Development Guidelines

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1. Land Use

The right kinds of land use, the combination of uses, and the intensity of activities have a direct relationship to the efficiency of transit. Locating uses close to transit that will either generate or attract a high percentage of riders, or combinations of uses that will do so throughout the day or night or that will enable people to perform multiple tasks at one location will enhance the level and frequency of service that can be provided and the efficiency of the transit system. Additional functional efficiencies can be obtained if these uses are built at medium to high densities as greater concentrations of people justify higher levels of transit service.

Guideline 1

Provide transit supportive land uses within a 600 metre walking distance of a rapid transit stop or station.

Transit-supportive land uses encourage transit use and transportation network efficiency as they:

  • Establish high residential and/or employee densities
  • Create travel outside of the am/pm peak periods
  • Promote reverse-flow travel
  • Attract and generate pedestrian and cycling traffic
  • Provide extended hours of activity, throughout the day and week.

Examples of transit-supportive land uses include: townhouses; apartments; child care facilities; hotels; medical clinics; restaurants; affordable housing; libraries; recreational and cultural facilities; fitness clubs; movie theatres; call centres; offices; high schools and post secondary institutions. Refer to the text and maps of the Official Plan (Section 3 and Schedule B) and the City’s Zoning By-Law for specific types of uses that are permitted within different areas.

City of Minneapolis, Minnesota

Figure 1: Encourage transit supportive land uses within 600 metres of a rapid transit stop or station.

Guideline 2

Discourage non transit-supportive land uses that are oriented primarily to the automobile and not the pedestrian, cyclist or transit user. Non transit-supportive land uses are those that:

  • Generate exclusively high levels of vehicle activity·
  • Use large amounts of land with low-density form·
  • Require extensive surface parking areas and are oriented towards users arriving by automobile·
  • Create negative impacts for pedestrians, such as isolation, windswept walks, and numerous vehicle crossings on sidewalks·
  • Typically do not encourage extended hours of activity.

Examples of non transit-supportive land uses include: Automotive parts, repair and service; car dealerships; car washes; drive through facilities; gas/service stations; commercial surface parking; warehouse storage; animal boarding; commercial nurseries; and low-density residential developments on large lots (>12m).

Figure 2: Discourage non-transit supportive land uses within 600 metres of a rapid transit stop or station.

Guideline 3

Create a multi-purpose destination for both transit users and local residents through providing a mix of different land uses that support a vibrant area community and enable people to meet many of their daily needs locally, thereby reducing the need to travel. Elements include a variety of different housing types, employment, local services and amenities that are consistent with the policy framework of the Official Plan and the City’s Zoning By-Law. The mix of different uses can all be within one building and/or within different buildings within close proximity of one another.

Tunney’s Pasture Transitway Station, Ottawa

Figure 3a: The Tunney’s Pasture Transitway Station is a multi-purpose destination offering a diverse mix of transit-supportive uses that help enable people to meet many of their daily needs, thereby reducing their overall need to travel.

San Diego, California

Figure 3b: American Plaza in San Diego is an example of a mixed-use TOD building with uses geared towards both local and non-local residents alike, featuring office space (49 000 m2), retail (2000 m2) and a museum (1000 m2).

Clarence Street, Ottawa

Figure 3c: The Byward Market is within 600 metres of rapid transit and offers a variety of different uses throughout the day and evening. It is a popular destination for many people across the City and is also a place where people can live, work and shop.

Strasbourg, France

Figure 3d: The Homme de Fer station area in Strasbourg, France is a hub of activity centered on many transit supportive uses that cater to local residents, transit users and tourists.   

Sparks Street, Ottawa

Figure 3e: Sparks Street is a lively pedestrian mall located within 200 metres of Ottawa’s Transitway that offers a mix of transit-supportive uses that cater to both transit and non-transit users alike.

2. Layout

Land use patterns and the layout of site development that reduces the need to travel great distances or follow circuitous routes to transit stations or stops will encourage more people to utilize transit as an alternative to car travel. Locating the greater intensity uses (more people) closest to the stop or station enhances convenience for both the user and provider of transit.

Guideline 4

Lay out new streets, laneways, pedestrian and cycling connections in a connected network of short block lengths that offer route choice.

City of Ottawa

Figure 4: Incorporate new streets to create a grid pattern of short block connections of no more than 150 metres.

Guideline 5

Design street blocks to be no more than 150 metres in length with pedestrian friendly intersections.

City of Calgary, TOD Policy Guidelines

Figure 5: Shorter block lengths with pedestrian friendly intersections make transit more accessible.

Guideline 6

Create pedestrian and cycling “short cuts” that lead directly to transit. Pathways require a minimum 6-metre right-of-way. Ensure these “short cuts” are maintained and free of ice and snow in winter. Look for opportunities to link “short cuts” to the larger greenspace, pedestrian and cycling networks. Note that carefully planned street networks should not require “short cuts”.

City of Calgary, Transit Friendly Design

Figure 6a: The City of Ottawa Transit Service Policy aims to provide transit service within 400 metres of 95 per cent of Urban Transit Area residents.

William Street, Ottawa

Figure 6b: William Street is a pedestrian “short cut” that connects the Byward Market to the Rideau Street transit corridor.

Guideline 7

Locate buildings close to each other and along the front of the street to encourage ease of walking between buildings and to public transit. Coordinate the location and integration of transit stops and shelters early in the design process to ensure sufficient space and adequate design.

City of Calgary, TOD Policy Guidelines

Guideline 8

Locate the highest density and mixed uses (apartments, offices, etc.) immediately adjacent and as close as possible to the transit station. This could be provided within one building or within several adjacent buildings. Consider the Official Plan’s Implementation Mechanisms by Authority under the Planning Act (Section 5.2) and the City’s Housing First policy.

Guideline 9

Create transition in scale between higher intensity development around the transit station and adjacent lower intensity communities by stepping down building heights and densities from the transit station.

City of Ottawa

Figure 9: A transition in building scale protects the adjacent residential neighbourhood and enhances the ability of the station to become part of the neighbourhood.

Guideline 10

Orient buildings towards transit stations and provide direct pedestrian access that minimizes conflict with vehicles. Look for opportunities to face buildings to the station, integrate them with the station, and connect them to the station.

Campus Transitway Station, Ottawa

Figure 10: Several University of Ottawa buildings are oriented towards the Campus Transitway Station with direct pathway connections to transit.

3. Built Form

‘Place-making’ is an important element in transit-oriented development. A transit station can be a destination in its own right. The purpose of this particular set of guidelines is to encourage the creation of environments surrounding transit stations or stops that will be considered to be ‘good places’ and ‘good neighbours’ within the community of which they are a part. Good urban design can make for a more interesting and attractive public realm.

Guideline 11

Step back buildings higher than 4 to 5 storeys in order to maintain a more human scale along the sidewalk and to reduce shadow and wind impacts on the public street.

Toronto, Ontario

Figure 11a: Buildings set back above 4-5 storeys preserve a human scale and allow more light to reach the sidewalk.

Lakeshore Boulevard, Toronto

Figure 11b: Buildings with angular set backs minimize massing and shadowing impacts.

Guideline 12

Create highly visible landmarks through distinctive design features that can be easily identified and located. For example, taller buildings can create a landmark location because they stand out on the skyline.

Westboro Transitway Station, Ottawa

Figure 12a: The Metropole serves as a landmark building adjacent to the Westboro Transitway Station.

City of Ottawa

Figure 12b: This piece of art is a landmark feature along the Transitway and a handy point of reference for Transitway users.

Guideline 13

Set large buildings back between 3.0 and 6.0 metres from the front property line, and from the side property line for corner sites, in order to define the street edge and to provide space for pedestrian activities and landscaping.   

Albert Street, Ottawa

Figure 13a: The BDC building has an angled setback to provide space for pedestrian movements around the Metcalfe Transitway stop.   

Metcalfe Street, Ottawa

Figure 13b: The Place Bell building provides extra wide sidewalks and a building canopy that helps to define the street edge and shelter pedestrians.

Guideline 14

Provide architectural variety (windows, variety of building materials, projections) on the lower storeys of buildings to provide visual interest to pedestrians.  

Young Street, Toronto

Figure 14: Generous windows with changing displays can both animate the public realm, contributing to quality and interest at transit stops, and benefit the private realm by engaging the attention of transit users passing by or congregating opposite the building.

Guideline 15

Use clear windows and doors to make the pedestrian level façade of walls facing the street highly transparent in order provide ease of entrance, visual interest and increased security through informal viewing.   

Montreal, Quebec

Figure 15: Large clear street-level windows help animate the streetscape and provide a sense of security for pedestrians and cyclists.

4. Pedestrians & Cyclists

At some point in any given trip, everyone is a pedestrian. The intent of these guidelines is to make the experience of walking or cycling both convenient and positive in a way that will enhance the overall experience of getting to and from the transit stop or station.

Guideline 16

Design pedestrian connections that are convenient, comfortable, safe, easily navigable, continuous and barrier-free and that lead directly to transit.   

Brentwood Skytrain Station, Burnaby

Figure 16: Pedestrian connections should be convenient, safe, comfortable, barrier-free and directly lead to transit.

Guideline 17

Use different materials such as concrete for crosswalks or treatments such as painted patterns to provide visual identification of pedestrian routes for motorists.  

Guideline 18

Reduce or limit grade separated pedestrian connections. Where pedestrian grade separation is required, the connection should be continuous and integrated. Elevated connections are preferred over below grade connections for reasons of cost, reduced interruption of below grade services, safety and provision of views into the public realm.   

Guideline 19

Incorporate glazing and natural lighting into the design of below grade linkages.   

Guideline 20

Provide amenities and services within grade-separated linkages to generate activities and enhance security. Public telephones, benches, automated banking machines, news stands, retail kiosks, promotional marking activities and public art programs should be considered, in conjunction with Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles.  

Guideline 21

Provide indoor and outdoor signage and way finding elements to help direct transit users towards the transit station.   

University of Ottawa, Ottawa

Figure 21: This Transitway sign directs transit users to the Campus Transitway station at the University of Ottawa.

Guideline 22

Ensure pedestrian connections are maintained and operational at all times when transit services are functioning, even after building business hours.  

photo of corridor between Rideau Center and the transitway

Rideau Centre, Ottawa

Figure 22: Development agreements can ensure public access when transit services are available. This connection between the Rideau Center and the Transitway is accessible after store hours when transit services are still operating.

Guideline 23

Design connections for continuous visibility of any area 20 metres ahead. Eliminate hidden areas or recessed areas that could be used for hiding. These include hidden areas above or below grade, alleys, walls, dense planting, and storage and service areas. Consider Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles.   

Rideau Centre, Ottawa

Figure 23: Corner mirrors allow pedestrians to see around tight corners for continuous visibility, which helps to build a sense of security.

Guideline 24

Minimize changes in floor levels. Pedestrians should not have to walk more than 100 metres to escalators, ramps or elevators to change floor levels in order to access transit. Vertical connections should also be within the building interior rather than as freestanding structures added to the building’s exterior. 

Rideau Centre, Ottawa

Figure 24: The Rideau Centre provides several escalators, ramps, stairs and elevators within 200 metres of walking distance on each floor.

Guideline 25

Ensure pedestrian walkways are an adequate width to accommodate anticipated pedestrian volumes, with a minimum width of 2.0 metres with accessible grade changes.   

Rideau Centre, Ottawa

Figure 25: A ramped floor with gradual level changes that meet accessibility requirements is preferred over stairs.

Guideline 26

Ramps must have a maximum slope of 1:20. A level walking space should be provided at the top of the ramp.   

Museum of Civilization, Gatineau

Figure 26: This ramp at the Museum of Civilization is artistically integrated with stairs and provides a levelled area at the top.

Guideline 27

Provide weather protection to make waiting for and getting to and from transit stops more comfortable. This can include covered waiting areas, building projections, colonnades, awnings and use of landscaping.

Billings Bridge Transitway Station, Ottawa

Figure 27: The Billings Bridge Plaza is connected to the Transitway via several covered pedestrian walkways.

Guideline 28

Design ground floors to be appealing to pedestrians, with such uses as retail, personal service, restaurants, outdoor cafes, and residences  

Bank Street, Ottawa

Figure 28: This outdoor patio in the Glebe helps to animate the streetscape for pedestrians.

Guideline 29

Provide convenient and attractive bicycle parking that is close to building entrances, protected from the weather, visible from the interior of the building and that does not impede the movement of pedestrians.  

City Hall, Ottawa

Figure 29: This bicycle parking area at City Hall is protected from the weather by a colonnade and is visible from inside the building.

Guideline 30

Provide cycling amenities such as change rooms, lockers and shower facilities for employees to help encourage cycling and the integration of cycling and transit use. The new City of Ottawa Draft Zoning By-law allows for the reduction of one motor vehicle parking space for every 13 square metres of gross floor area provided as shower rooms, change rooms, locker rooms and other similar facilities intended for the use of the bicyclists (Part 4, Section 111 [13].  

Transport Canada

Figure 30: Transport Canada recommends one shower per 100 employees as a good ratio for providing showers and change room facilities in the workplace.

Guideline 31

Design infrastructure to enhance the cycling environment and to help increase access to transit for cyclists.   

Assoc. of Peds and Bicycle Professionals

Figure 31: Bicycle ramps on staircases help to facilitate enhanced mobility for cyclists.

5. Vehicles & Parking

Parking can occupy a significant proportion of a development’s site area that could otherwise be devoted to building area or amenity space. Too much parking, particularly surface parking, can overwhelm people. A common area of conflict is where vehicular movement and parking competes in the same space with people on foot. This section provides guidance in the design of the street and parking environment to minimize these conflicts. It also recognizes that transit-oriented development offers an opportunity to reduce the amount of parking in the station area through increased transit ridership, reduced vehicle ownership, and shared parking arrangements.

Guideline 32

Provide no more than the required number of vehicle parking spaces, as per the Zoning By-law. Consider cash-in-lieu and on-street parking. Reductions in Development Charge fees may also be available for developments that provide reduced parking. The new draft Zoning By-law allows for reduced motor vehicle parking requirements in lieu of cycling infrastructure (Part 4, Section 111 [13]) and also waives parking requirements on Traditional Mainstreets for lots that are 20 metres or less in width (Part 10, Section 197 [10b]).

Guideline 33

Develop a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan that is integrated with the City’s TDM initiatives and mechanisms. The City’s TDM Section, within the Public Works and Services Department, is available to assist in developing a TDM plan.

Guideline 34

Encourage the sharing of parking spaces for uses that have peak parking demands at different times of the day, such as offices, restaurants and cinemas. The City’s Zoning By-law includes reduced parking requirements for shared parking provisions, which helps to make more efficient use of parking areas. 

City of Ottawa

Figure 34a: This graph illustrates different peak parking times between commercial, residential and office facilities.   

Fifth Avenue, Ottawa

Figure 34b: The Canal Ritz restaurant shares parking spaces with a community daycare facility, as their peak parking demands occur at different times of the day.

Guideline 35

Locate parking lots to the rear of buildings and not between the public right-of-way and the functional front of the building. For buildings on corner sites, avoid locating parking lots on an exterior side.

City of Ottawa

Figure 35: Transit users should not have to navigate through parking lots to access transit.

Guideline 36

Design access driveways to be shared between facilities. This helps to improve the pedestrian environment by limiting the number of depressed curbs across public sidewalks and reduces potential points of conflict between pedestrians and vehicles. 

City of Ottawa

Figure 36: Fewer curb cuts results in less interruption of the public sidewalk and contributes to a better pedestrian environment.

Guideline 37

Provide areas where motorists, including taxis, can drop off or wait for transit passengers. Passengers require a direct connection to the transit station.

Guideline 38

Design and locate parking lots and internal roads to minimize the number of vehicle crossings over primary pedestrian routes.  

Terry Fox, Ottawa

Figure 38: Separate vehicle and pedestrian functions within parking lots for safety and aesthetic reasons.

Guideline 39

Encourage underground parking or parking structures over surface parking lots. Locate parking structures so that they do not impede pedestrian flows and design them with active street-level facades, including commercial uses and/or building articulation, non-transparent windows or soft and hard landscaping.  

Guideline 40

Provide preferential parking spaces for carpools, car sharing, and ridesharing to help reduce vehicle parking demands.

City of Ottawa, Ridesharing Strategies

Figure 40: Providing priority parking spaces for car pools, car sharing and ridesharing helps to encourage more efficient use of vehicle infrastructure and reduces the need for parking spaces.

Guideline 41

Design parking lots to include direct and safe pedestrian linkages while maintaining pedestrian comfort and access. This includes dividing large surface parking lots into smaller areas through landscaping and walkways. Reference the City’s Hard Surface Tree Planting Guidelines for more information.

Institute of Transportation Engineers

Figure 41: Several small parking areas help to reduce vehicle speeds and minimize the number of pedestrian conflict points.

Guideline 42

Include a boulevard or planting strip along internal roadways and parking areas to buffer pedestrians from vehicles and road spray. Landscaping planning should consider Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles and sight triangle requirements. 

West Market Square, Calgary

Figure 42: Landscaping along pedestrian walkways buffers pedestrians from vehicles and road spray.

Guideline 43

Locate loading areas off the street, behind or underneath buildings. Avoid routing deliveries through parking areas and across primary pedestrian, transit and cyclist routes.

City of Ottawa

Figure 43: This loading area is located off the street and within the building, which helps to minimize disruptions to pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles.

Guideline 44

Design loading areas to avoid the need for back-in or back-out movements. Screen loading areas from public view through building design, location, landscaping and fencing while maintaining appropriate sightlines. Minimize the infiltration of exhaust fumes and noise into pedestrian areas or pathways.  

Guideline 45

Look for opportunities to develop Park & Ride lots into mixed-use transit villages through providing underground parking or locating surface parking short distances away from the station to allow for development opportunities immediately adjacent to the station. 

GB Arrington, Parson Brinckerhoff

Figure 45a: Transit-oriented development opportunities increase at park & ride stations when vehicle parking is located in close proximity, but not immediately adjacent to the station.   

Guideline 46

Locate residential garages at the rear of buildings. If residential garages are accessed from the front façade, they should not project beyond the front wall of the dwelling and should not be wider than 50% of the front building façade so that they do not dominate the streetscape.

City of Ottawa

Figure 46: These residential garages are located at the back of the dwellings and are accessible via a private rear lane.

Guideline 47

Design ground oriented multiple unit dwellings with shared driveways to maximize on-street parking and to limit the physical disruption of sidewalks.  

City of Ottawa

Figure 47: Sharing driveways reduces paved areas within front yards and limits the number of disruptions to pedestrians along the front sidewalk. Where grades permit, multiple unit dwellings may have underground garages with rear grassed yards situated over the garages.

6. Streetscape & Environment

The quality and design of the spaces along public sidewalks and internal pedestrian walkways, particularly those that lead to and from transit stops or stations, is an important element in the overall transit experience. Care taken with these environments can contribute to a positive experience for transit users and the achievement of Transit-Oriented Development.

Guideline 48

Provide quality benches, tree guards, street lighting, bicycle racks, and garbage receptacles. A Maintenance and Liability Agreement may be required for the installation of non-standard streetscape material in the public right-of-way.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Figure 48: This consistent use of wrought iron design helps tie together the streetscape environment.

Guideline 49

Provide seating along walkways and sidewalks greater than 50 metres in length and at key scenic viewing locations. Ensure benches and other amenities are located as to provide at least two metres of unencumbered sidewalk.   

Sparks Street, Ottawa

Figure 49: These benches on Sparks Street do not impede pedestrian circulation. At least two metres of unencumbered sidewalk is required.

Guideline 50

Incorporate special street lighting in significant areas to help define a pedestrian realm and to promote walking to and from transit.

George Street, Ottawa

Figure 50: Special streetlights along Murray Street help to define its rich historical character and complement the pedestrian realm.

Guideline 51

Design lighting so that there is no glare or light spilling onto surrounding uses. Reference should be made to the City’s Right-of-Way Lighting Policy.

City of Ottawa ROW Lighting Policy

Figure 51: These streetlight designs can illuminate the street without negatively affecting adjacent uses with glare or light spill.

Guideline 52

Plant shade trees and shrubs and use permeable surfaces and light coloured hard surfaces where possible to help reduce urban heat and to create a more comfortable microclimate. When using special pavers, be mindful of maintenance issues such as frost heaves and plowing issues with paving stones. Reference the City’s Hard Surface Tree Planting Guidelines for more information. 

San Sebastian, Spain

Figure 52: These trees are planted in a permeable surface and are well spaced. Trees should be planted 6.0 to 8.0 metres apart with approximately 10.0 square metres of soil per tree.

Guideline 53

Concentrate amenities at transit stops for convenience and to reduce visual clutter along the streetscape.

Guideline 54

Enclose air conditioner compressors, garbage and recycling containers and other similar equipment within buildings or screen them from public view.  

City of Ottawa

Figure 54: This fenced in area conceals unsightly garbage from the public realm and helps to provide a more appealing pedestrian environment.

Guideline 55

Consider opportunities to cluster and screen utilities together to minimize visual impact on the streetscape.

Guideline 56

Incorporate signage that respects building scale, architectural features and the established design objectives of the streetscape.

Cambie Street, Vancouver

Figure 56: These signs are oriented towards a pedestrian environment rather than for occupants of private motor vehicles.