Transportation is a hot button issue in the City of Toronto. Whether walking, cycling, using public transit or driving, commuting is a daily factor in the lives of almost all Torontonians. As the region continues to grow, congestion in our transit network and on our road grid has become an unavoidable hassle, with citywide gridlock and overloaded rapid transit lines bringing the city to near paralysis twice a day, like clockwork.
Determined to do something about it, the City is now studying 24 transit expansion projects and how each could solve some of the problems caused by a rapidly rising population using a transportation network which no longer has sufficient capacity. With that many potential projects identified, the question is not just 'how much will it cost to build all the projects?', but also 'what order do we build them in?'
'Feeling Congested?' is a City project that aims to sort that out by connecting the residents of this city with the decision-making process to fix the problems, and the City is looking for informed public input to help sort it all out. The informed part is important: the City is not looking merely for the "I want a subway station on my block" response that virtually everyone is dying to give, but they are looking for input from a populace that is better informed and who can give better feedback on what will best work for them.
To that end a website was set up which explains the issues, and a series of public engagements are being held to provide a forum for the necessary discussion. Three of those engagements, called 'Meeting on the Move', happened over the last few days—one tour on bicycles in the Downtown, one in conjunction with Jane's Walk and Walk Toronto on foot in the Islington Village-Six Points area, and one covering the north and east of the city on transit—and UrbanToronto representatives participated in attended the last of those, held on a chartered TTC bus. While the bus navigated areas as diverse as the Golden Mile in Scarborough, Hoggs Hollow in North York, and Agincourt along the border with Markham, we discussed congestion, its repercussions, and possible solutions.
Attendees ranging from involved community volunteers to urban enthusiasts were offered the rare chance to voice opinions and concerns about current and future transportation projects directly to Toronto City Planning staff as consultants took notes.
The discussion was led by Tim Laspa, the City of Toronto’s Director of Transportation Planning. Laspa talked the group through a number of the projects being considered, and particularly addressed the criteria being used to test each proposal's effectiveness in meeting objectives versus its cost. Laspa also introduced the concept of 'Complete streets' to the group, noting that the Planning Department is currently reviewing the official plan and considering an increased focus on streets as transportation corridors for all modes, including a greater emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle travel throughout Toronto.
We would like to tell you more about the individual projects being proposed, but that is exactly what the Feeling Congested? website is for. An online 'Toolkit' will give you an overvew of each project, and will outlining the criteria that you can use to voice your concerns, ideas and observations. You can only register their opinions for a limited time—until July 30th—so speak up while you have the opportunity!
In the meantime, there are more opportunities for involved conversations this week.
- A Panel Discussion will be held Wednesday June 26 from 6:30 to 8:30pm in Jane Mallett Theatre at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St East. The panel will be moderated by Anne Golden, Distinguished Visiting Scholar and Special Advisor, Ryerson University. Anne Golden is a former President and CEO of the Conference Board of Canada and has served as Chair of both the Homelessness Action Task Force and Greater Toronto Area Task Force.
The keynote address will be given by Alan Jones, Director, Steer Davies Gleave, a transportation consultancy firm. The keynote address will outline how other great cities have successfully used transit to build strong infrastructure. A panel discussion and question and answer period will follow.
The panellists include:
- Councillor Peter Milczyn, Chair, Planning and Growth Management Committee and Vice-Chair TTC (Ward 5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore)
- Councillor Karen Stintz, Chair TTC (Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence)
- Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner, City of Toronto
- Barry Lyon, President and Senior Partner, N. Barry Lyon Consultants Limited
- Dr. Mike Evans, Staff Physician, St. Michaels Hospital, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of Toronto and creator of Youtube hit 23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?
- A public meeting will be held on Thursday June 27 from 6:30-8:30 pm at Metro Hall Room 308/309.
Space is limited at both events, so for those interested in attending, please visit www.feelingcongested.ca to RSVP.