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Seven ways to make Toronto a world-class city again

Of course it's a great city... whether UofT is a great school for an undergraduate education is, however, debatable, but then I'm a proponent (and grad) of smaller "liberal arts" type schools. I don't know how many classes undergrads can take from medical researchers at UHN or Sinai either. But all that's just an aside.

Agree with this "aside." But the liberal arts college is more of a US thing that never really developed here. Living in these neoliberal and "practical education" times, we're unlikely to see that kind of education developing here, unfortunately.

Interestingly, Glendon College was apparently modelled on Swarthmore. U of T in the past may have been closer to the "liberal arts" model when the college system mattered more than it does today.
 
The reality is that there are only a handful of super elite cities, London, New York, Rome, Paris, a few more I am sure. The fact is we are a great city and next in line. That shouldn't be insulting to us and we should feel good knowing our city is relatively young which puts us at a disadvantage. I wish people who dream of these better cities would simply just move to them. I am not a drake guy but I am happy he helps at least the younger demograph feel better about their city. Civic pride is often lacking here which is quite sad since when i talk to people from vancouver they proudly make it sound like it is the next best thing to heaven.
I wonder if Torontonians sometimes overlook the negatives of other major international cities and just focus on their positives where they outperform Toronto.

Rome may have a rich history and architecture, but the economy is rather mediocre and if you think graffiti in Toronto is bad, clearly you haven't been to Rome.

Even Paris, my sister is there on student exchange at a top Paris university and it sounds like the quality of teaching and level of disorganization is several notches worse than an average Ontario university. No office hours, no syllabus or any plan at all of how the course will be run or graded, profs monotonously reading their notes from beginning to end of the lecture (and students taking from their example when giving presentations). A prof that doesn't show up for the first 4 weeks of classes due to a scheduling conflict, with no attempt to have another prof or TA substitute and no information as to when the problem will be resolved...

Also trying to get to Charles de Gaules by RER is similarly revealing. Confusing, if not outdated and incorrect (or maybe just non-existent) signs, transit staff with no interest in helping with directions ("it is not of me that you must ask that"). And my sister didn't experience this, but from articles apparently you might fight yourself boarding an express train to the airport, and the announcer on the train will even say it's an express train, but then a few minutes later proclaim it will be making all stops. Then again Toronto has short-turning streetcars and a much smaller system so it's not perfect either. Although I'm pretty sure transit strikes are more common in Paris.

Oh and I'd rather deal with Toronto's telephone posts and patched up sidewalks than with the amount of dog shit found on the streets and sidewalks of Paris. I'd also rather deal with the mostly harmless Toronto homeless population than Paris' rampant pick-pocketing problem (Rome is pretty bad in that regard too afaik). Also if you're a young woman, Parisian men are more relentless, unable to take a hint and more likely to accost you than Toronto bums.

Sure, Paris might have a lot more subway and RER lines, better architecture and better museums. Those aren't the only things that make a city great though. I'm not saying Toronto is better than Paris (hard to compare, they're rather different), but I do think Paris is over-rated and far from perfect.
 
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^ I would also add that many of the "world class cities" that people rave about like Hong Kong, NYC or London are not exactly synonymous with quality of life.
 
I wonder if Torontonians sometimes overlook the negatives of other major international cities and just focus on their positives where they outperform Toronto.

Rome may have a rich history and architecture, but the economy is rather mediocre and if you think graffiti in Toronto is bad, clearly you haven't been to Rome.

Even Paris, my sister is there on student exchange at a top Paris university and it sounds like the quality of teaching and level of disorganization is several notches worse than an average Ontario university. No office hours, no syllabus or any plan at all of how the course will be run or graded, profs monotonously reading their notes from beginning to end of the lecture (and students taking from their example when giving presentations). A prof that doesn't show up for the first 4 weeks of classes due to a scheduling conflict, with no attempt to have another prof or TA substitute and no information as to when the problem will be resolved...

Also trying to get to Charles de Gaules by RER is similarly revealing. Confusing, if not outdated and incorrect (or maybe just non-existent) signs, transit staff with no interest in helping with directions ("it is not of me that you must ask that"). And my sister didn't experience this, but from articles apparently you might fight yourself boarding an express train to the airport, and the announcer on the train will even say it's an express train, but then a few minutes later proclaim it will be making all stops. Then again Toronto has short-turning streetcars and a much smaller system so it's not perfect either. Although I'm pretty sure transit strikes are more common in Paris.

Oh and I'd rather deal with Toronto's telephone posts and patched up sidewalks than with the amount of dog shit found on the streets and sidewalks of Paris. I'd also rather deal with the mostly harmless Toronto homeless population than Paris' rampant pick-pocketing problem (Rome is pretty bad in that regard too afaik). Also if you're a young woman, Parisian men are more relentless, unable to take a hint and more likely to accost you than Toronto bums.

Sure, Paris might have a lot more subway and RER lines, better architecture and better museums. Those aren't the only things that make a city great though. I'm not saying Toronto is better than Paris (hard to compare, they're rather different), but I do think Paris is over-rated and far from perfect.

This is an excellent post. I have this discussion with friends who have moved away from Toronto and are living & working all over the world. They live everywhere from NYC, SF, LA, Chicago, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, just to name the major cities. The one thing that we discuss "off the record" is that we are so spoiled here in North America, and in Toronto, in particular.

When we discuss quality of life, quality of food, quality of services, quality of everyday well-being, we all prefer to have our home base here in Toronto. Many still have homes and/or family here. Some will be moving back once their contracts are up. Some already have moved back.

Now, on the other side of the coin, we all do agree on some negative aspects of living in Toronto. The biggest one is simply cost. Cost of housing is the #1 discussion. Then comes the cost of hiring household help. Cost of daycare services. Taxes. The standard of living is high but so is the cost. Fortunately, most of us can make things work and live comfortably here in the city but we also recognize that it's not without its own challenges and tradeoffs.

My friends who return to Toronto after living in other world class cities, are so appreciative of what we have here in Toronto. I'd say that when you weigh the positives and the negatives, it still seems as though we come out on top.
 
I wonder if Torontonians sometimes overlook the negatives of other major international cities and just focus on their positives where they outperform Toronto.

Yeah, that's certainly the case. The grass is always greener if you just spend a couple of days in other cities and only see the central and touristy areas.

And somehow, graffiti, congestion and shabbiness of the public realm can disqualify Toronto as a "great city", but not real "world class" cities.
 
Yeah, that's certainly the case. The grass is always greener if you just spend a couple of days in other cities and only see the central and touristy areas.

And somehow, graffiti, congestion and shabbiness of the public realm can disqualify Toronto as a "great city", but not real "world class" cities.

there are at least four world class lists:

1) Best places to visit (is Toronto a "bucket list" city? no. Is it a popular venue for international conferences? yes)
2) Best places to work (is Toronto the best place to start a business or to have a professional career? It's not a global hub, but it's a solid regional centre)
3) Best places to learn (is UofT Oxford or Harvard? no. Is it a globally respected research school? yes)
4) Best places to raise a family (Does it have pretty mountains or a top-notch cultural scene? no. Is it one of the safest, most tolerant, reasonably affordable places in the world? absolutely. If you are about to emigrate from your home country would Toronto be near the top of your list? Almost certainly)
 
You guys should really watch the video I posted of Mr. Berridge explaining his feelings on the subject. It goes through many of the points and feelings expressed here.

One point he makes that is interesting to consider is this (paraphrased): How many top tier cities and financial centres are there where it would be normal for people, even people with means, to send their kids to public school?

Toronto's strength is summed up in this quote. Toronto is a mix of high living standard and economic significance. There are very few cities that can match high standard of living with economic significance to the degree we have here in Toronto.

In some ways many of the things people are fighting for here like high levels of investments in the public realm, architectural excellence, grand symbolic buildings, our path down that road may be an indicator of our shift away from the balance that has been Toronto's competitive advantage in the past. No I'm not saying we shouldn't do these things or aspire to these things. But you will probably see that they will come with a "coincidental" deterioration in living standard for the average city resident.

P.S. the Price Waters Cooper study Mr. Berridge mentions notes that Toronto is the 62 most expensive city in the world. In other words not expensive at all relative to living standard or economic importance.

P.P.S. Price Waters Cooper ranked Toronto's Transit Systems (Public transit and roads etc.) as tied for Number 1 in the world for cities studied. Remember that is not us talking about us, that is a London UK based organization studying urban regions. You can argue with this or not believe this but why do you think Toronto ranks so highly when all we do is complain about how much it sucks here?
 
You guys should really watch the video I posted of Mr. Berridge explaining his feelings on the subject. It goes through many of the points and feelings expressed here.

One point he makes that is interesting to consider is this (paraphrased): How many top tier cities and financial centres are there where it would be normal for people, even people with means, to send their kids to public school?

Toronto's strength is summed up in this quote. Toronto is a mix of high living standard and economic significance. There are very few cities that can match high standard of living with economic significance to the degree we have here in Toronto.

In some ways many of the things people are fighting for here like high levels of investments in the public realm, architectural excellence, grand symbolic buildings, our path down that road may be an indicator of our shift away from the balance that has been Toronto's competitive advantage in the past. No I'm not saying we shouldn't do these things or aspire to these things. But you will probably see that they will come with a "coincidental" deterioration in living standard for the average city resident.

P.S. the Price Waters Cooper study Mr. Berridge mentions notes that Toronto is the 62 most expensive city in the world. In other words not expensive at all relative to living standard or economic importance.

P.P.S. Price Waters Cooper ranked Toronto's Transit Systems (Public transit and roads etc.) as tied for Number 1 in the world for cities studied. Remember that is not us talking about us, that is a London UK based organization studying urban regions. You can argue with this or not believe this but why do you think Toronto ranks so highly when all we do is complain about how much it sucks here?

I don't really get this point. I don't see how investing in our public realm or demanding more architectural excellence will deteriorate the living standards of people in this city. There are many cities around the world who have the same the same or even higher standard of living than Toronto who invest in their public realm and also demonstrate architectural excellence. These things just don't seem to matter to people and politicians here who sometimes even try to fight any investments in our public realm and would rather it remain shabby.
 
I don't really get this point. I don't see how investing in our public realm or demanding more architectural excellence will deteriorate the living standards of people in this city.
Gentrification can push others out. There was a statement early in this thread that a world-class Toronto would be home to middle-class and professional people. But old Toronto has always had a more diverse crowd. Much of its housing stock from half a century ago consists of modest working class homes. Threads in this forum in which upcoming retail wishes are discussed often focus on upscale brands found in supposedly world-class cities, or on hangout patios for the young and wealthy. Constant upward pressure on the costs of real estate not only pushes people out of housing, but also lessens small-scale business opportunity. Do we want the messy but accessible retail structure of say Chinatown replaced with that of Aura's basement?
 
Agree with this "aside." But the liberal arts college is more of a US thing that never really developed here. Living in these neoliberal and "practical education" times, we're unlikely to see that kind of education developing here, unfortunately.

Interestingly, Glendon College was apparently modelled on Swarthmore. U of T in the past may have been closer to the "liberal arts" model when the college system mattered more than it does today.

I think you can still do small programs at Trinity and the like, but that kind of experience is by far the exception at UofT. Fortunately there are numerous small universities in the Maritimes that do provide that experience.

^ I would also add that many of the "world class cities" that people rave about like Hong Kong, NYC or London are not exactly synonymous with quality of life.

Probably not, though I think living in NYC would be pretty cool. Provided I could afford it. London could be nice too, but it's always important to remember that both are sprawling metropolises that include decidedly less appealing areas. Sure, Manhattan seems pretty cool, but you don't see people raving about life in the Bronx or Flushing.

We may mock Scarberia but it's largely nicer than NYC's outer boroughs.
 
Regarding my thoughts; while 7 is a bit of a silly idea, 1-6 are pretty good ideas, especially these two:

3. A new university. Toronto is growing faster than any city in the developed world. It is going to add the population of Montreal, or that of Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton combined, to the city-region in the next three decades.

Think about how many museums, galleries, performing arts centres and universities they have, and then see the opportunity, as well as the shortfall, for future Toronto. Universities are the factory of the modern urban economy. They’re where we make the brains for the higher-order jobs on which the city depends. Toronto has relatively few degree-granting institutions compared to global cities its size. Is it going to accommodate growth just by expanding what it has?

What kind of new university exactly? I’ll leave that for debate – but I’d vote for one international in outlook, attractive to foreign students, research-focussed, entrepreneurial, largely privately funded and utterly distinct from what Toronto has now. New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg changed the game when he initiated a very successful competition for the world’s best science universities to come to his town. Many cities are following his lead; so should Toronto.

4. Expanded R&D capability. MaRS may have over-priced its research space but the worst thing for Toronto to do would be to turn away from the importance of advanced research and development activities.

Rather, Toronto should double down on its investment, enriching the existing strengths of the city. Toronto is the world capital of mining finance, yet there is no associated R&D in one of Canada’s key economic sectors. Toronto is a major global banking centre, the second biggest food manufacturing city in North America and a major hub for fresh-water technology, but again without up-skilling those sectors to become a globally-recognised higher-order leader.

And unless I’ve missed it, Toronto is a laggard in world standing for nanotechnology and new-materials development, the breakthrough foundational sciences of the future economy. By comparison, cities from Manchester to Seoul are making huge public and private investments to establish commercialization positions in these areas. Toronto needs to get in the game.
 
Sure, Manhattan seems pretty cool, but you don't see people raving about life in the Bronx or Flushing.

We may mock Scarberia but it's largely nicer than NYC's outer boroughs.

Hard to compare NYC outer boroughs and Toronto. Queens is the borough that most reminds me the most of Toronto.
 
I think you can still do small programs at Trinity and the like, but that kind of experience is by far the exception at UofT. Fortunately there are numerous small universities in the Maritimes that do provide that experience.



Probably not, though I think living in NYC would be pretty cool. Provided I could afford it. London could be nice too, but it's always important to remember that both are sprawling metropolises that include decidedly less appealing areas. Sure, Manhattan seems pretty cool, but you don't see people raving about life in the Bronx or Flushing.

We may mock Scarberia but it's largely nicer than NYC's outer boroughs.

I haven't been to NYC yet but I'd like to go soon. Admittedly the Bronx and Flushing has significant poverty, but I'd be curious what it's like living there. I know the Bronx has a bad reputation to deal with, but it has improved a fair bit in the last few decades.

The homicide rate is actually pretty average, if not a bit better than average compared to other American cities (note cities, not MSAs though). The homicide rate is in between that of Boston and Denver, and lower than in Nashville, Minneapolis and Omaha, and about the same as in San Francisco. It's still pretty high by Canadian standards though, and certainly very high by Toronto standards.
 

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