Ten years ago, Neptis published the six-volume Portrait of a Region, the first product of its funding of research on the Toronto metropolitan region. The Foundation's mission then and now is to clarify important trends and questions in the growth of Canadian urban regions by conducting nonpartisan, expert research and education.
Yet, to date, virtually all of Neptis's more than 30 published research reports have focused on the Toronto region, because when Neptis was founded, there was a great void in knowledge and policy direction on that region. We resolved to bridge the gap between scholarship and public policy-making relating to Toronto's regional growth and management. Our work has provided a background and a stimulus to the extraordinary renaissance that has occurred in the past decade in the provincial government's management of growth in the Toronto metropolitan region -- beginning with the enactment of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan in 2002, and culminating in the establishment of the Greenbelt, the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (the Toronto metropolitan region), and Metrolinx (the regional transportation agency).
Growing Cities, a detailed, multidisciplinary study of three fast-growing Canadian cities, is a shift in direction for Neptis. The report compares growth patterns in Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver between 1991 and 2001, examines these patterns in the light of long-term land-use policies and plans in each region, and suggests reasons for the particular ways each region has grown. One of the advantages of this approach is that it enables the exploration of the effects and effectiveness of planning policies over time in different circumstances.
The project evolved from research documented in our recent report, Implementing Residential Intensification Targets: Lessons from Research on Intensification Rates in Ontario. That report focused on a specific aspect of the southern Ontario's Growth Plan: the requirement that all municipalities accommodate 40 percent of new residential development within already urbanized areas. Since municipalities had not been keeping consistent records of intensification, it was not possible to determine how much intensification was already taking place before this requirement was put in place. Neptis research provided a method for establishing historic rates of intensification, in accordance with the Ontario government's definition of residential intensification, in any urban area for which satellite imagery and fine-grained census data are available. This made the Ontario measure widely operational. Interestingly, there are indications that other governments are moving to employ the Ontario definition of intensification for urban regions.
This new method gave us the ability to compare the historic intensification rates and growth patterns of other Canadian urban areas. We decided to use it to compare Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver. The researchers examined intensification rates and a range of other measures of change in population, housing, and urban land in the three cities. The patterns of development turned out to be so markedly different among the three regions that the results called for further investigation. Ostensibly "intuitive" explanations of these differences -- "they must be caused by different regional geographies," "they are the result of the varying inclinations of people in each region to live in apartments or houses," and so on -- could not provide adequate explanations. Causal investigation was required, particularly with respect to the different historical aspirations for growth in each region as expressed in their policies and plans.
Thus developed an extensive and iterative research process that combined public policy research with further geomatics research. Peer reviewers have called attention to the fact that the structure of the report is distinctive: it puts the empirical analysis first and then seeks to explain the empirical findings with policy analysis. It may have been more conventional to tell a policy story and then use the empirical analysis to test the validity of the story. Neptis chose the structure it did because of its long-standing strength in quantitative research using sophisticated spatial analysis techniques.
These findings on comparative growth patterns offer rich opportunities for further research on the different patterns observed in the three regions, and this analysis of planning goals, policies, and controls is the first piece of what we hope will be a body of research on the subject. The study of other explanatory factors, such as comparative histories of municipal finances and land pricing, could also provide useful additional information.
Turning to the report's research and researchers, Neptis has been very fortunate over the past decade to have developed a highly productive research collaboration with the GIS and Cartography Office, in the Geography Department at the University of Toronto. This collaboration, headed for Neptis by Marcy Burchfield, Geomatics Research/Program Manager and co-author of this report, has led to the construction of a substantial library of GIS data that serves as a resource for the academic community, as well as advanced analytic and visualization capacities that were indispensible to this research and to the vast majority of Neptis-funded research. The Neptis Foundation would like to recognize the extraordinary skill and contribution of the GIS and Cartography Office. In particular, we express our gratitude to Dr. Larry Bourne, Professor Emeritus and Principal Investigator of the Neptis program in the Geography Department and to Byron Moldofsky, Manager of the GIS and Cartography Office, whose experience and wisdom have been central to the research, and Jo Ashley, Senior Research Analyst.
Neptis also wishes to recognize the very large contribution of Zack Taylor, co-author of the report and a major contributor to Neptis's body of research. He has been a primary researcher and author of several research projects, including Shaping the Toronto Region, Past, Present, and Future (2008), which received an award of excellence from the Canadian Institute of Planners. We appreciate his dedication to academic rigour, and his ability to render research products comprehensible to an informed general audience.
Finally, Neptis expresses its debt to Philippa Campsie, teacher in planning, author, and editor, who has contributed significantly to this report and to most of the Neptis research over the decade -- both as editor and counsellor on the direction and structure of research and reporting. Not the least, Philippa has managed the arm's-length process of peer review that Neptis employs on its research. Philippa's support has been a mainstay of Neptis-funded research and publication, for which we are very grateful.
Anthony C. Coombes