Suburban mixed-use centres and urban dispersion: what difference do they make?
In a context of growing car dependency and suburban sprawl, planners search for ways of intensifying urban development and reducing reliance on the automobile. The creation of planned mixed-use centres intended to become hubs of transit and pedestrian movement within the dispersed suburban environment represents one such intensification strategy. I investigate three suburban mixed-use centres in the Greater Toronto Area, selected for their advanced level of development, and identify the planning rationales and objectives that have led to their creation. To verify the extent to which they meet their intensification goal, I monitor the three selected centres' level of development, modal split, land-use pattern, inner synergy, and inner movements. Findings are mixed. If the suburban centres have been successful in attracting development and attaining levels of transit use, pedestrian movement and inner synergy exceeding those of the typical suburban area, they are not as distinct from the remainder of the suburb as intended and thus fall short from their planning objectives. I conclude that a strategy combining the creation of nodes (such as suburban mixed-use centres) with high-density, transit-oriented corridors within the suburban environment would be more effective in bringing intensification to this portion of the metropolitan region.
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