A balanced and workable
new transportation plan
for the City of Toronto
Electronic signs, like these ones on the Don Valley Parkway, are being used to tell drivers to take transit. These signs are meant for informing drivers of traffic conditions, not for political messages such as these
A balanced and workable
new transportation plan
for the City of Toronto
Engine idling has been outlawed in parts of Toronto due to anti-car environmentalism
The report cover for 'Reducing Car Dependence' which is the 2002 report outlining the City of Toronto's Official Plan policy against cars. Click on this image below to view the full report
There was definitely a war on cars by politicians in Toronto which lasted forty years between 1971 and 2011. Many people believe that this has only happened recently with a list of projects removing traffic lanes and replacing them with streetcars and bicycle lanes and plans to tear down expressways. Despite this, politicians deny the existence of this war, but the evidence was surmounting.
In fact, the war on the car in Toronto has been going on for a long time. It started as far back as the municipal election of November 1969 when the so-called 'Municipal Reform' candidates were elected. These were left-leaning politicians who adopted an anti-car agenda. Previously, Toronto had a balanced transportation plan which provided for new expressways, arterial roads, subways and commuter rail lines which provided the facilities for the transportation modal choice of the people. By 1969, the fight against the southward construction of the Allen (Spadina) Expressway was intensifying particularly in Forest Hill and the Annex. Urban thinker Jane Jacobs had just arrived in Toronto from leading a fight against expressway construction in New York and came to Canada to keep her sons out of the Vietnam War. She bought a house on Spadina Road in the path of the oncoming expressway and joined the fight against it. Her philosophy was that 'cities are built for people and not cars'. The absurdity of this statement is that people drive cars in ever-increasing numbers. Where there are cars, there are people. For example, every shopping plaza has a parking lot. Today's passenger vans such as SUV's (sport utility vehicles) carry from four to eight people. Jane Jacobs died in April 2006.
This philosophy of 'cities are built for people and not cars' was soon adopted by politicians. It became the cornerstone of former Premier William Davis's statement when he cancelled the construction of the city's Allen (Spadina) Expressway and proposed a light rail system along Finch Avenue, Eglinton Avenue, Jane Street and Don Mills Road. The philosophy of Jane Jacobs became accepted policy in Toronto and the 1966 transportation plan which took 20 years to develop was immediately dropped and new city plans were adopted in 1980, 1994 and 2002. These plans eliminated all proposed expressways and even included a statement that the municipality does not support the construction of additional expressways within its boundaries. Many arterial road links, such as the proposed link of Lawrence Avenue East at Bayview Avenue, were cancelled, thus leaving a gap in the street system. New plans advocated intensifying development and increasing densities to make people use public transit. The 2002 Official Plan advocated adding one million more people into the City of Toronto with vastly increased densities which support transit. At that time, the City even adopted a transportation policy called 'Reducing Automobile Dependence' which advocated making people leave their cars for transit and bicycling by City policy rather than making it voluntary. The City called it making a 'liveable' city by reducing mobility for cars. Low density suburban development which was perfect for young families instantly became taboo.
In 1985, the City advocated expansion of the subway system which would have made public transit more attractive and enticed people out of their cars and into transit voluntarily by offering fast, efficient and high-capacity service. However, since subways do not interfere with auto traffic by running underground, the City abandoned this plan in 2002 in favour of streetcars running on their own rights-of-way, removing traffic lanes and making turning on streets very difficult.
A major anti-expressway statement was made when the easternmost section of the elevated Gardiner Expressway from the Don River to Leslie Street was demolished in 2001. This was done to prevent any possible eastern extension of the expressway from ever taking place. This was also symbolic of the removal of an expressway to be replaced with a street and a bicycle path as a political statement against expressways.
This anti-car policy has intensified since 2003 with the 'Transit City' streetcar LRT plan which will see the conversion of more traffic lanes to streetcar rights-of-way. Additionally, there are plans to tear down more of the elevated Gardiner Expressway, fill in the Allen Expressway south of Yorkdale Road and replace them with boulevards with bicycle facilities, narrowing of streets and the removal of parking spots, removal of the well-working reversible lane on Jarvis Street, the conversion of many traffic lanes to bicycle lanes and the increase of parking fines and a new vehicle registration tax. The City of Toronto has no plans to improve roads, but it spends lavishly on streetcars and bicycle facilities, while its budget is tight. New bicycle lanes to replace two traffic lanes on busy University Avenue will be separated from traffic by a barrier, making turning and parking even more difficult.
While making driving ore difficult, the City has imposed a new $60 private vehicle registration tax in addition to the existing Provincial $74 licence plate renewal fee, so drivers saw their registration fees jump from $74 to $134. Additionally, the Mayor's office has instructed parking police to give out as many parking tickets as possible to raise revenue for the City. Drivers are being punished more and more to pay for the City's lavish spending, while a blind eye is given to cyclists who break the traffic laws. The City has even set up a militant cycling union which promotes antagonism towards drivers.
The result of this policy has been the decline of Toronto. The City is becoming heavily congested, traffic accidents are increasing, goods are not being delivered on time, businesses are leaving the City and the City is edging towards bankruptcy. This war on automobiles in Toronto must end and the City must return to a balanced form of transportation planning involving road improvements as well as public transit and bicycle facility improvements and allowing the public to make their own choice as to their mode of travel. This will create a healthy and economically-competitive city. New roads need not be built through established neighbourhoods, which was the flaw in 1950's and 1960's planning, but can be built along existing utility corridors as advocated in this plan, thus preserving neighbourhoods. The fact is that despite these efforts by Toronto, the modal split has never changed. Auto use remains constant in the Toronto area at 69%, public transit at 26% and bicycling and walking at 5%. Transit ridership has not increased dramatically either. This shows that many people are willing to tolerate traffic congestion for the convenience of their automobiles. This will never change. Much of the war on the car has been with environmental arguments. However, with the advent of the catalytic converter and the forthcoming electric cars, this argument becomes reduntant. Most people want good public transit so that they can make a transportation modal choice which is convenient to them and this can only be done with subway expansion.
The Official policy of the City of Toronto Transportation Planning Department is anti-car:
Transportation Planning oversees policies and projects with the goal of improving transit, discouraging automobile dependence and encouraging alternative forms of transportation such as walking, cycling, subways and streetcars.
Toronto’s recent war on the car projects
St. Clair Avenue West dedicated streetcar right-of-way – remove two traffic lanes and replace them with a dedicated streetcar route and remove parking spots
Cancellation of further subway expansion on Sheppard Avenue East in favour of streetcars
Transit City – replace central traffic lanes with dedicated streetcar rights-of-way on Sheppard Avenue East, Lake Shore Boulevard West, Eglinton Avenue East between Laird Drive and Kingston Road, Eglinton Avenue West between Jane Street and Renforth Drive, Finch Avenue West, Jane Street, Don Mills Road, Kingston Road between Eglinton Avenue East and Morningside Avenue and Morningside Avenue from Kingston Road to Sheppard Avenue East
Planned tear down of the Six Points Kipling Avenue-Bloor Street West-Dundas Street West Interchange and replacing it with traffic lights
Planned tear down of the elevated Gardiner Expressway between Jarvis Street and Carlaw Avenue and replace it with a surface boulevard
Planned fill in of the Allen Expressway between Yorkdale Road and Eglinton Avenue and replace it with a surface boulevard with bicycle lanes
Conversion of two traffic lanes on Birchmount Road into bicycle lanes which sit empty
Conversion of two traffic lanes on Pharmacy Avenue into bicycle lanes which sit empty
Conversion of two traffic lanes on Queen's Quay into bicycle lanes and an extension of the streetcar
Conversion of two traffic lanes on Gerrard Street into bicycle lanes
Conversion of two traffic lanes on Eastern Avenue into bicycle lanes
Conversion of two traffic lanes on University Avenue for separated bicycle lanes
Conversion of two traffic lanes on Kingston Road into bicycle lanes and streetcars
Removal of on-street parking on Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue for bicycle lanes
Removal of two traffic lanes and parking spots on Lansdowne Avenue
Removal of two traffic lanes and parking spots on Gladstone Avenue
Removal of two traffic lanes and parking spots on Roncesvalles Avenue
Removal of parking spots on Dundas Street West
Removal of the reversible lane on Jarvis Street and adding bicycle lanes
Planned conversion of 100 kilometres of traffic lanes into bicycle lanes
Unsynchronized traffic signals and traffic signals which favour streetcars and bicycle over auto traffic
The $60 vehicle registration tax
More aggressive issuing of parking tickets to raise revenue for the City
Increase of parking tickets from $20 to $30 and from $150 to $200
No new road improvements
Annual closing of the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway for the Ride for Heart bicycle ride
Municipal support for a militant Toronto Cycling Union, now a City-funded department called Cycle Toronto
Huge TTC budget and small roads budget with $400 million backlog of road repairs not being addressed properly
Removal of two traffic lanes and on-street parking along Bloor Street for bike lanes
Increased parking fines
The election of John Tory as mayor of the City of Toronto in October 2014, brought in a priority policy of improving traffic flow including speeding up construction, towing away vehicles which block roads during rush hour, synchronizing traffic signals and retaining and possibly rebuilding parts of the elevated Gardiner Expressway. Mayor Tory said that he would not support any policy which increased congestion and that improving traffic flow was his number one priority. He also kept anti-car downtown councillors out of his Executive Committee. In 2015, Council voted to rebuild the eastern Gardiner Expressway with a new and rerouted design instead of removing it, after a vigorous campaign led by the Ontario Trucking Association, the Courier Association and the Canadian Automobile Association successfully convinced them to do so. Opinion polls also showed that most of the people were on side with keeping the Gardiner in some new format.
On December 13, 2016, City Council voted 32-9 to add a $2.00 toll on to the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway to pay for their maintenance and to fund transit expansion. This will need Provincial approval as the City does not have the authority to put tolls on to any of its highways. Drivers would now have to pay for roads that have already been paid for and some of the money would note even go to them, but to transit users. However, the Province rejected this requested fearing a political backlash from commuters.
Traffic gridlock is now the number one issue in Toronto and people wanted solutions to improve traffic flow. However, the City Planning department maintains anti-car policies in its Official Plan.
Click on this link to view a report debunking Toronto's transportation myths used against private automobiles
The election of Rob Ford as mayor of the City of Toronto in October 2010 changed everything and brought this war on cars to an end. In his investiture on December 1, 2010, Mayor Ford announced that the war on cars was over. He announced that he would be introducing a new 'Transportation City' plan in 2011 which would be balanced and have facilities for all modes of transportation including public transit, motor vehicles, commercial vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, modelled on this 'Get Toronto Moving' transportation plan. The mayor made it clear that the Gardiner and Allen Expressways would remain intact, underground subways would be built instead of streetcar light rail along streets and off-road bicycle trails would be constructed instead of more bicycle lanes on major streets. On December 16, 2010, Toronto council voted overwhelmingly to repeal the $60 private vehicle registration tax, effective January 1, 2011. The forty-year war on the car in Toronto started by Jane Jacobs and the left-wing 'Municipal Reform' movement in 1969 was finally over, for now.
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