Why not corridors?

Intensification corridors could help solve growth problems by blending high density and mixed use along a transit-supportive and pedestrian-friendly axis. Nodes at the meeting points of such corridors would benefit from the presence of pedestrians and transit users living along the corridors (Filion, 2003). The ineffectiveness of the Main Street and Avenues strategies, however, highlights difficulties in creating intensification corridors. Such initiatives require street-oriented redevelopment along the corridors, which may be many kilometres long and may cross municipal or regional boundaries. Corridors also demand sustained interest and consistent interventions over a long development period. These requirements may well be beyond the limits of the coordination capacity of the contemporary planning system.

Another obstacle to intensification corridor strategies comes from the NIMBYist reactions they trigger. Unlike nodes, which have only a limited interface with established residential areas because of their small size, corridors interface with such areas over long distances, heightening the potential for neighbourhood opposition.

Finally, there is the problem of how to launch such a strategy on a given arterial. The first developers who build medium-rise housing on a car-oriented retail strip are taking a considerable risk. If the planned intensification does not take off, they will be left with a residential investment in an environment that is poorly suited for such a use. On the other hand, if the intensification process is successful, the early developers will have purchased land at a lower cost than later investors, who will have to pay prices inflated by the emerging residential-friendly character of the corridor. Despite all these difficulties, York Region and the Town of Markham have engaged in efforts to create an intensification corridor along Highway 7. The project is still mostly at the planning stage, although efforts have been made to improve public transit by routing the Viva bus service (characterized by more frequent service, shelters with electronic bus tracing devices, articulated buses and eventually dedicated rights of way) within the corridor.