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FUTURE OF THE GARDINER
Why the hybrid option is the best choice for the Gardiner East 3
GORDON J CHONG, GUEST COLUMNIST
FIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, JUNE 06, 2015 10:00 PM EDT | UPDATED: SATURDAY, JUNE 06, 2015 11:37 T
Gardiner East Hybrid
An artist's rendering of what the hybrid option would look like for the Gardiner East. (Waterfront Toronto)
TORONTO - Despite the support of some former City of Toronto luminaries, as well as some developers with barely-disguised self-interest, the removal of the eastern end of the Gardiner is not the best long term option. The ultimate may be an expressway under Lake Ontario.
In 1996, the provincial Who Does What Panel chaired by former mayor David Crombie, was directed to disentangle or rationalize the responsibilities of the Province and Ontario’s 800 plus prickly municipalities. Rationalization proved to be the only solution. The provinces in Canada are inextricably linked to its constitutional offspring, municipalities like the former Metropolitan Toronto, old Toronto, North York, Scarborough, East York, York and Etobicoke.
This brief review provides context for goal of the new amalgamated Toronto and the Greater Toronto Services Board [GTSB] created in 1998 to launch the future of The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA]. The goal was to knit the former municipalities together and function as one happy collaborative family across the GTHA with a reinvigorated assertive City of Toronto leading it as its “heart” as former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion has said repeatedly. We’re still waiting for the love-in.
Fast forward to the Gardiner Expwy. debate taking place at Toronto City Hall now. We now have an energetic, intelligent, diligent assertive mayor confronting a short-sighted group of councillors and planners who are so Toronto-centric they fantasize a future car-free utopia with the waterfront as Toronto’s private playground rather than to be enjoyed by the entire GTHA.
Realistically cars are NEVER going to disappear. They are a significant part of Ontario’s economy; they are the only transit that is door-to-door, safe and comfortable. Car volume on our roads increase because more people are moving into the GTHA, not because households run out and buy another car when more roads are built, improved or widened.
Self-interest will always “drive” our choices in life. While there was never a formal declaration of a “war on the car,” there has been a guerilla war fought against the car for decades — especially in the old City of Toronto. Witness the entrenched obsession with streetcars (including the new LRVs), instead of moving to the additional use of buses which offer greater flexibility in manoeuvring.
Roads are essential for the movement of goods, people, services and emergency vehicles. We are in desperate need of a balanced system of public transit and roads for our future wellbeing. Until the GTHA has a well-integrated transit network to move passengers who are TOTALLY dependent on public transit, we should not be putting up roadblocks for our GTHA neighbours to move freely around the region.
Councillors were elected to relieve, not aggravate, gridlock. This current debate is reminiscent of the “Stop the Spadina Expressway” movement 40 years ago when it was solemnly declared that the future belonged to public transit.
We’re still waiting for the train. I’m always amused by the land use and transportation planners who claim their projections are infallible. Hardly. Assumptions are made based on less than rigorous surveys, modelled and then the findings extrapolated. Some massage their projections to suit clients, thus proving their “elasticity.” These projections, readily admitted by honest engineers, are devoid of critical precision.
Ultimately, an expressway under Lake Ontario is the real visionary future, much like the Bloor Viaduct was decades ago. For now, council should support Tory’s hybrid option and assume its leadership role in a Toronto-centred region as the “heart” of the GTHA. Although doing nothing is always a default position for the faint-of-heart.
— Gordon J. Chong is a former Toronto Councillor as well as former Chair of the GTSB & GO Transit.