The Year Ahead – Top Ten Ideas For A Better Toronto

Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

In just two weeks, a new year begins.

A fresh start or more of the same? We’ll see. But until then, there’s still hope.

With that in mind, here are ten things we’d love but don’t necessarily expect to see in 2020.

The Better Way

Canadian airline passengers now have a bill of rights, what about TTC riders?

Similarly plagued by maddening delays, endless cancellations and technical glitches, Toronto strap-hangers deserve a charter of their own. For starters, how about if the bus, streetcar or subway doesn’t show up in, say, five minutes, 10 tops, the ride is free?

READ: The Problem With Today’s TTC: All Talk And No Action

Civic Best-Before Dates

Term limits on the mayor and city councillors.

Let’s set the maximum number of terms at two and after that boot them out. If they can’t achieve their goals in eight years, there’s no reason for them to stay. Even after being chopped in half by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, council is still in need of fresh blood not to mention fresh ideas. More important, council has become a resting place for civic careerists, many of whom have long since passed their best-before date.

Engine Trouble

The small-brain crowd has jammed the streets of Toronto (and the rest of North America for that matter) with ridiculously oversized SUVs and pick-up trucks. It’s time they paid their way: not only should the municipal vehicle registration fee be brought back; it should be doubled or tripled for anything larger than a Honda Fit. In addition, they should pay more for parking. After all, space is valuable in a city like Toronto and they occupy more of it.

READ: The Cost Of Having A Car In Toronto Is One We Can No Longer Afford

Grand Design

When even the Toronto Star is bemoaning the ugliness of the city and its architecture, you know the moment has come for action.

What we need is a design review panel with clout, not an amorphous body of architects and engineers uncomfortable criticizing their peers in public. We need an informed panel with brave and intelligent lay people willing to force complacent professionals to see beyond the next gig and do what’s best for the city.

Hail To The King

We all love the King Street Transit Priority Pilot and not because of its name.

Now that it’s a proven success and our mobility improved, the experiment should be implemented on other streets, namely Queen, Dundas and College, where streetcars (and buses) rattle along in traffic at the speed of a car stuck in gridlock.

And by the way, the furniture and installations placed along King in 2017 are starting to look dirty and ratty. Come next spring; clean them up.

READ: Christopher Hume’s Top Transit Project of 2017 — King Street Pilot

Walk The Walk

Toronto has fallen well behind cities around the world in grasping the cultural, social and economic value of pedestrian-only streets and neighbourhoods.

Even Kensington Market, which cries out to be pedestrianized, remains blocked with cars and trucks. We know, we know, deliveries must be made. They should be allowed, but at certain hours of the day in the early morning. True to form, shopkeepers will cry bloody murder, but they are dead wrong. Evidence around the world proves that pedestrian zones are good for the bottom line.

The Main Drag Is A Drag

Let’s finally deal with poor Yonge Street.

We have allowed Toronto’s main drag to become a civic embarrassment from one end to the other. Little wonder there are currently no fewer than three studies under way, all trying to figure out how to civilize Yonge.

The answer is simple, cut down the flow of traffic and open up space for pedestrians. This would work in all three locations: Yonge between College and Queen, Finch and Sheppard and at the bottom end of the city by the waterfront.

READ: Downtown Yonge Street Needs An Overhaul To Be A Main Street

Watch Your Step

Isn’t it time Toronto police mounted another pedestrian safety blitz?

You know the drill: several dozen cops show up in front of Union Station during the morning rush hour to hand out tickets to every unlucky commuter crossing Front St. Jay-walkers! God help them if they have a cell phone in hand: distracted walking can be deadly. Keep that Taser handy – it’s for their own good.

A Smarter, Smaller City

Even if Sidewalk Labs doesn’t get approval to start work on its 12-acre smart city project, Quayside, when Waterfront Toronto’s board meets March 31, the New York-based firm will leave this chilly burg a better place. By reminding us of who we are — a small town struggling to break free of the big bad city — Sidewalk has done Torontonians a huge service. Sure, it took a Google-affiliated band of Yankee carpetbaggers, but it’s comforting to be back in Little Toronto.

READ: Steve Diamond Led Waterfront Toronto To Win Over Sidewalk Labs

Another Link In The Chain

Toronto isn’t a shopping desert, but it has become a retail mono-culture.

The same chains sell the same stuff in the same malls. The city has been corporatized. Which one of the 300+ Shoppers Drug Marts do you frequent? Does it matter? And really, what are they offering but convenience? Which is really anything but.

Perhaps 2020 will be the year the city wakes up and fights back. Like San Francisco, which requires a permit for large chains that want more than 11 outlets, it could limit store numbers, or offer tax breaks to independent operations, the sort that help a street or a neighbourhood attract shoppers and visitors.

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