Witless John Tory will ruin the east end of Toronto's waterfront

Here's what the Gardiner Expressway looks like up close. It has to go.  (source: The Toronto Star ) Toronto Mayor John Tory is livin...

Here's what the Gardiner Expressway looks like up close.
It has to go.  (source: The Toronto Star)
Toronto Mayor John Tory is living up to his surname* in the impending fiasco known as "renovating the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto."

The Gardiner Expressway in an elevated highway running along the waterfront of Toronto.  It's an eyesore, in a perpetual state of massive disrepair, and rather useless at its job of moving vehicles efficiently since it suffers tremendous congestion during peak hours.  In recent years, it has become an "issue" for politicians in the city (particularly for its horrendously low bang for the buck), and the matter seems to have finally come to a head.

True to form, however, no one is seriously considering what to do with it in its entirety.  That would just be too much for the generally timid population of Toronto.  The question at hand is what to do only with the Eastern part of the Gardiner.  The two main options are (a) what Tory ludicrously calls the "hybrid option" - which maintains the current structure and only performs cosmetic modifications - and the "boulevard option" - which involves tearing down the elevated highway in favour of a large, surface-level boulevard.  There are good reviews of the options at The Torontoist and at CBC.

Some assorted reasons why Tory is just blowing smoke:
  • "The hybrid option is predicted to have fewer traffic impacts during the construction phase, Tory said." (source)  So what?  We're going to throw away the significant long-term benefits for a bit of instant gratification?  I would expect that of some prepubescent Miley Cyrus wannabe, not the adult mayor of a world-class city.
  • "He said a boulevard-style option would add 10 minutes to commute times — though that figure does not come from the city." (source) In fact, the 10 minute figure - which he sometimes stretches to 20 minutes - seems to come from a gross misinterpretation of a City of Toronto report.  It's all made-up crap he uses for purely political gain.  The actual delays - as determined by experts who have been studying this problem for a long time - is under 5 minutes.  So Tory is just plain lying here.
  • Related to Tory's inflated traffic delay figures is his broad, and inaccurate, generalization that delays will affect large swaths of commuters.  That's a lie too.  Only a few percent of daily traffic into and out of downtown Toronto uses the Gardiner.
  • Tory refuses to accept that cities adapt, with a bit of direction and guidance, into new and better configurations.  New York has certainly benefitted from getting rid of elevated highways.  And while one may well argue that New York is not Toronto (thank goodness!), the same story is told in cities around the world.  If Toronto is not the same as New York, then it is safe to say that no two cities are the same.  So if removing elevated highways works in cities that are so different from each other, then the removal represents a fairly universal improvement that is largely independent of where it happens.  Therefore, we can expect benefits in Toronto too.
  • I won't even discuss Terrence Corcoran's one-percenter's view of things, which is nothing but useless propaganda and sensationalism.
  • The overall cost in the long-term of the hybrid option is staggeringly high compared to the boulevard option. (source)  Now, we all know that every major urban renewal project seems to suffer cost overruns.  But that doesn't affect the decision on which option to choose because either choice will suffer overruns, so the boulevard option will be cheaper, no matter what.
  • Small business would benefit from the boulevard solution by reconnecting the traffic to locals shops, restaurants, theatres, etc.  Big business, which hasn't got a single fuck to give about community and the individual, favours the hybrid option for the (perceived) sake of keeping their freight moving.  If we're looking to create a real community in that part of the city, then the boulevard option is the way to go.  If we want to ruin the Eastern waterfront area completely, then by all means let's go with the hybrid option.
Then there are a variety of other myths about the boulevard option, created only to coerce people into supporting the hybrid option.  My favorite is that of Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who claims that increased gridlock on a boulevard (versus an elevated highway) will increase pollution. This is extremely naive - as one would expect from a politician. The fact is that cars on average emit less pollution when travelling relatively slowly (e.g., as on a boulevard) than when travelling at higher freeway-like speeds.  The relationship is non-linear and depends on a wide number of variables.  Minnan-Wong's rationalization discounts the actual science involved.  Indeed, a report prepared by the City itself indicates that GHGs will decrease with the boulevard option. A similar conclusion is reached by the Toronto Board of Health.  Minnan-Wong is just scaremongering on behalf of big business, and his objections to the boulevard option can be safely ignored.

Finally, let's not forget that the truly best option - which has fallen entirely off the table because it's too "radical," is to bury the Gardiner altogether.  City of Toronto staff - the ones in charge of quantifying the benefits and costs of all the options - don't like the idea because it's "technically challenging" and costly.  Technically challenging?  We can put humans on the moon and land a robot on a comet, but we can't bury a highway?  Seriously?  And as for the price-tag - cost is not the question, it is the net benefit to the city, both economically and perhaps more importantly in terms of general well-being, that is the true measure.  The point of the Gardiner is to provide rapid, effective transportation without other adverse effects to the city and its people.  Putting the Gardiner underground is the best way to achieve those goals.

If we won't bury it, then let's at least follow the evidence and go for the boulevard option.  I sincerely hope that in the end, that's what Toronto decides to do.  Unfortunately, Torontonians are notoriously bad at making these kinds of decisions, and Tory is notoriously inept at... well, pretty much everything.  So while I hope the boulevard option wins, I predict the hybrid option will win.

* Tory, as in conservative, as in preserving the status-quo regardless of the consequences or of rationality. Let's also remember that the only reason Tory got the top job was that his competitors had either completely estranged the citizenry (as in the case of the repugnant Doug Ford) or refused to lower themselves to the level of mud-slinging and ad-hominems (as in the case of Olivia Ford).  In the fracas of the fight to be mayor, few recalled Tory's abysmal and amateurish performance when he tried his hand at Provincial politics.  Basically, he was elected for no good reason at all.

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The Trouble with Normal...: Witless John Tory will ruin the east end of Toronto's waterfront
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The Trouble with Normal...
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