Bolder action is indicated
While the policy objectives contained in the Plan are very well conceived, the implementation framework may not be strong enough to bring them about. Research indicates that achievement of the Plan's targets may not be enough to alter travel behaviour or reduce the consumption of rural land and that the centres will be very difficult and expensive to create. Given the failures of most past attempts to shape the region's growth and the magnitude of change required to alter current trends and patterns, bolder action is required if real change is to occur.
More research and better information is needed
To assess the potential impact of the Plan's policies, more and better information is needed. It is essential to determine, for example, where and to what extent development can and should be concentrated -- on greenfields and within the existing urban fabric -- to produce desired policy outcomes such as reduced automobile use. Further, the Province will need to overcome the wide disparity in the quality and comparability of information currently gathered by municipalities across the region.
Measuring progress against targets
As the Plan is implemented, progress toward achieving quantifiable goals can and should be measured. However, the performance measures and targets in the Growth Plan, particularly the intensification rate target and the greenfield density target as they now stand, will not function as effective barometers of progress. A more comprehensive series of indicators that monitor the location and density of people, dwellings, jobs, and office floor area would be required to capture the full range of desired policy outcomes "on the ground."
The lack of integrated land use and transportation analysis undermines the Plan
For the Growth Plan and subsequent decisions to be effective, it will be necessary to test the impacts of different policy-driven land use and infrastructure investment scenarios on such things as transportation behaviour, air quality, and housing prices. Without a region-wide plan for transportation investment, local land-use and transportation planning efforts are unlikely to support each other. Before municipal governments can revise their official plans and zoning by-laws and before they can make development decisions, the Province, we believe, should commit to a phased program of investment into specific infrastructure projects. The private sector also requires predictability if it is going to do its part in realizing provincial objectives. With limited resources, it is essential to know, for example, how much investment will be required to build the Urban Growth Centres and the transit network that will serve them. Making such commitments will require detailed and focused analysis.
The opportunity for change is limited and will diminish further as time passes
While the Province's re-engagement in regional planning is welcome, time is short. The pathologies of the existing urban area, combined with the many hectares of unbuilt land that are already approved for development, mean that it will be years before the new policies produce visible change. It may also take the better part of a decade for municipalities to incorporate the new policies into their plans and zoning by-laws. By the time all of the wheels are turning at all levels, the planning period may be half over and, if the slowing of growth occurs in later decades, more than half of projected population growth will have occurred. Making the right choices today will permit rapid and decisive action tomorrow.