Ignore Waterfront Toronto’s Gardiner-bashing staff

frank1There’s a lot to wonder about regarding Waterfront Toronto’s emergence as a voice against improving the Gardiner Expressway by tearing it down east of Jarvis. Although the announcement Feb. 20 that WT’s board endorses the demolition option, it was driven by staff who produced a long colourful presentation promoting that opinion.

Of the many daytime pictures of the expressway shown throughout the pitch, few showed cars and trucks on the Gardiner. Yet in real life traffic is nearly always present and the artery is a lifeline for east Downtown.

The presentation includes several themes and intrinsic is the nonsensical notion that somehow demolishing the Gardiner will bring the water’s edge closer. What it will do is gridlock the hell out of Lake Shore Boulevard.But that might not be anathema to those who advocate knocking down the vital elevated artery.

Here are the goals WT staff claim will be achieved by demolition, followed by another viewpoint:

1 Revitalize the Waterfront

There is nothing presented to indicate revitalization of the waterfront will occur by demolition of part of the Gardiner. Part of the presentation compares Chicago’s magnificent waterfront with potential for ours. But demolishing some of the Gardiner has no bearing on that.

2 Reconnect the City with the Lake

The lake is as connected to the city whether pedestrians walk under an elevated highway to cross Lake Shore Boulevard or cross it under open skies.

3 Balance Modes of Travel

Seems like blather. Cars, bikes, transit…they’re all available now to access the waterfront. What else is needed? Modes?

4 Achieve Sustainability

More trendy-sounding blather? Sustain what? Or whom?

5 Create Value

Value for whom? Demolition crews and road builders? How? How much value?

Here’s our editorial take on those “goals.”

It’s apparent that Toronto drivers endure a war against them. Traffic signals are unco-ordinated to make stop-and-go driving a lengthy stressful experience compared with high-traffic cities, where smooth vehicular flow is, if not enabled, not further stifled.

The existence of traffic-clogging streetcars is a testament to the city’s war on the car. They make no sense in a gridlocked North American city; they cost a fortune to operate and mostly enrich companies that sell and place concrete which must be re-poured around the tracks every few years. The claim is that driving drivers out of their vehicles will boost an already jam-packed public transit system. Seems counterintuitive.

Whether pulling down the Gardiner east of Jarvis is of any significance to Waterfront Toronto’s excellent ambitions is moot. What remains of the Gardiner is heavily used and is vital to our city.

WT’s directors are appointed by three government levels and it’s a part-time job. They are led to a great degree by staff. It’s staff’s recommendations, backed up by a labour-intensive slide show, that have crafted the board’s acceptance of staff’s position.

It must be taken with a grain of salt.

— Frank Touby

PS The late Mike Comstock wrote a column in July 2007 which you can read here: (https://thebulletin.ca/?p=4601)