centre foreground is Union Station, the terminus of commuter trains into the city. This is also
the transfer point to the Yonge and University subway lines.
The City Core
The point of maximum accessibility is also the point of maximum density: the financial district is immediately
adjacent to Union Station and immediately above the Yonge and University subway lines, connected by a loop
under Union Station. The subway lines are shown in green.
After construction of the subway…
• Development of the financial core intensified, with construction
of the bank towers and other major buildings seen in the
previous picture.
• High rise development of offices occurred along Yonge street
and University avenue, especially around the subway stations
(next picture).
• Along Bloor street, houses and one and two story buildings
were soon replaced by high rise buildings. Offices and
shopping became the dominant land uses (next picture).
Looking North. The routes of the subway lines are
marked in green. Note the extensive high rise
development along these lines, especially in the
distance, along Yonge, and on the far right, along Bloor.
In contrast, to the northwest, away from the subway lines, there is very little dense, high
rise development—even next to the downtown core.
The same is true to the west.
GEOG 1050
Urban Geography: Sprawl
1. Urban growth that consumes more land area than
• But ‘necessary’ for what? For whom? Under what
2. Occurs where the percentage increase in occupied
land area is greater than the percentage increase in
• But what percentage is critical? +1%? +10%? Or…?
Buffalo, NY, lost 12% of its population, but the built-up area grew by
34%. As a result per-capita land use increased by 52%.
Atlanta, Georgia, grew by 84%, but the built-up area expanded by
161%, so per-capita land use increased by 42%.
Portland, Oregon, the ‘poster child’ of the “smart growth” movement,
grew by 42%, but the built-up area expanded by only 45%, so per
capita land use grew by only 2.4%.
Housing prices, on the other
hand, grew significantly.
What can we deduce?
– Sprawl is occurring, but there are ways to mitigate it
– Mitigation methods such as densification by-laws can have their own
problematic effects e.g., rising house prices
– Comprehensive urban planning needed
What’s Wrong with Sprawl?
• It is alleged to increase the level of
traffic congestion and increase
commuting distances.
• It eliminates other transport options, like transit and
walking; this in turn contributes to a major public health
problem—rapidly rising levels of cardio-vascular disease
and diabetes.
• It is a major cause of air pollution, again contributing to
health problems.
• It increases greenhouse gas emissions.
Sprawl and Canada
The problem of sprawl is slightly less severe than in
the US because several provinces—notably BC,
Alberta, and Ontario — have for some years had in
place policies that…
1. Limit the conversion of agricultural land to urban use
1. Limit scattered development and encourage contiguous
1. Favour the use of transit
Sprawl and Canada
But …
The policies adopted are not always enforced
They are not by themselves sufficient to control sprawl
Most provinces do not have anti-sprawl policies in effect
Where they do, there is too much ‘leakage’:
(sub)urban governments often pay for infrastructure of new housing
developments (roads, sewer, lighting, etc) --> makes housing cheaper
than if developer paid (a pro-growth policy)
The principal source of decreasing suburban densities is not
housing, but low-density non-residential uses (commercial, industrial,
recreational and institutional); again, often ‘subsidized’ by (sub)urban
government pro-growth policies
Lack of coordination between residential and non-residential activities
and the weak integration of both with public transit are major problems
More one-person households, fewer large households
Typical family house size today
5000 sq. ft
Typical family house size 1946
1000 sq. ft
Sprawl in Canadian cities
Ink shed (5 Min): Besides traffic congestion,
pollution, & health problems, what are some
potential implications of sprawl?
In spite of growth policies designed to limit sprawl, Toronto and the other
communities of the GTA, Hamilton St. Catherines and Niagara Falls have
expanded to cover a large area along lake Ontario.
Canada and sprawl
Canada and sprawl
Canada and sprawl
Sprawl and housing choice
Age pyramid of the central and peripheral municipalities of Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver CMAs in 2006
Sprawl and housing choice
Sprawl and housing choice
Transformation of urban spaces of/for production into those of/for consumption
Sprawl and housing choice
Transformation of urban spaces of/for production into those of/for consumption
Sprawl and housing choice
Transformation of urban spaces of/for production into those of/for consumption
Sprawl and housing choice
Transformation of urban spaces of/for production into those of/for consumption
Sprawl and housing choice
Sprawl and housing choice
# 307 555 JERVIS ST, Coal Harbour,
Vancouver Wes 480 sq. ft.
t, $320,000.00
3607 TRAFALGAR ST, Arbutus, Vancouver West, $1,058,000.00
Urban Sprawl in St. John’s?
Downtown St. John’s
Stavanger Drive
St. John’s
The Avalon Mall area
and Kenmount Road
St. John’s
Mt. Pearl
Urban Sprawl in St. John’s?

similar documents