[URBAN NOTE] “How to Turn the Province’s Rejection of Tolls on the DVP and Gardiner Into an Opportunity”
At Torontoist, Tricia Wood argues that, if we try, the rejection by the Ontario government of Toronto imposing tolls on the Gardiner and the DVP can inspire creative thinking abut the future of the city.
The Premier is right to say, in her decision not to approve road tolls, that Toronto residents need better transit options. But under the Liberals’ watch, sound transit-planning practices have been more talk than walk. Every development decision is a transit decision. The recent siting of two new hospitals in St. Catharines and Windsor in suburban locations is straight out of 1950s planning around the automobile.
More importantly, Toronto’s own goals are still murky on the question of the future of the car in the city. Too frequently, we lack vision, and we lack political leadership. The Mayor’s random revenue-generating ideas encourage narrow, limited thinking. We are implicitly encouraged to think small, to accept compromises that are not real compromises. We should resist this.
I don’t include the mayor among progressive city-builders. The Tory road toll proposal was not a city-building idea, nor a good plan. Its only achievable goal was to raise money, most or all of which would have gone towards roads, not transit. As a revenue tool, it was unfair, and as a city-building plan, it was auto-centric. It was trying to make money off the status quo instead of building towards something better.
Road tolls on the DVP and Gardiner would not have improved mobility in the city, nor would they have brought about significant mode change—namely, getting people out of cars.
So let’s take the opportunity to shed ourselves of a weak plan and imagine what could be done with the Toronto-owned highways to build a better city, one that isn’t oriented around the automobile. We should talk about rethinking how they are used, or even getting rid of all of them.
Our three inner-city freeways were the brainchild of the Metro Toronto government in the 1950s. There were even more expressways planned that were never built. They are the epitome of auto-centric city-building that cuts the city in pieces and envisions it as a place to get through, rather than a place in which we live.