Urban planning enthusiasts often refer to suburbs as a “wasteland”. A big reason for all the hate can be that a lot of them across North America are quite car-centric. Single-family zoning, as well as parking lots bigger than the actual store to accommodate all the drivers everywhere, which will take up a ton of space.
Suburbs are often quite spread out, and there is not a whole lot of population density over such a large area. That can create incentive for people to drive, as they would need to travel further to get to a certain destination. Also, public transportation is often not fantastic in areas that are not the downtown core of a big city. Some people might prefer to live in such places, but it certainly is not for everyone.
Riverdale is a particular neighbourhood in Toronto where driving is more of an option than a requirement. Toronto was one of the few cities where the streetcar lines were not ripped out when cars became more mainstream many decades ago. A current urban planning trend is to develop around transit lines to give good access to them by walking or cycling. Riverdale in particular had the lines to work with long before many other places in North America even planned on building them, so they are ahead of the game.
Line two of the TTC subway runs along Danforth avenue, and the stations Broadview, Chester and Pape can serve Riverdale citizens. The future Ontario Line is planned to cut through the area, and will link up with Pape station. A possible station named Gerrard, possibly near the Gerrard/Carlaw intersection could also be within the boundaries. Chester TTC Station in particular is incorporated right into the neighborhood, which can be super convenient for people who live nearby. It is not visible from the main arterial road, so that can help reduce unnecessary traffic.
This is not the right place for you to live if you want to own a huge mansion. There are no big skyscrapers, but the houses are a lot smaller and closer together, which can save a lot of space. There are some apartments that can house more people on less ground space. The older houses and greenery give it the charm. There is quite a spacious park in the area that offers tennis courts, skating rinks and playgrounds.
I went on Google Maps and compared how many houses could fit on the same size of land. In a lower density neighbourhood in Richmond Hill, three houses could fit in an area about 67.5 meters wide. About eight houses could fit within the same area in Riverdale. Assuming four people live in each house, 20 more people per 67.5 meter wide plot of land would fit into Riverdale than Richmond Hill, which would be about as many people there would be in an elementary or highschool class.
Something that you will see in Riverdale, but not in many other areas would be some small convenience stores incorporated into the neighborhood. Look at this screenshot from Google Maps where it seems like a house was converted into a store.
There is no parking lot for the store at all, and that can induce the demand for people to walk there instead. In other suburbs, the stores would mostly be along the major arterial road, and a parking lot would need to be included. For local grocery stores, the parking lots are often not huge either.
Riverdale can fit 6,800 people per square kilometer, whereas Toronto as a whole has a population density of 4,334.4 people per square kilometer. Some famous cities you could compare the population density of Riverdale to would be San Francisco and Turin.
The problem would be that the prices to live in Riverdale can be pretty high, due to the demand to live in such a place. The average price of a Riverdale home is currently more than one million dollars.
Roads in Riverdale are a lot skinnier than in other neighborhoods, and that discourages people from zooming. Compare that to this street in Richmond Hill that is wide and straight. If you want to challenge a friend to a residential-area drag race (I do not condone this behaviour), then this looks like the prime location.
What can be done in your community to increase walkability? Get in touch with Christina to find out.