Saturday, March 19, 2005

London's lesson for Toronto

Wow - Globe columnist John Barber actually makes a good point.

Barber Column - March 19 2005

Barber contrasts the way London (the English one) is moving ahead with redeveloping parts of its waterfront. There is no doubt that Toronto could learn from London's action-oriented way of approaching matters. Laments Barber:

"The most obvious example today is the waterfront corporation, which has not only failed to undertake any major initiatives over its half-decade of existence but is now deeply engaged in a classically Canadian "governance review." Rather than actually doing anything, it has backed up into a study of how to do it."

I'd quibble only with the Barber's labelling this issue as 'classically Canadian'. I've concluded that it is 'classically Torontonian' instead. Let's face it, the last builder of any stature in Toronto was R.C. Harris - the man who had the foresight to build the Bloor viaduct "subway ready". Harris had a big city vision of Toronto - just as Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau had for Montreal.

However, with the stoppage of the Spadina Expressway back in the early 1970's, the vision of Toronto as a great center were obscured by the vision of a Toronto the small, Toronto the stagnant. Conversely, Montreal ploughed ahead with the Decarie Expressway.

Decades later we see the difference: those Toronto neighbourhoods Jane Jacobs was so keen to 'protect' by stopping the expressway are now beset by horrific traffic problems. Evening rush hour sees an unending line of cars inching its way up what should be quiet streets such as Davenport Rd. Transit vehicles are forced to creep along in the gridlock. In Montreal, the heavy traffic has been diverted to the Decarie expressway - unburdening streets such as Cote St. Antoine Road from having to carry thousands of cars. It Cote St. Antoine were in Toronto it would be clogged with traffic.

Jacobs and the like have permanently damaged Toronto and harmed the GTA as a whole. Yet Jacobs is revered. In Toronto, the glory goes to those who stop things from happenning. NIMBYism is a blood sport. It's hardly a surprise that nothing happens.

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