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Six-part series asks how to improve Toronto

Special to The Globe and Mail

We ask some of the Toronto's most creative designers to improve our streets – on the cheap. ...Read the full article

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  1. Michael Sharp from Island Paradise, Canada writes:

    I don't live in Toronto.

    Why should I care what colour you paint your streets?

    What's in it for me?

    What's winter?
  2. George S from Toronto, Canada writes: One part of Toronto I would like to see improved is the Gardiner Expressway- the raised portion of it anyway. Personally I think it is an eyesore and would like to see the raised portion buried out of site. That would free up more surface area for green development and public transit such as the streetcar plans that are in the works. This wouldn't be that inexpensive but would greatly increase the value of Toronto's waterfront real-estate.
  3. king kong from Dullsville, Canada writes: Mr. Alsop is absolutely right: we can only better this city when we own up to the current state of affairs. That means discarding the pretense that Toronto is hip, sophisticated and 'world-class.' The reality is that it is aesthetically impoverished in every way imaginable. Its buildings are dreary, timid and uninspiring. Its public spaces are mediocre. Its streetscapes are monotonous and ill-kempt. (Yonge Street is like a long, embarrasing streak of brown in one's underwear that just can't be removed no matter how many times you put it through the washer. Between Dundas and Bloor it is appalling!) Having returned from two years in London, I despair of Toronto. London is a visually dynamic, aesthetically sophisticated city, and Toronto doesn't even TRY to be that. The final touch of visual desolation is added by people's dress sense. I was shocked on returning here to see how badly people dress: no sense of style, no colour, no appreciation of cut or one's own body type. This city looks like the set of Dawn of the Dead, and the lone figures that actually do dress well look like they could be set upon at any time by the slack-jawed, insensate zombies . Short of a totalitarian dictatorship of designers (which I would support), I don't know how this city can be salvaged. But let's begin where Mr. Alsop suggests, by acknowledging just how dire the situation is.
  4. D crawx from Canada writes: One street that is crying out for some attention is Front Street. The section from Yonge to Jarvis was smartened up in 2006 and there are plans fror doing something with it between Yonge and Simcoe, including the section in front of Union Station. However, the short block between Jarvis and George is really a mess. As Front widens at this point, George/Front is a main 'gateway' into downtown. From George to Jarvis Front Street is wide enough to greatly increase the width of the sidewalk on the north side and provide a great viewing point for people looking at the Flatiron Building and the downtown skyline. (Now they do so from the far more congested area in front of the Market.) Front Street going further east from George is narrower but it too could do with a tidy-up as it leads to the Distillery District and has become a far busier pedestrian route. Then there's the section of Front from Spadina to Bathurst. I assume this has been left untouched awaiting the mythical 'Front Street Extension' but why not fix it up, build sidewlks on the south side, plant trees and generally make it look like a main road ? If the Front Street Extension is ever built it would need to be fixed, why not fix it right now?
  5. Yvonne Wackernagel from Woodville, Canada writes: I live 75 miles from Toronto but would like to visit more often. The trouble is that, having lived in London, England, before I married, I am used to walking not too far to find a beautiful park or at least a square of green grass with a few flowers. Try visiting London and from Oxford Street, Regent Street, Shaftesbury Ave., Piccadilly Circus, you can visit Regent's Park and its wonderful Rose Garden, Hyde Park, St. James's Park, Green Park, not to mention the small squares EVERYWHERE providing some green space with benches so you can sit and enjoy the flowers and the birds away from the traffic. THAT IS WHAT TORONTO NEEDS.
  6. bob crier from Toronto, Canada writes: Architectural beauty, elegant building designs, design consistency with nature and surroundings, parks, open squares and plazas, buried parking lots, improved public transportation (get rid of street cars and replace them with smaller electric busses), buried electrical cabling and a strong commitment to better lifestyle from city planners is what this city needs. Toronto is an eyesore right now for all the above reasons and many more. Gimmickry like green plastic umbrellas will do little to improve anything in this city. Toronto truly has the worst city planners and architects in the world. We must pick from the dullest in schools.
  7. C J from Bangkok, Canada writes: Who the hell cares! Is this a national newspaper or has it become THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL?
  8. James the second from Halifax, Canada writes: Well said Yvonne. I lived there for 40 years and you hit the nail on the head. There was too much focus on becoming a world class city in the 80's instead of being Canada's greatest big city.
  9. James the second from Halifax, Canada writes: The Globe and Mail is in Toronto.
  10. Michael Sharp from Island Paradise, Canada writes:

    So.

    I did the Globe's little on-line questionaire a while back.

    Thanked them for everything.

    Critiqued them for being Toronto-centric.
    After last night's Canucks' game the Globe reports it ended early Saturday morning. EST. In Toronto.

    It ended late evening where I live. PST. Where it was played.

    A little thing?

    Perhaps.

    And now this. The Beautification of Toronto!

    The marvels of asphalt and ground glass.
    Oh Toronto, what has become of you?
  11. James the second from Halifax, Canada writes: Oh Canada, 50 per cent of our economic activity occurs in the GTA. When was the last time anyone complained about receiving transfer payments to build infrastructure Canada wide ? Ungrateful Canadians, what has become of you ? It's easy to take a swipe at something successful.
  12. campbell atkinson from victoria bc, Canada writes: Most of these complaints nave become institutioalized in families and parties. If grandpa was against the Gardiner being build the grandchildren honour his aged view. Toronto and Ontario were lsid out on the old concession lines, as was akk of Ontario south of North Bay. Hence you do not have London,s steet plan of remnants of little villages . You dont have the horrors off housind areas devoid of trees or parks. Some fine tuning would be nice, but it would be nicer if people would relax and enjoy.
  13. Pamphleteer . from Canada writes: Who the hell cares.

    And the only time the Globe bothers to write a feature about another Canadian city other than Toronto is to disparage it. Remember the bleak version of a drug infested, poverty striken hellhole painted for Winnipeg a while back? Not that Winnipeg doens't have it's fair share of problems, but the article did nothing to highlight the positves. Remember that article written by that columnist after the Dawson school shooting who decried Montreal as not being cosmopolitan enough?

    Damn Toronto centric Globe.
  14. Somewhere Overtherainbow from Detroit, Canada writes: Toronto is getting way, way to Big. There should be some creative way to slow it down. It will take serious leadership to do this on the part of all levels of government and big business. Let me take my first shot at big business. I don't understand why one of the big breweries closed a plant in Barrie Ontario, only to move the production to Toronto. The opposite should have been the case. In Barrie, a house is more affordable given the allotted wages, especially compared to the GTA although this is changing. This is a wages to cost of living comparison as well as a wages to cost of doing business ratio. I'm wondering, are they trying to create an underclass of working poor in Toronto? Another example is Government of Ontario jobs (a big make work project based on your taxes). Why pay someone 56,000 in TO when someone in an outlying city (Sudbury) will do the same gladly for 50,000 and never quit the job or leave. That person's commute will also be one-quarter of the time or it could be within biking distance. What I'm commenting on is the inflationary pressure/momentum created in the GTA. When it comes to Ontario Teachers negotiating wages (again out of our tax pie we all pay for), GTA teachers demand, demand wages based on a bloated GTA, thus skewing the cost in the rest of the province and hence costing us too much. One time I got a hotel room in Toronto. The pamphlet listed the top employers in Toronto. Most of the top employers were (tax dollar based make work projects), Peal Region School Board, York University, U of T, City of Toronto and Government of Ontario. Itís not like American cities where Banks, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, high tech and entrepreneurial crack dealers are top employers. I'm not a right wing conservative either. I'm all for great education and government services/resources. It's just that it, the GTA is too BIG!
  15. C J from Bangkok Canadian Expat, Canada writes: Montreal is by far Canada's most cosmopolitain city. Toronto just wants in I guess.
  16. James the second from Halifax, Canada writes: Fact: Toronto is the most cosmopolitan city in the WORLD bar none, not New York or others. Yes, on the planet ! In sheer numbers and from the most countries around the world.
  17. James the second from Halifax, Canada writes: Oh yes and CJ, Montreal is the most xenophobic city in Canada.
  18. C J from Bangkok Canadian Expat, Canada writes: Toronto has it's own ambassador in Halifax, NS. it appears!
  19. C J from Bangkok Canadian Expat, Canada writes: Fact is, most maratimers on their way to Toronto must drive thru Montreal but very seldomely do they ever stop, they just congest Montreal highways with their old beat-up rust buckets. Perhaps a highway thru Maine makes more sense.
  20. C J from Bangkok Canadian Expat, Canada writes: I haven't lived in Canada for 6 years but I just realised how things haven't changed. East vs. West
  21. James the second from Halifax, Canada writes: I've lived in Toronto for 40 years CJ. So if you want a few lessons about the greatest city on the planet, live here like I did for 4 decades. Those comments are quite distasteful about Maritimers.
  22. Pierre Santa Ana from Costa Rica writes: James: my mom used to say: all you need to spot a thief is another thief... same goes for xenophobs... I agree CJ was distasteful but, the lesson can't come from you man.
  23. James the second from Halifax, Canada writes: A thief ?...well that's a first for me.
  24. Pierre Santa Ana from Costa Rica writes: no, no, no please I apologize for the confusion. I meant you are a xenophob. Really.
  25. Insults Ignored from United States writes: --
    Toronto has to tighten up on how much money is 'lost' in the system.
    --
  26. Andrew Cressman from Toronto, Canada writes: This conversation has degenerated, hasn't it. Why don't we keep the discussion focussed on what is good/poor about Toronto's city scape. And if you are from somewhere else and don't care, you don't have to comment.
    I moved here two years ago, and I have been very pleasantly surprised to find a really great city with plenty of beautiful spaces. I particularly enjoy the ravine parks, High Park, the Toronto Islands. There are many other city parks that I am looking forward to visiting. Also, right in the down town core near city hall is Trinity Square - it's hidden away and I think most people don't know it exists, but it's a really nice place. Yes, I think there are plenty of ways we could make it more beautiful, but I hope everyone gets a chance to discover some of the hidden gems that we already have.
  27. marlene gregory from Toronto, Canada writes: One solution to improving Toronto is to create Pedestrian Streets, such as Steven Street in Calgary. The main problem with Toronto is that it is basically 'one huge moving car lot'- where everyone and their dog drives in and through Toronto, as quickly as possible, leaving all their pollution, exhaust and garbage behind them. It is time to go back to City Walls and Pedestrian Walkways, like Quebec City, and perhaps even quiet Monorails like Expo 67....It is not too late... Toronto might even be charming one day......Dreaming????
  28. Insults Ignored from United States writes: --
    marlene gregory from Toronto, Canada writes: One solution to improving Toronto is to create Pedestrian Streets, such as Steven Street in Calgary. The main problem with Toronto is that it is basically 'one huge moving car lot'- where everyone and their dog drives in and through Toronto, as quickly as possible, leaving all their pollution, exhaust and garbage behind them. It is time to go back to City Walls and Pedestrian Walkways, like Quebec City, and perhaps even quiet Monorails like Expo 67....It is not too late... Toronto might even be charming one day......Dreaming????
    --
    I think that is the best idea. Toronto is not a people city, too industrial. This would change the image of Toronto dramatically. And it a very low cost solution. Make Toronto a people city. It gets people outside and conversing ... this would do wonders.
  29. grace wu from Cairo, Egypt writes: I don't live in Toronto right now, but I grew up in Toronto and really love the city. Living in Cairo, one of THE most densely populated and polluted cities in the world, has made me realize that even Cairo has more trees than in downtown Toronto. While there aren't many green spaces in Cairo, there are at least plenty of trees, even in the downtown area. Also, the new condos being built keep on getting smaller. IF we want to prevent urban sprawl and young families and subsequently builders from building further out, doesn't it make more sense to return to designing larger flats? ones in which a small family with 1 or 2 children could comfortably live? Better use of space. The Gardiner expressway is a case in point. What exactly is happening with this space. it's so disappointing. Again, even in Cairo, pressed for space and trying to cut back on sprawling into the desert by the pyramids (which has already occurred) has examples of good uses of space. A wonderul cultural centre, consisting of a gallery and two stages, one in doors, is built under one of Cairo's busiest bridges linking the downtown to an island. The Cultural centre is built in the underpass of the bridge and the outdoor theatre is right next to the Nile. the amazing thing is, the theatre is compeltely hidden in the underpass - but it doesn't matter, b/c this little crevice has been maximized in such a creative way. i agree with Yvonne - MORE GREEN SPACE or at least MORE TREES throughout the city. Echoing another comment above, stronger commitment to better lifestyles from city planners. designing more spaces that encourage people to talk to one another and engage with the world around them.
  30. Vasili Yeremenko from Canada writes: They need to fire Pat Quinn.

    Other than that I don't care about Toronto.

    Is G and M deciding it is a local paper now?
  31. Colin Fernandes from Canada, Canada writes: TORONTO IS FINE the way it is. A little imagination to fix up the old spaces is all that is required and a modern city council to green light it. Plus only about 5-6 of our buildings are splashy.......What building do we have (other than the CN Tower) would be distingtive like the sears tower in New york, NONE! Toronto's city planners have for years let straight laced boring buildings go up, with the exception of the new TDCT tower which looks good and different on the skyline. Why not encourage the citys top corporate citizens to adopt a park or city place and "give back" to the city in which they do business. I could see the big banks, Bells and Rogers, etc.... getting into the act, becasue the trade-off would be a new way of marketing and it would be considered a tax break and make them even more visable in the city, without costing the taxpayers a dime. But really we need a Mayor with a vision and not a lobby group behind him telling him what they want done. Enough with the tax-increases miller.
  32. mike h from Sunland, Canada writes: C.J-You can stay in Bangcock. You obviously dont want to be here...
  33. Anon Imus from Canada writes: Improving Toronto's physical space is essential. A great city can't thrive amid ugliness, as that ugliness is a daily reminder of the city's inability to get its act together. Appearances matter. (That said, I think the direction Toronto is now taking is an ugly one--and there is plenty of ugly in the city already--but overall there is still very much to commend the city aesthetically.)

    I think much of the problem is the curious narrowmindedness of Canadians when it comes to aesthetics. The people are astoundingly petty, as the unceasing stupidfest of online G&M comments attests. (E.g., CJ writes in to berate Toronto, then concludes that things haven't changed in the battle between east and west--apparently citing himself for this proposition.) Since the 1960s, anything aesthetic has been devalued in comparison with things material and practical. But as I said at the start of this comment, appearances matter for the greatness of a city overall. Other aspects of greatness, including economic success, rely on what the city looks like.

    I no longer live in Toronto in part because it saddens me to see the city head, year after year, farther toward mediocrity. I am skeptical that the ideas suggested in this series will come to fruition. I'll believe it when I see it I suppose. Good luck to us all.
  34. The Objectivist from overpopulated Toronto, Canada writes: its very simple. stop the growth. stop the mess that is the 905 urban sprawl and stop building a condo on every corner. from getting your kids into soccer to getting around, growth has made the city dysfunctional. by arresting population growth and hence the footprint of man, we'd make a meaningful positive impact on the environment (rather than placebo ideas like Kyoto and new light bulbs), stop the environmental destruction of the surrounding country side and could then focus the resources currently paving southern Ontario toward improving existing housing and building stock and an improved standard of living - make it better per person rather than just more persons. Really question your preconcieved idea that we must have population growth - try to imagine alternatives and how much better it could be. Otherwise, what is the objective; pave all the way to Owen Sound? Toronto was a better place 20 years and the difference is simply volume, the American bigger is not better outlook is does not apply to paving and population.
  35. Midtown Bob from Toronto, Canada writes: Yo Michael Sharp, noone hear really cares about your magic-mushroom induced opinions. Go back to your tractor-tire tube.
    To make Toronto better, we move all of our refineries to Vancouver Island and we may as well ship them our toxic waste.
  36. Midtown Bob from Toronto, Canada writes: To Insults Ignored, I guess you never saw the monorail episode on the Simpsons.
  37. Geoffrey Diss from Berlin, Germany writes: Michael Sharp from Island Paradise, Canada writes:

    I don't live in Toronto.

    Why should I care what colour you paint your streets?

    What's in it for me?

    ___

    Who cares that you don't care, Michael?

    You obviously cared enough about something to read the article and post a comment.
  38. gord winters from Canada writes: marlene gregory, did i read that right? you want to make toronto a walled city? are the visigoths coming?
  39. L C from Toronto, Canada writes: George:

    Bury the Gardiner because it's an eyesore? Why not also ban all ugly people downtown as well. Toronto can't even afford to perform basic maintenance on the Gardiner, let alone replace it with an underground version. And streetcars won't cut it - you can't fit tractor trailers delivering goods on them, not to mention all the commuters from outside the downtown core that contribute to the city's overall wealth.

    Silly waterfront condo owners. Its their buildings that are eyesores and barriers to pedetrian access to the lake. Perhaps we should bury them instead? The transportation infrastructure of this city shouldn't pay for poor real esatate investment decisions.

    Transportation infrastructure in Toronto has to be expanded to accommodate growth - not destroyed for subjective aesthetic reasons.
  40. C J from Expat in Bangkok, Canada writes: Perhaps the Globe and Mail now realised the mistake of going All-Toronto.
  41. Gardiner Westbound from Canada writes: .

    Filthy streets, beggars and stepping over bums in city-supplied sleeping bags are the highlights of our last visit to Toronto.

    We kept to the relatively safe prime shopping areas. Nonetheless an innocent 15-year old girl was caught in gang crossfire and killed near a downtown shopping concourse we had just left.
    .
  42. Midtown Bob from Toronto, Canada writes: That's okay Gardiner Westbound, we don't want you back anyway.

    L C , if we bury the Gardiner, will you also bury the rail tracks running parallel to the Gardiner? Any idea the price tag for that? $10 billion? Google "Big Dig".
  43. J.C. Davies from Canada writes:
    "London is a visually dynamic, aesthetically sophisticated city, and Toronto doesn't even TRY to be that. The final touch of visual desolation is added by people's dress sense. I was shocked on returning here to see how badly people dress: no sense of style, no colour, no appreciation of cut or one's own body type. This city looks like the set of Dawn of the Dead, and the lone figures that actually do dress well look like they could be set upon at any time by the slack-jawed, insensate zombies ."

    So true. This is also very noticeable returning to Toronto from NYC. No one can ever accuse Toronto of being a "style capital".
  44. J.C. Davies from Canada writes:
    "Fact: Toronto is the most cosmopolitan city in the WORLD bar none, not New York or others. Yes, on the planet !"

    I suspect the person who wrote this has never been to London, Paris, New York or LA. LA in fact has been labled the "Capital of the Third World" due to depth and breadth of its immigrant communities.
  45. Robin Hannah from Canada writes: Oh moy jaysus, where do we start? As someone here has said - stop the growth. Toronto is getting insanely big. But how do you stop growth, or slow it down? That's what capitalism IS, unbridled growth and profit. And Toronto's got a real bad case of it. Some people are profiting big-time, and have become the ugly nouveau riche up in Muskoka (despoiled the land, in fact), and of course the poor and working-class are getting it up the arse worse than ever, and the city isn't aesthetically prettier because of it. Toronto took a wrong turn in the 80s, with that Art "We're World-Class" Eggleton creature. Whose vision of 'world-class' entailed razing everything old to the ground and building big. (I exaggerate, but still.) Things got worse with Mike Harris. Way worse. He did what he said he would do, and shredded the social fabric of this town. Nobody since seems to have had a kinder or grander vision, aesthetic, social, or otherwise, or had the guts to lay down some standards - and say NO, or NO MORE. Condos, big-boxes, condos, parking-lots, condos, big-boxes, Pizza-Pizza franchises (Tim Hortons/Starbucks/McDonalds/). The landscape is getting uglier and more soulless by the day. There are still beautiful vibrant neighborhoods. Gorgeous old trees. Great ravines and parks. But the culture of greed here is pervasive, and killing. One suggestion I have is get rid of the godforsaken OMB. Who make daily decisions that affect this city (e.g., apparently approving almost every developer's submission that comes before them), and yet are beholden to no one. And no one knows who they are. I do wonder if greed, once it reaches critical mass, can be stopped?
  46. Kenneth Murphy from Toronto, Canada writes: They should put "the bump" back on the Gardiner near the Humber. It would bring back the many memories of being a kid in the back of the school bus getting airborne.

    To all the Toronto haters, if its so bad then just avoid it completely. I always get a kick out of asking people where they went while they were in Toronto. They always respond with some super tacky, overcrowded, dirty and culturally inert location: "We went to the Eaton's center - it was too busy."
    On a Saturday afternoon? Gee didn't see that coming.
  47. Miz Mary Secret from Hong Kong, Japan writes: I want to define 'cosmopolitan' as meaning that the citizenry itself is well-travelled, highly educated, and comes from a plethora of different backgrounds and origins. Toronto doesn't have that. // Toronto's immigrant population seem to be either a) small-minded or b) total refugees coming in from the developing world or The Middle East. When was the last time someone from Melbourne or Sacramento moved to Toronto? When was the last time someone from Copenhagen (presuming they could even get a visa for Canada, being neither a refugee nor a super-rich pay-to-get-in immigrant) moved to Toronto? I think the last time that happened, it was 1963. Thus, Toronto is a place where people have immigrated from sketchy, polluted, dangerous places, but it's missing diversity from the 1st world. In that respect, it is definitely not mixed. In short, there is not a socio-economic diversity there. Just the rich and the poor get in. No middle class get in, no working class get in....especially not from first world countries....but now that I think about it, there are about 200 000 Taiwanese in Toronto and not one of them is a tile-setter or a mechanic. Just a bunch of people who own factories in south China (or have uncles who do).// I'm here in Hong Kong. Now THIS is cosmo.
  48. jo st-cyr from Canada writes: Might I assume that the Globe and Mail will be doing six parts series on other cities in Canada since it is supposed to be a National paper..... Get out of your Toronto bubble and start acting like a true National paper. I live three hours from Toronto and frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn about Toronto. My own city needs so many improvements but never seems to have the funds to fix the streets, beautify the downtown....
  49. john sledzi from Canada writes: Toronto desperately needs pedestrian zones but that's not likely to happen as traffic car flows seem to dictate everything. Pedestrian zones are what gives all European cities their great charm.
    Also, how about all surface car parking lots gradually transformed to green and art spaces with the parking going underground, You'll have instant public squares all over the place, another thing that gives European cities their great charm.
    Cover the Gardiner in the west end, a portion of the Gardiner that is already submerged. This would instantly reconnect a large part of the city with its waterfront.
    Last and most expensive. Our subway system is a joke for a city this size.
  50. The Objectivist from overpopulated Toronto, Canada writes: Robin, good question, how to stop the growth. its cause by, surprise surprise a demand curve that government policy his heavily influencing. Various tax breaks for children, daycare etc incent the birth rate and add to that they control immigration rates. it would be very easy to change policy to first slow, then stop then reverse growth. as much of Canada is not currently living an economically sustainable existence (transfer payments) as the population slowly eased, transfer payments could also be reduced. Please do challenge yourself on the 'we have to grow mentality' are they real reason that can't be overcome you have or just said it some many times is become real to you? most people when you drill down can't support it

    you are wrong about capitalism, its a system that through human nature (both spirit and greed) will make the most of a situation.....but capitalism is not responsible for the population growth it simply reacts to it. that is caused by government policy. Where there not the government incented pop growth, capitalism would adapt and stop paving more miles of farmland and focus on improving existing stock - reno, redevelopment, improvements etc.

    something I is broken. I read that Newmarket for example relies on annual growth just to balance their budget. That they've pretty much thrown in the towel on sustainability and have to keep paving just to keep going. If you support this model, start projecting out - where does it lead to?

    finally, blame a lot of ugliness on city planners who approve zoning/official plan/subdivisions with 500 acres of res and then 40 acres of retail that gets turned into a SmartCentre (the ultimate oxymoron) Personally i prefer the old city mix of commercial retail and res.

  51. Ryan Carriere from Toronto, Canada writes: It would be great if the very people who attempt to better the city by riding bikes rather than driving cars didn't get killed doing so. Who cares about fancy gates to the city and what clothes Torontonians wear when we and our children can't even safely cycle.
  52. Frank Godfrey from Canada writes: Toronto is impervious to the insults in these posts - it's bigger than that, and I guess that bothers a lot of folks too.
  53. Coffee...just give me Coffee from Toronto, Canada writes: I like the ideas of a pedestrian only section of roads - how about a combined bicycle / pedestrian only section. Reduce car access to every other major street, and encourage transit, bikes, walking. I think of the Sparks Street Mall in Ottawa - a nice pedestrian area that you can shop, etc. The best pedestrian pathway in Toronto is the PATH, but alas, it's underground. A few more trees about would be great, though I have read the issue with keeping them alive in the downtown core, as they don't get enough water, etc. Toronto has many great areas, with parks, waterfront, and some great bike paths. Key off of what is working, and improve. Some radical thoughts and ideas are needed, but some great plans would come from this.
  54. A H from Toronto, Canada writes: GET RID OF STREETCARS. Only a handful of streets in Toronto have the passenger capacity (3,600 per hour per direction) to justify streetcars according to the TTC. Toronto politicians and special intrerests have a love affair with these lumbering relics of the past. Just look at most of the streetcars at any given time of day only half full. Hybrid diesel buses can go anywhere a streetcar can go, without the ugly powerlines and tracks without all the wasted passenger capacity. We can also build bus only corridors if we choose, at a fraction of the cost with all the benefits of a streetcar right-of-way. The best part about it is that according to a recent Journal of Public Transportation article, the current mix of power generation used to power streetcars is MORE polluting than hybrid buses. GO WITH RAPID BUS TRANSIT - LESS POLLUTION - NO UGLY TRACKS - CHEAPER!!! With the extra money we save, build more parks, and open up the skyscape by tearing down the wires! Remember, the special interests will always start to talk about "headways" and how it would take "too many buses" for an equivalent service, but this is true only for a very FEW high demand routes. EVERY WHERE ELSE buses are a better choice.
  55. ildiko erdei from writes: i think that increasing the greenery in the city is a great idea, would make toronto much more aesthetically appealling and all, but we cannot ignore the fact that toronto is large and is a commuter city. walking is just not a realistic form of transportation other than within the city itself between buildings. while it is true that the core is seeing more young professionals moving in, the reality is that most people who work in toronto do not live within the core. furthermore, walking is just not possible for many people - it takes much much longer and we just dont have that kinda time, nevermind who the hell would want to trek to work in a blizzard.
    traffic is already horrendous and the idea of reducing lanes such as on university avenue to make way for more "pedestrian" traffic is insane. having high pedestrian traffic in most european cities makes sense because their train system is much more reliable and efficient and fast to get you in from the suburbs. the cities are physically smaller and most do not face the extreme weather we can get during the winter months. you cannot compare living in amsterdam to living in toronto.
  56. Ms. Jan from Toronto, Canada writes: I would love to see the establishment of a London-style tax on downtown driving, and the creation of pedestrian-only areas in locations where it makes sense (ie. Kensington Market, U of T). The streetcars that serve high-traffic areas like Queen, King and Dundas are fantastic - the only people they annoy are drivers, and to pedestrians they're a godsend. The future of sustainable urban life requires pedestrian and bicycle traffic. I really hope that Toronto will take the initiative to move away from an ineffecient car-based suburban model rather than waiting for someone else to do it first.
  57. Nick Cushing from Toronto, Canada writes: Why not just leave it alone and fix the potholes? There's nothing more wrong with Toronto than any other big western city. Things get done, eventually. Aesthetically it's ok, I like the Cn tower, the skydome AND the poor ol' Gardiner. I've never heard anyone normal describe Toronto as ugly.

    Alas, Toronto has more than it's fair share of NIMBY's and politically correct perma-protesters who loathe most human activity. Also, apparently, under-employed flakey architects!

    Leave Toronto alone, it's not a European city, it's not an American city, it doesn't have anything to prove. It more-or-less works.
  58. L R from Toronto, Canada writes: Marlene Gregory - have you been to Kensington Market or the Distillery District? Excellent examples of pedestrian areas there.

    As for L C, I don't know what you're talking about...my view of the waterfront is perfect! Guess you just don't live close enough to the water. :)

    Generally speaking though, all these comments (negative or positive) are all nice and well, except that no one appears to consider how any of these changes would be paid for. Increasing property taxes to pay for burying the Gardner, creating parks, whatever? Good luck. And federal or provincial transfers? Not a chance right now. I don't see anyone volunteering to open their wallets (myself included), so all these suggestions are rather pointless.
  59. james charron from Montreal, Canada writes: Honestly I have never been to Toronto and have no desire to ever go there. Why should should I or 27 million Canadians that don't live in Toronto even give damn what does on there.
  60. Timothy Nessus from Somewhere, Canada writes: I think Nero got it right... but I don't think arson is in the Mayor's agenda....
  61. Peter Fulton from Vancouver, Canada writes: work. eat. sleep. work. eat. sleep. get ahead. get ahead.
    that's why so many cities suck, its their job to provide economic efficiency, not look good.

    toronto does that best in canada. they just need more freeways and smokestacks to make the money go round faster. and i dont want them looking at the view when they are doing 140kph.

    keep making the money toronto, the rest of the country needs it so they can do less.
  62. Midtown Bob from Toronto, Canada writes: To james charron, I've never been to montreal either but I hate it nontheless.
  63. Michael Sharp from Island Paradise, Canada writes:

    I don't care if you don't care that I don't care about Toronto.

    OK.

    We're clear on that?

    Good luck with the beautification.

    You know what they say?

    Location, location, location.
  64. Graham Bolton from Toronto, Canada writes: I spent a number of years working as an Architect in Vancouver before returning to Toronto in the late 90's. Upon my return I was struck by the difference in attention paid to the ground level interaction between buildings and streets. Vancouver is known world wide for its wonderful urban fabric (among other things), much of which has been (re)built since 1990. Few of the new buildings in downtown Toronto appear to only make a half hearted attempt to improve the street frontage, with the exception of a limited number of projects produced by only a handful of talented local Architecture firms. The only explanation I can find for the difference between the two Cities is the presence of an Urban Design Review committee in Vancouver and the absence of one in Toronto. Toronto has begun to experiment with this process on a limited basis. The single most effective step the City could take to improve our urban environment would be to implement a city wide design review process staffed by industry peers (Architects, urban designers, Landscape architects privet citizens etc.) volunteering their time on a 4 month rotational basis. Whether the responsibility for the poor contemporary street frontage of Torontoís buildings is the product poor designers or poor developers, a design review committee would at least put our city's urban design front and centre in the development permit process. For a City that has been bequeathed so much great historic urban fabric it is inexcusable that we can not do better.
  65. Tony Burson from Toronto, Canada writes: I have been a resident of Toronto since 1966 and in the intervening years I have read and jheard many of these ideas, suggestions and criticisms.
    To my mind the problem is not one of money or of ideas it is the relentless stonewalling by the politicians in City Hall who have no idea of a sense of design or what one building/object standing next to another can cause.
    Before any of the ideas expressed in the article or here in the Comments there has to be an education of the politicians. Remeber they are the people who decided that the gargantuan Trash cans were appropriate for the city.
  66. C. O. from Toronto the Great, Canada writes: Firstly I must say I hate when people compare Toronto to cities like London..or other European cities. Euro cities are centuries older and have had a lot more time to grow and develop. Even Montreal is older.Toronto is still a pretty young city.
    Toronto is a city full of educated and aware people and things are always changing here. There are examples, good and bad, of growth here like everywhere.
    Toronto rocks baby!
  67. Midtown Bob from Toronto, Canada writes: Michael Sharp, you do care about Toronto. Thank you for your kind words. Now get on your raft, point it west and don't stop.
  68. Michael Enright from Toronto, Canada writes: This becomes such a tiring argument. The proposed architectural, street-level and urban spaces are going to take time and I wish people would give it some time to take hold. Look at all the major new builds or redesigns for key buildings – The ROM, the AGO, the Four Seasons Opera House, the ballet school, the royal conservatory, the Gardner Museum , etc. Even areas like Regent Park is going through a billion dollar face lift. The same thing can be said for the redesign of urban spaces – the Nathan Phillips Square redesign, Lowe Don Lands redesign project and the West 8’s redesign of the main waterfront area, and various other projects These are the big marquee projects and I can tell you there’s a fair number of smaller ones that are just as ambitious.
  69. Michael Sharp from Island Paradise, Canada writes: Midtown Bob from Toronto:

    I can't.

    Your swine of a brother stole it and now he's on his way to Vladivostok.

    In a year or so, after a successful circumnavigation he shall float into Lake Ontario and pay you a visit.

    He sends his love.
  70. Steven Murray from Victoria, BC, Canada writes: James the Second from Halifax: You state that 50% of Canada's economic activity occurs in the GTA. I'd like to know how that is possible. According to Statistics Canada, the entire province of Ontario (roughly double the population of the GTA) accounted for only 41% of Canada's GDP in 2006.
  71. Rick Drysdale from Sidney, Canada writes: I'm surprised the jackels haven't suggested the obvious way to "fix" Toronto.
  72. Andrew Sjogren from Toronto, Canada writes: I think the comments on the G&M forums need to be moderated a bit more, to ensure that only comments that refer to the topic are listed. This on-going argument between people from Toronto and those from Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and elsewhere is so boring and serves no purpose, except make us all sound like a bunch of idiots. This forum posed a very interesting topic for dicussion, lets stick to it.

    My suggestion, which I believe has already been mentioned, is to pedestrianize some areas. Yorkville & kensignton market come to mind.

    Another suggestion would be to do something more with the CNE grounds. I thing the actual CNE should be moved to Downsview and the lands currently not being used (parking lots) or occupied by dated buildings should be removed and used for some greenspace, and yes even some residential and commercial.
  73. Ideally Speaking from Toronto, Canada writes: Lets get it together!

    I personally would like to visit Calgary, Vancouver, or Montreal, or anywhere else in Canada and think 'what a nice city'. We should recognize our cities for what they are --the places where most Canadians live. We should view the places we don't live not as a threat but as further confirmation that this country can get it right.

    What is the benefit of an ugly Toronto to Vancouver? Nothing except complacency. Just like in business, competition breeds good things. Wouldn't it be cool if Canada had 3 or 4 beautiful and vibrant urban centers?
  74. Dion eats hotdogs with a knife and fork! from Canada writes: Improve Toronto?

    It's simple - ditch Miller, McConnell, Fletcher, Pantalone, Vaughan and all the other looney lefties on council.

    Get someone in their that can live within Toronto's means, not bankrupt us, and be much, much more efficient with taxpayer money.
  75. D Burgess from Vancouver, Canada writes: It seems to me that you could do worse than to embrace the inevitable: internal-combustion cars are going the way of the dinosaur. With that in mind, consider solutions for moving larger numbers of people via rapid transit; accomodating smaller, greener vehicles (think powered parking:-); and finally, making the city more pedestrian-friendly. Imagine, no more 'big smoke'....
  76. Andrew M from Toronto, Canada writes: Let us pray. Dear Lord, please strike down with vengeance and remorseless brutality the Scarborough Light Rail and replace it with a subway.

    Amen
  77. Stop! Think! from Canada writes: Interesting all of the views from people who have never set foot within the city limits.....I would just like to ask what the main problem with Toronto is?? I know..The fact that they spend 51% OF THEIR BUDGET ON MASS TRANSIT...That is the chain that is draggin Toronto...No other major city in the world has to pay for their mass transit system by themselves, the state/province or federal gov't ususally flip most if not all of the bill....

    Why do they do this?? Simple. All the people who use the system are going to work to purchase goods to fuel the economy. The money that would be saved on transit could then go to all of the projects that some posters eluded to here...Green the city, revamp the Gardiner and the waterfront....

    Too bad that Toronto is just Canada's whipping boy, the guys everyone blames for their own short comings...A city founded on pure geographical luck, and is forever delegated to get the shaft from the feds, the province and even their own neighboring cities....Funniset part is that without this economic hub there wouldn't be money for anyone in our country
  78. Stop! Think! from Canada writes: Miz Mary - There are currently 180 languages spoken in Toronto...How many in your backwater town...My parents and many like them came to Canada during the 70's, from where...Europe...You people who comment on Toronto not having as much varied culture as NY LA etc....You are tourists...You went to the CN tower and walked on Yonge St....Woo Hoo...To fully explore and appreciate the cultures you have to take your time...
  79. steveo Toronto from Canada writes: For everyone complaining about this is story being Toronto centric realize that this story was in the TORONTO section of the print edition G&M. If it was in your print edition on Vancouver Island, then you have a realistic complaint. Next time I read about about a sunken ship being turned into an underwater park in Tofino I'll be sure to complain about it.

    I definitely Think Front St. E could use a few improvements here and there. It's great from up until George St. but could use some more space on the sidewalk. However it will probably improve as the development of the Don Lands and the Distillery continues. Toronto actually has quite a few parks just not in the downtown. Note the conversion of Downsview and the Rouge is actually bigger than Central Park (and possibly growing to include parts of the Oak Ridges Morraine).
  80. Michael Sharp from Island Paradise, Canada writes: Stop! Think! from Canada writes: Funn(iest) part is that without this economic hub there wouldn't be money for anyone in our country.

    ... Oh, we'd do all right sport. If Toronto just got sucked into a singularity without a trace (see God particle) we'd just dump on the next best thing.

    The beautification of Sarnia, the beautification of Hamilton, the beautification of Windsor, the beautification of Sudbury, the beautification of Smog Alert on the Lake.
  81. Frank Godfrey from Canada writes: The G&M really needs to edit these posts. What on earth do people like Michael Sharp contribute to the discussion of ideas ?
  82. Andrew M from Ottawa, Canada writes: If you hoof Toronto in the 'nads, then you can also say goodbye to 25% of the nation's GDP
  83. Michael Sharp from Island Paradise, Canada writes: Frank Godfrey from Canada:

    Here's my ideas.

    Toronto is NOT the centre of the universe.
    It is Toronto.
    The Globe is not a national newspaper, it is the Toronto Globe and Mail.

    At which time both are recognized nationally, I shall be a happy camper.
    Until said time, the dumping on Toronto must continue.

    This is all symptomatic of a deeply centralized Canada, Liberal federalism, which I resent.

    Discuss those ideas in context of why I, 2500 miles away, should care what colour Toronto paints it's streets?
  84. K Kennedy from Toronto, Canada writes: Michael Sharp is an idiot. Typical blathering fool from the West Coast who offers nothing constructive to this discussion except criticism and to seemingly brag about living on a lousy island in a subduction zone. I wonder how much of a paradise Van Island will be once the big one hits huh? And Victoria is the bullseye for a massive tsunami. Get off your high horse buddy. No one cares that you're from the Left Coast.
  85. Michael Sharp from Island Paradise, Canada writes:

    Here's something constructive.

    The article asks how to improve Toronto.

    Stop voting Federal Liberals.
    Then, when you've grown up and tossed your Nanny State aside, you can take some pride in yourself.

    That'll go a long way to improving your city.
  86. K Kennedy from Toronto, Canada writes: Hey look pal. No one needs your political advice when it comes to election campaigns considering the Nanny State and NDP hell hole B.C. has been in the past. Furthermore, federal elections have NOTHING to do with any discussion about improving Toronto as a city. You're simply out here to piss people off and I suspect because you have nothing better to do with your time on that boring 'island paradise' you call home.
    Like most West Coast loonies, you crave the attention of Eastern Canada hence all the time you spend here criticising a city you've probably never spent any real time in. If the Globe should ever run an article on how to improve Vancouver I'll be more than happy to crap all over the place because there is plenty wrong with that dump and drug infested Victoria to boot.
  87. John Lord from Vancouver, Canada writes: How about electing a left wing mayor with no budgetary sense to dole out money to his union buddies? Oh wait, you already tried that.
  88. Michael Enright from Toronto, Canada writes: I love how people like Michael Sharp love to dump on the G&M for being too Toronto centric, but they don’t take into consideration about the history of the newspaper and where its roots lie. This is a Toronto paper that has attempted to grow into a national paper, very similar to what you see with the New York Times. It’s maybe not perfect, but where is the other great national newspapers (sorry, the National Post is done here too). Where’s the great national newspapers from the west coast or the prairies? People complain that our national media is too centric to upper Canada, well I ask you why hasn’t any other region stepped up to the plate to build a credible media voice?
  89. Somewhere Overtherainbow from Detroit, Canada writes: K Kennedy. Temper Temper. Doth thou hath nothing better to do than Flame? (thats in response to your George Bush religious right like diatribe) B.T.W. Drugs are fun, for a while. Common I'll take you to Jane and Finch. Toronto needs an NHL level hockey Team! As well, it could use more subway lines and kilometers. The Streetcars are a nostagilic waste of money and a pain in the butt. More Beer!
  90. Robin Hannah from Canada writes: Michael Sharp? Here's my idea, too: Toronto is not the centre of the universe. And Torontonians don't think so either. It's the rest of the country that thinks that Torontonians think Toronto is the centre of the universe. Cut it with the insults, okay? We get it, and it's tiresome. I hate Toronto, but I can say that, because I was born and bred here, and I've spent 15 or so years living elsewhere, too. I also love Toronto. I don't like how big it's become, or full of angry ugly drivers who give human beings a bad name. And litterers, and sidewalk spitters. But I wouldn't dream of slamming a city I didn't know well, as many Canadians seem to like doing. The Objectivist - I'd like to respond to your points, but I'm not entirely sure what they were. Perhaps you were having a bad typing day. You do mention Newmarket, and I find that one of the saddest strips of concrete I've ever driven through, and watching our farmland shrink ever further. And that's what I mean, I don't know how you stop that. Our politicians don't seem to give a damn. The policy seems to be, open to any and all comers, the more the bigger the better, and animal habitat and farmland be damned. Let the developers come, and let's build one hideous tract housing and big-box football field after another. New immigrants buy this crap and think they've died and gone to heaven, and I don't blame them, compared to what they're coming from, but meanwhile the "landscape" is done like dinner (as a former Leaf used to say). It's all about "buy buy buy - more stuff stuff stuff". Instead of actually trying to preserve and respect a history, or a sustainable way of life. I don't know Mississauga (in fact historically it's the endless butt of Torontonian jokes) but I believe the Mighty Hazel McCallion has a better, grander vision than that. I could be wrong - I don't know. I do know I wish we had more politicians like her. Who stand for people, rather than dollars.
  91. Robin Hannah from Canada writes: P.S., with all respect to the poster Michael Enright, is that a nickname or are you actually the much-respected CBC's Michael Enright? Or do you just happen to share the same name? With this cult of silly nicknames, one can never be sure.
  92. Michael Sharp from Island Paradise, Canada writes: Robin Hannah:

    No, no, no.

    It's Sharp, Michael Sharp, and I don't work for the CBC.

    I'm a paid Conservative hack and I make big bucks blogging here and there.

    So much for your powers of observation.
  93. Bond James Bond from Canada writes:
    There is no hope for that cesspool
  94. Trilly B from Canada writes: Way to contribute to the discussion, Bond. I take it you don't live in Toronto?!

    I accept that this article is but one in a series, but I think the city has bigger fish to fry than a surface makeover.
  95. chris hugh from Gaspe, Qc., Canada writes: Has TO redeveloped the lakeshore? Is it still the ugly rail/road corridor i remember from the '70s?

    Toronto's best natural feature is the lake.
  96. from somewhere from Canada writes: Toronto is the greatest city in Canada, just ged rid of the riff raff in Scarborough...
  97. Mtl Quebec from Canada writes: There is too much to do to make Toronto a nice city.
    Just move to Vancouver or Montreal, that's much easier.
    Improving Toronto is like improving Mordor. It will take a lot of time and money and effort.
  98. Sylvia Wilson from Canada writes: Toronto needs to be something other than a place where cars travel at high speed. Some samples of imaginative planning:

    http://spacing.ca/wire/?cat=20
  99. J Dear from Toronto, Canada writes: A few people above nailed it: Forget about clever design aimed at beautifying bland spaces like parking lots. The primary issue that stifles Toronto's quest to be a top class city is the simple fact of too many cars. Once we fix the 24/7 traffic jam we can consider enhancing other things. Many (not me) Torontonians love sitting on unhospitable street side patios where the view consists of traffic congestion and streetcars stuck behind that traffic, coupled with the constant drone of engines and tires rolling over pavement. We'll never be Copenhagen but the proposed LRT and more bike lanes would help. As would a Ken Livingstone toll plan.
  100. Frank Godfrey from Canada writes: To MTL Quebec, well , Toronto has time, money and effort. And it's great to see the city focusing on improving what is the already the the most dynamic city in the country. I've visited Vancouver and Montreal and do think they're nice places to visit. There is a little bit of Mordor in all big cities. Toronto trashing is popular culture at a very adolescent level.
  101. B.C. Expat from Ottawa, NCR, Canada writes: To those suggesting pedestrian-only streets, I strongly recommend against that. Having cars alongside pedestrians has never been a really big problem in cities with traffic lights.

    I lived in Toronto 4 years, and I don't think an experience like Sparks Street in Ottawa (which is generally dead) or the bus-only portion of Granville Street in Vancouver (which degenerated) will help anything. Removing motorists from a street has the effect of rendering it less relevant to the city, and businesses are more hesitant to open up there.
  102. J L from Toronto, Canada writes: These designers come up with crap that has no soul! Everything is modern and abstract.

    Where is the connectivity to the past? Where are the bold and historic monuments to Canadian achievement that makes people swell with pride? The classic and bold architectural elements that age with dignity and give character and life to the urban landscape? Where are the pedestrian-only cobble-stone avenues lined with patios for people to meet and greet each other?

    Toronto has to drop it's fascination with trendy design because what is trendy today is a fashion disaster tomorrow!
  103. shmeety shmeets from Canada writes: That's one of the dumbest things I've ever seen. They even made the sky bluer and put leaves back on trees! What do you know, things look livelier in the Spring than in the Autumn! That sorry excuse for a design-architecture firm must have friends in high places to get such coverage. Pathetic rubbish from one the world's most dysfunctional cities. And such a superficial grasp of what design can be.
  104. Elmo Harris from Niagara, Canada writes: I go to Toronto for business purposes. Most of these 'plans' reduce the flow of traffic in order to accommodate a 'green zone'. The problem with establishing this 'green zone' is that the visionaries fail to take into account that the purpose of these streets is to move traffic around. Choke one area and it backs up someplace else. There are plenty of places to sit on University Avenue. Strangling traffic flow on University is not likely to increase the number of people using the boulevard. What it will do however, is make the city more constipated than it already is. Yvonne Wackernagel is correct: We don't need bigger 'visionaries paradises' we need many more smaller and convenient green spaces that are nearer to where people work and live. I've seen enough of these grand plans that end up little used to know that people will go where it is convenient and functional. A small green space with a bench and flowers and perhaps a water feature near local restaurants and fast food places is far more appealing to busy working people than any grandiose scheme. What Toronto needs more than anything, if they are looking for advice, are some Human Factor specialists (real ones not some guy in the office who thinks he knows what people need) to dig out what people NEED instead of what the designers think would look pretty and tasteful. We would be saving ourselves a lot of money and grief. The city is littered with well intended projects that have been dismal failures. Do it right this time.

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