2000 volume 18(2) pages 163 – 189

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Filion P, 2000, "Balancing concentration and dispersion? Public policy and urban structure in Toronto" Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 18(2) 163 – 189

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Balancing concentration and dispersion? Public policy and urban structure in Toronto

Pierre Filion

Received 30 November 1997; in revised form 16 December 1998

Abstract. By North American standards Toronto is a concentrated agglomeration. Its downtown has enjoyed spectacular growth since the 1960s; most inner-city neighbourhoods are perceived as desirable; and public transit patronage is high relative to that of same-size North American metropolitan regions. Still, it is within dispersed, car-oriented, suburbs that most post-1950 development has taken place. This agglomeration is composed of two realms—a concentrated and a dispersed realm—differentiated by their respective land-use – transportation dynamic. The concentrated realm is defined by a considerable reliance on walking and public transportation, a mixing of land uses and overall higher employment and residential densities than elsewhere in the metropolitan region. Meanwhile, the dispersed realm is car dependent, dominated by large monofunctional zones and developed at a relatively low density. The author links the coexistence and respective importance of these two realms in the Toronto agglomeration both to the nature of urban policies implemented since 1950 and to the circumstances that have led to their adoption. The construction of expressways, suburban type land-use planning, and a generous provision of open space have abetted dispersion. By contrast, the construction of a subway system and measures encouraging the redevelopment of underused land have promoted growth within the concentrated portion of the agglomeration. It is noteworthy, however, that these measures have failed in their attempts to induce concentration beyond the prewar urbanized perimeter. The author examines the positive and negative aspects of the presence of these two realms within a given agglomeration and highlights the threat newly adopted policies represent for the concentrated realm.

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