With the turn of the calendar comes all kinds of resolutions for the new year – to lose a few pounds, quit a certain bad habit, maybe try something new.
But people aren’t the only ones who should look into a little self-improvement in the new year. Cities can do it, too.
After years of turmoil under Rob Ford, Toronto was a little brighter and a little warmer in 2015. But the city still has a long way to go to become the world-class destination it professes to be.
There are a lot of things that Toronto could do to improve in 2016, but we’ve whittled it down to our top 5.
1. Create a single transportation body and an iron-clad 20-year plan. Without question, the biggest issue facing the GTA going forward is transit, the basic premise of getting people from point A to point B. There are a number of transportation bodies working independently (the TTC, Metrolinx, York Viva, etc.) with their own priorities and budgets, meaning there are no viable long-term plans for the entire region. A single body overseeing all transit would be able to prioritize what the whole region needs to grow, and could lay out a comprehensive 20-year plan with fixed funding systems to pay for it all. This would include plans for SmartTrack and the much-needed downtown relief line.
2. Create more affordable housing. Toronto is booming – there seems to be a new condominium project popping up every week. This is great in terms of attracting affluent people to the downtown core, but an inherent lack of low-cost housing is pushing more and more middle- and low-income families out of the city and onto public transit to get to work. Toronto needs to be more accommodating to new Torontonians and those with limited budgets, and reject some of those condo projects in favour of affordable housing for the masses.
3. Solve the Uber vs. taxis issue. There’s no question we can’t live much longer with an unregulated body competing with a regulated body for fares. Toronto’s taxi license system is outdated and over-regulated – the city needs to simplify the existing system, and Uber needs to have a seat at the table when the overhaul takes place. In terms of regulation, licensing, fees and insurance, it should be a level playing field for everyone.
4. Protect heritage buildings. Despite its relatively young age, Toronto has been merciless in tearing down its old buildings in the name of progress. Even Old City Hall was slated to be torn down in the early 1970s when the Eaton Centre was looking for a place to build. The few historical buildings left in the city are a big part of our country’s history, and they deserve to be protected and repaired. With sufficient grants and tax rebates, the city can go a long way to preserving and refurbishing these buildings to their former glory.
5. Clean up Yonge Street. On the other hand, many sections of Yonge Street, particularly south of Bloor, look like they haven’t been touched since those halcyon 70s. Yonge should be Toronto’s version of Broadway – instead, we’ve got broken-down storefronts below old, decrepit housing units featuring boarded-up windows, mountains of pigeon poop and a kaleidoscope of paint and patch repairs. If Toronto wants to be a world-class city it needs a world-class main street, and it should be the foot of the world’s longest street.
Other potential pitches: More bike lanes, more daycare spaces, better public garbage cans, moving last call to 4 a.m.