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TOD in Response to the New Normal

IBI Group is committed to channeling our expertise in placemaking, infrastructure, buildings and technologies to create real solutions to current issues.

By Amy Emm


May 28, 2020

Canada’s climate is warming twice as fast as the global average[1], presenting serious and growing challenges to our cities and communities. IBI Group is committed to channeling its expertise in placemaking, infrastructure, buildings and technologies to create real solutions to this global crisis.

Transit oriented development (TOD) is a form of urban development that maximizes the amount of residential, business and leisure space within a 10-minute walking distance of public transportation. TOD has been identified as a major solution to evolving global energy security by creating dense, walkable communities that reduce the need for driving and energy consumption. This type of development pattern can reduce driving by up to 85 per cent[2].


IBI Group is part of a design consortium working on vivaNext, a Bus Rapid transit (BRT) system to serve the future of the York Region and alleviate congestion in the Greater Toronto Area.

What are the opportunities to improve the design of TOD in response to global events?

IBI Group’s longstanding partnerships with transit authorities like Metrolinx, vivaNext and the TTC, in conjunction with strong relationships with public and private sectors, has afforded the company a wealth of TOD project experience seen through the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, various station area plans, and numerous private developments along existing and proposed transit corridors.

A pertinent question to be answered as the world finds itself in a unique and unprecedented time, is how will the COVID-19 pandemic affect life from a mobility perspective? 

As information and data flow in, it is evident that the health measures in place have resulted in a dramatic decrease in automotive dependence. Transit authorities have temporarily reduced the frequency and level of transit service in a cautionary effort to protect their employees. This measure has led to overcrowding on some routes, and increased trips for alternative transportation modes such as pedestrian, cycling and taxi and Uber/Lyft services.

IBI Group is re-evaluating how communities are designed, how mobility is planned, and how new avenues can ensure resident health and wellbeing.

The pandemic is the hard push forcing many to open their minds to the true feasibility and viability of transitioning the scheme of communities away from the auto-centric model. Temporary closures of roads for non-vehicle modes suggest that municipal engineering standards for rights of way could be revised with increased widths and programming to enable more pedestrian, cyclist and infrastructure separation.  

With these closures, outdoor personal amenity space in denser urban areas has become increasingly important and will likely spur changes to the design of high-rise buildings. These changes could include enlarged balconies to support park-like personal amenity space.

IBI Group is part of the design team for 1075 Nelson, the ambitious, mixed-use residential tower set to become the world’s tallest Passive House building.

Municipalities across Ontario have momentarily closed all public parks and recreational centres to slow the spread of the virus.

Car share temporarily being shut down, and the development of contactless delivery as a result of COVID-19, propels the opportunity for curbside management planning. IBI Group recognized the critical nature of the curbside early on, and has developed a patent-pending platform under development to help municipalities understand, manage, and communicate their curbside restrictions and optimize the valuable curb space for both end users and developers/builders alike. This optimization is key to operating the future transportation networks efficiently. Without a clear understanding, management process and communication plan for how this space is being used, the curb devolves into conflict, inefficiency, and frustration for everyone involved.

IBI Group’s many teams, including transportation, architecture, urban design and planning, have come together to explore these new trends in TOD needs and opportunities, that we submit will contribute to healthy, sustainable and complete environments. 

[1] Government of Canada, “Canada’s climate is warming twice as fast as global average,” April 2, 2019,

[2] Transit Oriented Development Institute,

Amy Emm is a registered MCIP, RPP with over 14 years of private- and public-sector professional planning and development experience. She provides a full range of planning services including, but not limited to: master planning, block planning, concept development, planning approvals, and expert testimony. Amy has expertise in the creation of a variety of planning studies ranging from due diligence, highest/best use, land use compatibility, and planning justification to land use policy development. She also specializes in the securing of approvals for land development or redevelopment. From the due diligence stages to the final registration of plans, she offers expertise in applications under the Planning Act such as Official Plan Amendment Applications, Zoning By-law Amendment Applications, Draft Plans of Subdivision, Plans of Condominium, Site Plans, Consent and Variance Applications.

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