Transit will move Toronto better than cars ever could – Toronto Sun

High Park may become the latest battleground in the Toronto war between cars and people.

Author of the article:

Liz Braun

Eglinton Crosstown LRT tunnel near Bayview and Eglinton.
Eglinton Crosstown LRT tunnel near Bayview and Eglinton. Photo by Screengrab /MetroLinx

High Park may become the latest battleground in the Toronto war between cars and people.

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The park is normally open to vehicles except on summer weekends (and during cherry blossom season) but there’s a movement afoot to close the park to cars permanently.

Anyone who drives to the area hoping to park nearby enters a twilight zone of car chaos. Bike lanes on Bloor have reduced parking spots, leaving visitors to clog up nearby residential streets and reduce traffic in the area to a crawl. 

Both the subway and the streetcar go directly to the park.

Whether or not the anti-car folks prevail at High Park, the writing is on the wall: Toronto is not car-friendly. 

It hasn’t been car friendly for about 30 years.

That’s not going to change.

Some days it seems as if traffic in this burg has never been worse (and some days that’s the case whether you’re driving, walking or biking.)

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Ongoing repairs, construction sites and major road closures make driving hell in Toronto. Once you get somewhere, there’s no place to park.

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As Mayor John Tory has told drivers, the onus is on you: you’re the one piloting a steel behemoth, you can cause the most damage, and it’s on you to be hyper-attentive. 

Our roads are shared with pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles and scooters, and lately, it seems, with skateboards, rollerblades, unicycles, pogo sticks and stilts.

Vision Zero has reduced in-city driving speeds, improved pedestrian crosswalks, added speed traps and generally helped to get cars to slow down. 

Cars are necessary for some things, of course, but they no longer make sense in a 200 year old city centre like Toronto’s.  

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If you’re coming downtown, it’s time to get out of your car. Too bad the mayor’s plan to make toll roads into Toronto did not happen.

What’s required to make this transition work? 

Improved public transit, and that’s happening right now. Transit improvements are going to make ditching the car an easy choice for many residents.

Architect and transit design specialist John Potter explains that people are going to start using transit differently, a change accelerated by the pandemic. 

Transit won’t be just for the work to home commute but will make sense to get around the city for any reason.

Time and travel patterns have been changed by the pandemic, and in future, hybrid office/home work models and staggered hours may even mean an end to the rush-hour crush as we knew it.

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Transit is the answer, said Potter in a recent interview, because on a planet with 9 billion people, individual transport no longer makes sense. 

Manufacturing cars takes too much out of the planet, said Potter, and that’s before you factor in all the pollution and environmental issues that come later.

“Cars use up a lot of space, drive sprawl, and require the paving of cities, where asphalt absorbs and radiates heat. To accommodate cars, streets get wider and cities spread out. 

“That all impacts land use planning.”

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What’s required now, said Potter, is a well connected network that covers a lot of communities, giving people more reasons to use transit.

“Much of transit was built to handle the demand of home to work travel. It’s evolving. Now it’s more like a net that’s been spread across the city with multiple points for modal change.

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“There are a lot more connections between different modes of transit — and different services, such as bus to LRT to subway to GO.”

The systems will be interconnected so people will just switch easily from one mode to the next, “and a harmonized fare structure across the region will be transformative.”  

Potter explained how the system was changing, noting, for example, that the Go Train was created to serve affluent suburban commuters. 

“But as it starts to connect to the subway and bus lines, it becomes part of a larger network, and you’re going to see more people using it as part of their journey … It will become just one of the modes you use on a many-modal trip.”

Potter extols the virtues of the Ontario Line, the Yonge subway extension, the Scarborough subway extension and the Eglinton Crosstown West extension, saying, “It’s really starting to happen.

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“There’s an explosion of transit, not just in the city but across the GTHA.”

He figures transit here has been under-built for close to 50 years. “Toronto is playing catch-up now. By 2030 there will be a robust and substantial transit system in place across the region.

“This is a transformative era in Toronto.”

The City of Toronto, along with the TTC, doing streetcar track and watermain replacement as well as BIA streetscape improvements on Queen St. W., from Bay St. to Fennings St. (just before Dovercourt Rd.), between July and December of this year in eight phases (Pictured) TTC track and waterman replacement in front of City Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021.
The City of Toronto, along with the TTC, doing streetcar track and watermain replacement as well as BIA streetscape improvements on Queen St. W., from Bay St. to Fennings St. (just before Dovercourt Rd.), between July and December of this year in eight phases (Pictured) TTC track and waterman replacement in front of City Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. Photo by Jack Boland /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

ALL THAT SOUND AND FURY IS CONSTRUCTION 

No, you aren’t imagining things. The city is awash in on-going construction during COVID.

And it’s been noisier because of it.

When the pandemic hit, the province stepped in to quash a Toronto bylaw that says construction noise must be limited to the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturdays and nothing on Sundays and holidays.

With the bylaw temporarily lifted, construction could go 24/7; sites could offer staggered hours to workers, cutting the number of people in the same place at the same time and thereby protecting their health. 

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Despite the busy beaver appearance of the construction industry, it has been shut down three times during the pandemic: last spring, in January of 2021 and in March of 2020.

In April Premier Ford shut down all but essential projects as COVID numbers began to escalate again. 

However, public sector infrastructure work and anything related to health care was allowed to continue. 

These days, construction sites are popping up everywhere now that COVID appears to be waning; if nothing else, the good news is they’ll be a lot more quiet.

The Toronto noise bylaw was put back into place three days ago, on October 7. Construction continues apace in the big city, but at least you won’t have to listen to it all night long.

There’s a wealth of information about what is being built and where on the Toronto Current Construction Projects website

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