Municipalities can reduce their exposure to potential future out-migration by enhancing the livability of their built environment, prioritising areas in which they have an advantage, such as access to amenities and employment, as well as a vibrant social and cultural life.
Livability of the urban areas can be addressed by prioritising the urban tree canopy and green spaces, which will help with cooling, reducing the urban heat island effect that is likely to become problematic with climate change, focusing on access to amenities such as grocery stores, schools, cafes, parks, and all the other things that make living in urban areas great. A key component of this access is easy and affordable transit options so that residents can get to work, or travel elsewhere, without having to own a vehicle, creating a cost-advantage to urban over rural life.
This cost advantage that urban areas offer over rural living is greatly under-realized in many of our communities. The phasing approach as outlined by staff in the Draft Growth Management Amendment (DGMA), as well as direction to Innisfil and BWG that they focus on building complete communities in the areas surrounding the proposed Go stations, is a good start towards ensuring that built-up areas are more fully realized before new development expands the urban envelope.
Many of the advantages of the urban built form, as indicated above, have to do with proximity. If a resident is able to easily access amenities they can choose to not own a personal vehicle. Car ownership is an estimated average cost of more than $10,000 per year per vehicle for Canadians.
For a typical family that owns two vehicles this equates to more than $20,000 each and every year that is freed up. This money represents what is, by and large, an outflow of capital from the community, going to fossil fuel companies, banks, and car companies. By giving this money back to residents much of it can be recaptured by the local economy, going, instead, to restaurants, property upgrades, charitable causes, business start-ups, to name a few possibilities.
Some of this freed money will, of course, be spent on transit fares, but public transit is far more efficient to operate than personal vehicles infrastructure, especially when negative externalities, like health impacts due to air pollution, which in Canada alone costs an estimated $120 billion per year, are accounted for. Additionally, in relation to the efficiency of public transit, economies of scale can be achieved with greater density in urban areas, helping to reduce the amount per unit of infrastructure for municipalities and enabling expenditures elsewhere, such as on the public amenities such as parks, libraries and community centers, and tree canopy noted above.