At city hall yesterday, the Supreme Soviet—beg pardon, the Executive Committee—voted 12–1 in favour of tearing down the Gardiner east of Jarvis (or, at least, to go ahead with an environmental assessment of its tear-down). The lone dissenter was Gloria Lindsay Luby, the Etobicoke councillor who, running counter to the urban zeitgeist that puts walking, cycling and transit ahead of driving, said that the city should be building infrastructure, not tearing it down. Why she may be right, after the jump.
The councillor does have a point. Queen’s Park estimates that the population of the GTA will increase by 2.6 million people over the next 20-odd years. It’s nice to think that all 2.6 million people will walk, cycle or take transit to work, but the truth is that they won’t. People don’t have much control over where their next job is located, and in two-income households the common trade-off is for one partner to take public transit and the other to drive. Even if 70 per cent of those 2.6 million don’t drive, that still puts an additional 780,000 cars on the road for rush hour. And since a lot of those 2.6 million people—and many of those extra cars—will be residing on redeveloped waterfront land, they would benefit most from the Gardiner’s continued nearby presence. After all, part of what makes the condo developments along Sheppard so attractive to buyers is their proximity to both transit and an expressway (in that case, the 401). As I have argued before, if the city so desired, it could make the elevated expressway part of a walkable community’s urban form. Even a walkable city makes good use of expressways for cars.