uTOpia: Toward A New Toronto

This is a great read, and I think it should be on the reading list for everyone in the development industry here in Toronto. I’ve made my way through about a third of it, as I’m a slow reader, but so far it has enveloped me in its accurate account of the spirit of Toronto now, and its visionary ideas about Toronto’s future.

 Among these ideas are: the demolition of the Gardiner Expressway, a car-free Kensington Market, an expanded subway and streetcar system, and high speed trains to New York and Chicago.

As far as the Gardiner goes, I agree it should be torn down. Most people, including the authors of this book, propose that it be buried a la Boston’s Big Dig. I think it should just be dispensed with, that it should never have been built, and that suburban car-types can go fuck themselves if they intend to keep driving all over our healthy, city life.

As far as car-free goes, Toronto has the recently-developed Distillery District, which I surveyed this past weekend. It was pleasant, but small and not a real ‘neighborhood’ as of yet. I hear more development is to follow. A car-free Kensington Market is a great idea, but why stop there? Why not phase out cars from downtown completely, or relegate them to major thoroughfare like Spadina and the Queensway.

Of course, this cause would be assisted by the re-introduction of private mass transit, first supplementing, then in place of the resource sink-hole known as the Toronto Transit Commission. I read recently that mass transit was the preferred means of travel in North American cities until the 1930s when, you guessed it, the state took over. Of course cars are winning, because it is a corporatist (semi-private) industry, versus mass transit which has been completely socialized. Anyone who isn’t Michael Moore’s bedfellow knows that socialization kills things, like dreams for example.

The high-speed train to New York and Chicago was my idea, or at least I thought it was until it showed up on the supplementary map of Future Toronto included with “uTOpia.” Rather than feeling robbed of my IP, I was overjoyed that someone else took that idea seriously regardless of its grand scale and unprecedented nature (in North America). In the book, they run it under Lake Ontario, which may be too costly, but one way or the other,  the northeastern region needs to start behaving like the interconnected creature that it is.

 Again, I recommend this book to everyone. However, if your taste aligns with mine at all, some parts of the book may appear too leftist. The book glorifies Mayor David Miller, who the Toronto culturati see as one of their own. He is considered a reformer, but will by no means increase the economic and political freedom necessary to speed growth. Also, the book celebrates post-punk hipsters as the flagbearers of the new Toronto. While some of their projects are helping the city come into its own culturally, this group also embraces the anti-globalization, pro-socialist religion that has cropped up as a knee-jerk reaction to the rapid change that follows growing freedom. The most troubling part is that Toronto’s current spirit of hopefulness comes from its embrace of global humanity.

Let me add my two cents to the forward visions of Toronto: In a future world where borders are vestigial and political developments are hardly newsworthy, in a future where people are not defined by their citizenship and state interference is close to nil, Toronto could very well be the capital of the planet. It is the least affected by nationalism of any city its size. Socialism still shapes life here, but a Blue Tory revolution could put the Canadian Confederation back on the libertarian path it blazed in the early twentieth century.

Someone mentioned that Toronto should become its own province (it’s own Free State). Why not? There’s a ton of potential in this City among the Lakes. And our lives are just too short to wait.

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