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Planning for Health
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Planning for Health


Transportation systems play a significant role in public health. Safe pedestrian and cycling infrastructure provides people of all ages and abilities with the opportunity to walk and cycle to their destinations, adding physical activity into their activities of daily living. Active transportation can also support transit by providing first and last mile linkages. When the transportation system in a community is sustainable, it also contributes to reducing air pollution, and helps improve air quality and respiratory health. This section will explore transportation policies at different levels of the government and how they influence healthy built environment outcomes.
The Provincial Policy Statement and provincial plans released by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing include municipal directives related to transportation, such as population and employment densities around transit stations and adopting a complete streets approach to road re-design. In addition, the Ministry of Transportation develops regional transportation plans, as does Metrolinx, a provincial agency with a mandate to improve transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Unlike the Provincial Policy Statement and the provincial plans, these transportation plans have no legislated power to require consistency or conformity from municipalities. Consequently, these plans generally focus on provincial-level networks (highways, commuter transit), and rely on collaborations with municipalities to make local network connections.

Municipal plans are required to be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement and conform to any applicable growth plans. Although released by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing rather than the Ministry of Transportation, these policy documents do give some direction on transportation. For example, higher population and employment densities are required around transit station areas, and municipalities are required to adopt a complete streets approach to road design. 

Outside of the growth plans and Provincial Policy Statement, there is no legislated requirement for municipal transportation plans to align with provincial level transportation plans. Indeed, there is no requirement for municipalities to have a transportation plan at all. This disconnect can make it difficult to plan integrated services; for example, while Metrolinx controls GO transit, it has no jurisdiction over local transit connections, or cycling and walking routes to the station except on its own property. Although not required, many municipalities do create transportation plans including master plans, active or sustainable transportation plans, transit plans, cycling network plans, Complete Street guidelines, and road safety plans. To develop these plans, municipalities generally undertake extensive consultation.

Municipal and provincial transportation infrastructure projects are subject to the environmental assessment process, affording an opportunity to review and comment from a public health perspective.

As part of the municipal development proposal application process, municipal planning departments may request a number of transportation-related studies, the most common of which is a transportation impact study. The plan of subdivision (if required) will contain information about roads, sidewalks and bike lanes, as well as potentially the positioning of parks, schools, shops and residences. The site plan will also have transportation implications on a smaller scale, including the positioning of walkways, entrances and exits, and parking. Traditionally these documents have focused on facilitating car access and throughput, through such features as front door pick up/drop off zones, generous turn radii, wide lane widths, and signal re-timings. There is an opportunity, however, to create significant change in the built environment and the health of our communities through the development review process by advocating for better-placed schools, prioritized, safe access to bike parking, continuous sidewalks and other features that facilitate active transportation. Because the development proposal process falls under land use planning, comments should reference the Provincial Policy Statement and the growth plans, with which all municipal land use planning decisions must align.
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