The voice of baby boomers, the silenced majority. Rants and reflections on lifestyle, fashion, current events, books and movies.

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Does anyone else in Toronto wonder where Lake Ontario went?

Chicago citizens can enjoy views and access to Lake Michigan.

A recent visit to Chicago dramatically reminded me of what is missing in Toronto—our Lake Ontario shoreline. When the great Chicago fire leveled their downtown in 1871 the city displayed great foresight and generosity when they decreed it illegal for private builders to monopolize the Lake Michigan shoreline. Consequently, Chicago now enjoys an incredible twenty-seven-mile long park that ensures the lake is forever accessible to its citizens.

While I don’t advocate setting fire to downtown Toronto to get rid of unsightly buildings and planning blunders, I do think our city planners need to rethink what’s happening to our waterfront. We’re literally losing sight of it. Ugly high-rise condos are obliterating our view of Lake Ontario and the problem is only going to get worse. It’s difficult to stop a moving train but short of land-filling a new shoreline even further into the lake, what are our options?

Toronto. No green. No vistas of public spaces.

I used to love glimpsing the sparkling lake from Lakeshore Boulevard as I passed along the south side of the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. Even the grotesqueness of Ontario Place obliterating our view of Lake Ontario was alleviated by the whimsical faux farm silos which always made me smile. They’re gone now to be replaced by another poorly planned urban eyesore.

In the sixties, boomers used to catch the ferry to the Toronto Islands at the foot of Yonge Street. Back then, the waterfront in the harbour was still visible as we lined up at sunny outside turnstiles and paid our 25 cent fare to hop aboard the Sam McBride. The Toronto skyline was defined by the Royal York Hotel and the old 32-storey old Bank of Commerce Building on King Street West. I could see Lake Ontario from my room on the south side of Willard Hall on Gerrard Street.

Where’s Lake Ontario? Hidden from view.

Driving east or west on the Gardiner Expressway through downtown Toronto these days is like negotiating a slow train through a concrete jungle. We go nowhere, see nothing but faceless buildings and otherwise have no clue we’re a stone’s throw from one of Ontario’s beautiful Great Lakes. The view may be spectacular from offshore, but from land side, sadly, there’s nothing to see. I know progress is inevitable and we can’t undo the damage that has already been done to our waterfront views. It’s a shame our city managers have allowed this to happen. I just wish they’d had as much foresight and courage as Chicago did in 1871.


Stop studying and start building already

Oh. My. Nerves. How much more can we take of the endless studies and debating about Toronto’s transit woes. I moved to the city in 1965 to begin work. Over the past fifty-or-so years I have watched our home town triple in size and the brilliant minds who oversee our city’s transit needs seem to be stuck in a time warp somewhere in the middle of the last century.

Imagine if Toronto had a subway system along the lines of London's.

Imagine if Toronto had a subway network along the lines of London’s.

Anyone who has ever been to Paris, London, New York or any other major city in the world has experienced and understands that the best way to get around in large urban areas is by subway/métro/tube. Apparently none of our local politicians have ever traveled east of the Don Valley and have no conception of the miracle of subway networks that do not require passengers to keep switching from above-ground to below-ground modes of transportation. Paris and London recognized the necessity and value of an efficient subway system nearly one hundred years ago and built networks under their cities that allow citizens to get anywhere, any time. So far, John Tory has been a pleasant surprise as Mayor of Toronto. Where he disappoints is forcing us to wait while they undertake another study to support his personal transit scheme.

The Scarborough LRT is an example of short-sighted band-aid solutions. It's now being dismantled. Do it right the first time.

The Scarborough LRT is an example of short-sighted band-aid solutions. It’s now being dismantled. Why don’t they do it right the first time.

In the 1980’s I worked for EllisDon who built the Scarborough LRT above-ground rail line for Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton and his brilliant city council. Thanks to their lack of vision and short-sightedness this band-aid solution is now being torn down. I worry that the new diesel-powered train from the airport to Union Station now being unveiled is another big lumpy expensive band-aid.

The Canadian private sector has the capability to assemble the brains, the money and resources needed to get our transit system moving into the twenty-first century, albeit a bit late thanks to our politicians. The people in the Greater Toronto Area should have the capability of hopping on the subway anywhere in the GTA and getting wherever they want to go at a reasonable cost without experiencing traffic congestion, weather or transfer inconveniences. Whenever we’ve traveled in London and Paris, both cities offered us the convenience of getting on the subway at the airport and traveling to within a block of our downtown hotels. No taxis. No expensive changing of trains. No waiting at the curb in bad weather. No hassle.

During visits to Paris we traveled easily everywhere we wanted to go by metro.

During visits to Paris we traveled easily everywhere we wanted to go by metro.

Tourism brings in seven billion dollars annually in tourist revenue to the GTA with sixty-four percent of travelers arriving by air not car so they need convenient public transit. Their visits to Toronto create three hundred thousand jobs. Imagine the boost to our economy if these tourists and the people who work at the jobs that service them could get around our beautiful city as easily and conveniently as they do in London or Paris. What’s good for Toronto is good for the province and indeed the country. Everyone should chip in. After all, Toronto taxpayers subsidize farmers and businesses in remote communities through our provincial and federal taxes.

If anyone at Toronto Transit Commission, City Hall and Queen’s Park is listening, pull your collective fingers out, talk to the private sector about a Canadian-owned Public/Private Partnership (P3)and let’s get this show on the road, or more accurately off the road and under it. Enough studies already. Get some real brains involved and get moving before I die. Let’s not waste even more time forcing me to run for Mayor to get the job done.

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