Sunday, October 01, 2006

Chapter 6: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this here.

In chapter six of his book, Joe Fiorito explores how the native culture sees the city of Toronto. He visits some homeless natives living in a local Toronto park, a local native stonecarver and native tourists. All seemed to like Toronto's character for different reasons. But Fiorito doesn't, for obvious reasons, tell the story of how a native of two hundred years ago see Toronto.

So this particular chapter got me thinking: "What would the natives of two hundred years ago shaking the hand of the first European, say about what they see North America as today?"

Why 'North America' and not just Toronto or some other section?

North America has developed quite similarly over the years. Cities and other major population centres developed around stratigic military and trade points. For example, New York City developed on the Island of Manhatten at the strategic inland entrance of the Hudson River at the Atlantic Ocean. Toronto and Montreal grew from the fact they are major inland trading points of commerce.

But the question is, would the all native from two hundred years ago approve of what they would see today? Probably not. In the Toronto area, and this also works for other cities like New York and Los Angeles, the native would be appalled at the sprawl of cookie cutter houses spreading for as far as the eye can see.

It has been said that some of Canada's best farm land can be seen from the CN Tower. From the CN Tower, if you click on the link, you will see nothing but street after street of buildings. Sure the downtown of Toronto works with the commercial skyscrapers and condiminium towers. But if you look northward, single, semi detached residential units appear. To believe that some of the world's, never mind Canada's, best richest farm soil exists under these houses is despictable.

What should have happenned, the native might think, is the downtown should have grown as it has. The rest of it should have been either left untouched with treed lots, while the rest should have been developed as farm land to sustain the cities.

Transit of course would be a must. Mass transit terms of subways within the downtown built up areas would be a must. Single family cars would not be an option. This would keep the pollution and the congestion on the roads down. Where subways and trains (i.e. VIA Trains) could not be used due to low demand, buses would suffice.

A getaway to country for a weekend of camping? Sure, a rental electric car would be in order. These cars would be available for rental to people wishing to leave the cities and head to the rural areas.

The road alignment of Toronto would have to change as well. Instead of windy turny roads that you find in the suburbs, the grid pattern of downtown Toronto would work. However, none of the "lets just curve this road this way to miss a building" would be accepted. Hence the circles and curves in downtown Toronto would be there.

GO Transit would also be forced to put in a stations at major centres. For example, why is there not a GO Transit station at Queen & Dufferin Streets in Toronto? The Queen Street and King Street street cars are easily accessible from the train line. A slight re-alignment of the train line would provide connections with the smaller rural centres to the north and major population centres in the city and straighten out the original grid pattern the city was planned on.

This is a perfect example of "lets just curve this road this way to miss something" attitude that occurred. The train line was there before the roads. So the road builders, at the time, re-routed Dufferin street around the train line. However, as anyone who has been down there lately, congestion occurs on Queen Street. So by removing a building or two, Dufferin Street is straightened out and congestion at Queen & Dufferin is significantly reduced because transportation routes are not forced onto Queen Street in order to continue south on Dufferin for any reason. As well, the major train line is maintained and enhanced with transit connections that make sense.

Is what there is today salvagable in the eyes of the native? Sure, but there has to be some willpower on behalf of both the people and ALL the governments. Transit expansion needs to become a priority as well as the densification of condos and apartments along the major transit lines. The current agricultural farmland needs to be maintained and enhanced in every possible way. Reforestation will also occur in the areas currently sprawled out upon in the suburbs where current "cookie cutter housing" is located. By creating and implementing a plan like this, it will help to solve the effects of smog and global warming currently being felt in Toronto and other North American cities.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts