Category Archives: urban

What side of history is Saskatoon on?

Thought provoking piece in the Toronto Star by Christopher Hume about John Tory and the Gardiner Expressway

The Gardiner, a relic of an earlier age, dates from a time when the car was king. Today, the world is a different place. No question cars are here to stay, but in the decades since the Gardiner was constructed, we have learned that city-building is about more than taming traffic congestion. Successful cities manage to balance the two — cars and people — without sacrificing one on the altar of the other.

Ironically, Toronto has arrived at this point because of its chronic unwillingness to spend the money needed to keep the aging expressway standing. Now Tory would have us spend an extra $500 million to keep it standing.

In the meantime, urban highways around the world are disappearing as cities liberate themselves from the shackles of the car. But old habits die hard, nowhere moreso than in Toronto, where car dependency remains enshrined, amber-like, in public policy.

Like the Gardiner he defends, Tory, tragically, is a relic. The Toronto he imagines he represents no longer exists. He and his supporters seem not to have noticed that the city is transformed; people in their thousands now live in areas once given over to industry and then forgotten. The waterfront is a perfect example; the long-neglected precinct is now being turned into a series of mixed-use neighbourhoods that have attracted more than $4 billion in (private-sector) investment with much more to come.

“This is a pivotal moment in the history of Toronto,” argues Toronto architect and planner Michael Kirkland. “It is an opportunity to correct the devastating mistakes made during the mid-20th-century industrial era. We have the chance to reconnect the city to its greatest natural asset, Lake Ontario. Not taking down the Gardiner would be seen by our descendants as the great mistake of our age.

“This is a transportation issue, and we should focus on other forms of transportation. Congestion can only be resolved through a proliferation of transportation options. Increasing automobile access won’t improve congestion; indeed, it will only make it worse.”

Meanwhile Saskatoon prepares to add a freeway, highway, two three four (maybe five) bridges, turn residential streets into arterials, and keeps on building low density neighbourhoods like there is no tomorrow while doing nothing on the downtown and north downtown plans.