And so the next controversy in Toronto brews.
When David Miller was elected as the mayor he rode to victory largely on the Toronto airport controversy. But one of his other main points on which he seemed to get a lot of traction was that the Toronto Waterfront needs to be revitalised. The Gardiner Expressway leads the traffic from QEW and 427 S into downtown (from Greater Toronto Area in the west, Hamilton, Burlington, St. Catherine, Niagara, Kitchener, Brampton etc.) and distributes it into downtown from Spadina to Jarvis. The expressway is really fast (although there are traffic jams regularly) and relatively smooth.
The problem is that expressway is an eye sore on the lake front. It’s an elevated expressway which dissects the downtown from the lake shore and because of this expressway, the lake shore has never really realised it’s full potential. The lake shore attached to downtown is fun and very inviting but because of the expressway, the entry points into the lake shore are crumbling pillars, leaking ramps, buses and trucks and dark and dingy areas which would turn on only the homeless. I think the expressway has been the biggest sore point in revitalising the lake shore.
So why do we care for the lake shore when the expressway is servicing us so well?
The first and foremost reason is that Toronto, which thrives on a large part on tourism needs to beautify itself. Toronto is a concrete city and the small "discovery" parks around the city don’t really make it pretty. They are really used by smokers’ and lunch goers in summer and left to languish in the winter. So by making Toronto a little more pretty, tourists will be attracted to it like tourists are attracted to Chicago’s Million Mile road, Las Vegas Blvd., Washington, Montreal’s Old Quebec etc. These places are really beautiful and no wonder the tourism (and it’s related profits) in these cities out strips tourism in Toronto. A beautiful water front (with a cleaner downtown area) will attract more tourists to Toronto which could generally boost the local economy.
The second reason is that the expressway is killing the environment of downtown. At the last count at least half a million cars come and go through downtown in one day. That’s a lot of pollution. The government keeps trying to promote public transit system without much success. Force the people to abandon their cars, toll the cars with only one person in it, create a parking surcharge and see a sea change. Along with these, re-shape the transit system (both GO and TTC desperately need revamping) to smoothen the flow of people through the downtown area. To take down the expreseeway without a comprehensive public transit system (which includes parking spaces outside the city) will be committing suicide. The business world has no time or patience or need for a beautiful city. They need to get to work and meet with clients and process their deals. It’s essential that the business world is helped rather than forced to accommodate what’s available.
At the end of the day if the decision to revamp the Gardiner Expressway gets delayed, the costs (now at $758 million) will keep rising. I hope this is not another election ploy by various political parties. I hope this time something gets done.