We, and a number of cities, are “over stored.” Worst of all, the new retail and Acres of Free Parking they bring are getting an unfair tax break. City council and the city planning department don’t seem to have any policy about commercial development. The retail dynamics have changed. And big boxes, malls and power centres are being built without transit requirements and paying a third of the commercial tax rate. Yes, 33% of the taxes paid by the old-style neighbourhood storefronts is all the city gets from this new style of retail. The city is allowing its own commercial tax base to be eroded through a lack of understanding business.
Comstock: How about a Downtown TTC discount?
I am quite different from Pam McConnell, Kyle Rae and Olivia Chow, because I have a car. I drive it very little, it is 11 years old with only 94,000 kms, and most of that mileage (kilometrage?) is driving to Michigan to visit my sister. But, I don’t think any of these Downtown public servants even have a driver’s licence. My point is that we probably look at things differently. And, I can drive out of Downtown to Home Depot or Price Choppers to shop occasionally where they cannot. It is a part of my 12-step program of going carless next year, to apologize now to the green fanatics for my polluting four cylinder. Two other steps are accepting the TTC and helping the city get behind neighbourhood retail. I am hoping for electric cars and an affordable TTC. It will probably be the electric cars we will see first. The TTC costs $2.75 cash for an occasional ride. This ride could be from North Etobicoke, or the 401 and Morningside, but it is the same full price for a Downtowner to get 10 or 20 blocks.
Yeah, I know, walking does you well; biking is also a winner for your body. Carrying purchases, books and papers is tough. I always look for local Old Town shopping and dining first at www.OldTownToronto1793. com. My old feet are a motivating force for me to need transit three or four times a week. There are a growing number of people who need and would use transit more often but for this one price policy. TTC = Take The Cab, Take The Car, Take The Cash. We need a Downtown rate on the TTC, just a looney to get to city hall would be fair. And the TTC is a dinosaur on this; most transit systems price for the length of the ride. The TTC has been asked to allow people to use the existing transfers, to hop-on and hop-off a couple of hours, along the way. This too would improve service without costs. The Toronto Association of BIAs (TABIA) has requested this change. Passengers can meet up with family and friends on the way home, shop a neighbourhood they can only fly though now. Shopping locally is the green thing to do. The TTC’s Transit First push has made commercial neighbourhoods fear the TTC. St. Clair, Spadina and soon King Street East and West become dominated, subjugated by streetcar lines trying to operate with the capacity of a subway.
The TTC is d i r t y , unfriendly and not service oriented. It is a political dynamo and Adam Giambrone loves it like any kid with a new train set. We will know that the TTC is retuning to a service orientation when we see rider friendly Hop-on, Hop-off transfers and a Downtown discount. So, I mentioned that I occasionally drive to big box shopping. And, I know many of us do that because the Big Box developers want to build on the old lead smelter site, at Lakeshore Blvd. and Leslie Ave. They must have collected enough of our postal codes to see that their shoppers were driving out of the Downtown. And, as I mentioned last month, the Planning Department is so understaffed that there really isn’t much of an argument to stop them building there. Other players are Councilor Paula Fletcher, the province and the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Three quarters of all retail dollars are now spent in big boxes, power centres, malls and chain stores. The mom and pop stores, the boutique neighbourhood merchants are under colossal pressure. Neighbourhood shops are resilient, thrifty and creative, so there are many successes. This massive change in retail has left mainstreet business with a whole lot of old-style commercial architecture.