Toronto should build a downtown relief line (DRL) to alleviate congestion on the Yonge-University subway line and provide greater access to the dense areas of the downtown core currently underserved by rapid transit.
Pros: Essential for the long-term growth of the city, capable of moving the highest number of riders, required to ameliorate over crowding on Yonge-Spadina and Bloor-Danforth lines.
Cons: Direct costs in the tens of billions – indirect costs due to road closures, business failures, and construction delays will also be significant, not the most financially viable option. Should include surface LRTs or Transit Plan instead to reach more riders, especially in areas not adequately serviced by public transit, particular the inner suburbs.
Although signal upgrades and track modernization are essential to the TTC’s operations, without major expansion of existing capacity and the number of subway lines, transit congestion and frustration will only grow. Providing greater access to rapid transit will encourage commuters currently driving to use transit and keep their cars off the road, leaving more space for those who have no other choice.
This relief line will not only help those who live downtown, but also commuters from the inner suburbs and neighbouring municipalities, especially those who do not work downtown, but still have to travel to the most congested parts of the city to transfer trains or streetcars. Congestion is inherently linked to the downtown relief line. Poor TTC service inhibits the ability of drivers to take public transit. For many residents, public transit simply isn’t an option due where their homes and offices are located and the inordinate travel times associated with the TTC.
If Toronto wants to be the metropolitan city is hopes to be, major investments in rapid transit infrastructure are required. While the costs are high and construction disruptions and timelines are long, building a downtown relief line is the most important transit policy for the City and region. Toronto’s rapid transit system is embarrassingly small and outdated. Building a downtown relief line would act as a statement that transit is a serious priority and Toronto a progressive city.
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Toronto should preserve our heritage buildings as they are cultural links to our past and create an inviting and dynamic streetscape.
Pros: Preserve existing assets that cannot be replaced, the costs of preservation pale in comparison to cultural value of buildings and spaces, makes for a more interesting and dynamic public realm.
Cons: High cost of building around heritage assets, can take the form of ‘facade-ism’ instead of complete preservation or restoration, impedes development of higher-density, modern buildings required to meet the demands of a growing city.
Toronto needs to recognize the importance of built heritage to the city’s identity. Despite the fact that Toronto is a relatively young city; there are many architectural assets that deserve to be preserved and incorporated into the city’s growth. The city’s history took a major blow in the 20th century when urban renewal programs replaced architectural assets and public spaces with parking lots and monotonous towers. So great was the destruction that several books have been written about ‘lost Toronto’ and the public space and housing stock in many neighbourhoods has not recovered.
The City should expand the Heritage Grant and Heritage Tax Rebate Programmes, as well as Section 37 payments from developers for research, improvement and support for Heritage Toronto. This will ensure that conservation and restoration of Toronto's built heritage might continue and expand throughout the city, wherever it is warranted. The city should also expand models that have worked in the past, such as the Heritage Conservation Districts. The City should look towards increasing the number of these districts where streetscapes are preserved and buildings are protected against demolition.
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Toronto should have one regional transportation body that is responsible for planning and executing long term transportation plans throughout the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area.
Pros: Streamline all transit decisions; coordinate action across the entire region rather than at the municipal level; ensure commitment to long-term policies and programs; should be composed of unelected transit experts and regionally elected politicians from both the province and municipalities.
Cons: Political resistance to giving up decision-making power at the local level; argument that this body already exists in Metrolinx; high cost of implementation – rebranding, staffing integration etc.
Due to the complex and interconnected mobility patterns of residents in the GTA, it makes sense that all transit decisions, regardless of municipality or mode of transport, should be made by one organization. Consolidating power would increase accountability, as one body, as opposed to several smaller organizations, would be responsible for transit service and expansion.
In order to advance transportation planning and infrastructure investments in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, one transportation body, Metrolinx, should own and operate all of the transit systems in the region. By uploading the TTC, MiWay (Mississauga Transit), York Region Transit, Durham Transit and GO Transit to Metrolinx, transit decision-making, service delivery, maintenance, and expansion would be more efficiently organized and executed.
The politicization of transit decisions in the GTA – particularly with regards to the LRT versus subway debates and the scrapping of Transit City in Toronto – has left the opinions of transit, land development, and planning professionals out of the conversation. Metrolinx has proposed revenue tools to pay for it’s Big Move, the $30 billion, 20 year regional transit plan, as well as conducted extensive public consultations on various components of the plan. Despite the investments of time and resources into shovel-ready plans, the Big Move is largely stagnant due to a lack of political commitment and financing.
By consolidating all transit decisions with one organization, resources can be more efficiently pooled, the opinions of transit experts will be respected, project approvals streamlined, priorities will be clearly stated and residents and business will know what to expect in terms of transit development in their region.
Furthermore, the organization should be independent from government to eliminate political intervention and empower the organization to execute its own decisions regarding transit projects. This is only achievable if the organization has a source of long-term dedicated revenue. The TTC and Metrolinx are working together on the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Eglington CrossTown LRT. Cooperation, however, is not as efficient as an organization working unilaterally with financial and political authority.
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Toronto should modernize infrastructure and policies at major intersections in order to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety and improve traffic flow.
Pros: Most efficient way to accommodate pedestrians and drivers, proven effectiveness at major intersections in the City: Bloor/Bay and Yonge/Dundas, successfully implemented in other large cities.
Cons: Cost of installing new signals and painted walks, worries that new crossings will slow traffic flow and increase gridlock.
Scramble intersections, which allow pedestrians to cross in both direction and diagonally across intersections, have been implemented extensively in many of the world’s leading cities. The most efficient X crossings, give right of way to pedestrians and then right of way to drivers and are paired with the elimination of right on red turns and traditional - with traffic - pedestrian crossings. The X crossing depends on a three cycle traffic light system - which allows two signal for cars in both directions and one for pedestrians only.
Pedestrians, cyclist, and drivers all benefit from this type of crossing. Pedestrians do not have to worry about vehicles turning right into their walkways and can cross diagonally to save time. By travelling with traffic, cyclists do not have to worry about the right of way of pedestrians at intersections and are more thoroughly integrated into traffic flows. For drivers, the waiting times at lights are reduced as all lanes can move freely, particularly those turning right who must yield to pedestrians at conventional intersections.
Scramble crossings work best at intersections with both high pedestrian and vehicle traffic, particularly those located downtown. Due to the success of crossings Bay and Bloor and Yonge and Dundas, city planning and traffic experts should be able to roll out scrambling crossings at select intersections. Possible candidates include: Bloor and Spadina, Yonge and College, and Yonge and Eglington.
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Toronto should adopt a robust food policy that expands access to health food and reduces barriers to increasing urban agriculture on private and public land.
Pros: A comprehensive food policy has been proposed by the City staff, action plan already developed, quick wins by removing urban agriculture bylaws; can act as a small-step towards combating food deserts – especially in low income areas.
Cons: Costs of implementation to city staff including feasibility studies, inspecting larger gardens, and capital and maintenance expenditures; could deter public buy-in.
Out of all the big ideas, adopting and implementing progressive food policies may be both the easiest and cheapest to achieve. The main components of a food strategy consist of increasing urban agriculture, encouraging healthy eating, and reducing the environmental impact that widespread agriculture has on the environment while simultaneously maximizing the capacity of urban greenspace. Converting surplus land to food production could have a transformative effect on the city’s economy, environment, culture, and public health.
Increased agricultural production in the city could produce a local, low-cost and high quality food for residents as transportation costs are all but eliminated. This food could also be incorporated by local schools, community centres, and food banks – adding essential health food to areas where access to produce is currently limited due to cost and availability barriers. Garden beds provide environmental benefits through their intake of CO2 emissions, reduction of localized urban heat islands, and naturalizing previously industrial sites such as parking lots, concrete squares, and dead spaces in and around major infrastructure elements. Instead of fields of grass we would enjoy a landscape that is representative of the best of urbanity and the best of rural country living. Coupled with the natural landscapes associated with our ravines and you have a truly diverse and unique cityscape. Many cities across North America are already supporting this goal, and Toronto is actively encouraging this movement, but largely on a piecemeal volunteer basis.
Despite the widespread benefits of urban agricultural policies, several barriers remain to widespread implementation. These include existing bylaws that prohibit agricultural and farming on residential land, the costs of building new beds and remediating contaminated soil, and questions of who will cover long-term maintenance of plots on publicly owned land.
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Toronto should embrace the concept of complete streets to design streets that are suitable for all ages, abilities and modes of travel.
Pros: Improved economic activity, updated public realm, user safety, increased urban activity, and proven success in the city.
Cons: Political resistance to eliminating traffic lanes and street parking; requires a robust public and active transit network, cannot be piecemeal.
Toronto should explore current best practices in urban design and implement “complete streets” throughout the city. Already common in many European cities and being implemented in areas in Toronto under intense development pressure, such as the waterfront; complete streets are designed to meet the needs of all users of a street: vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, business owners, and local residents. St. George Street, in the Annex, College street in Little Italy, and Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market are some of the best examples of complete streets in the city. Complete streets, like these, are different than pedestrianized streets in that they provide equal right of way to all modes of transport, including cars, bicycles, and buses. Further, Complete streets are often arterials, essential for economic activity and as avenues for commuters.
Transforming traditional streets to complete streets requires a major change in how we, as Torontonians, conceive of what our streets should do, how we travel, and what we think public spaces should provide. The first step in retrofitting streets typically includes the removal of one or two car lanes, to accommodate for bike lanes and increased sidewalk widths. On-street parking is limited to certain lanes at off-peak hours or removed altogether. Bicycle lanes are either separated by mobile bollards or planters or are simply painted alongside lanes reserved for vehicles. By removing traffic lanes, widening sidewalks, and adding bicycle lanes, policy makers provide the conditions for all three types of users to thrive. Vehicles move slower, but more efficiently as cyclist and on-street parking are limit to specific areas. Local businesses and pedestrians benefit by having more opportunities for outdoor seating areas, increased tree cover, and more places to rest. Complete streets become ‘sticky’ streets where people want to spend their time. They increase local economic activity by improving streetscapes, bring more users (particularly cyclists ad pedestrians) to the area, and make streets safer for all.
Complete streets require extensive changes to existing to traffic and business policies and as such require significant political support. Years of congestion, poor public transit service, and public realm neglect have left many Torontonians disillusioned and reluctant to experiment with bold urban design initiatives. However, the success of St. George Street among others, illustrates that complete streets can and will thrive in the downtown Toronto. Paired with changes to downtown parking strategies, public transit expansion, and increased residential development, complete streets have the potential to drastically improve the quality of life or Toronto residents, particularly in downtown neighbourhoods, and provide economic growth opportunities.
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Toronto should follow lead of major European cities and pedestrianize sections of downtown streets to improve the public realm, increase economic activity, and attract tourists.
Pros: Improved pedestrian safety, increased economic activity through commercial opportunities, more human-focused urban form, proven success in pilot programs thorough the city: I.e. – Yonge Street, U of T side streets, street festivals. Very low cost.
Cons: Eliminates on-street parking, resistance from local business owners, traffic re-routing.
Removing cars from downtown streets not only makes roads safer, but it also has a proven ability to increase economic and social activity. The reduction in core traffic would allow the closing of the streets to provide traffic-free zones for shopping, cafes, musicians, etc. Access to the space would be provided for emergency vehicles, garbage collection, etc. with the use of remote controlled bollards and/or other removable barriers. Deliveries to business would happen only during certain hours. At cross streets, pedestrians would have right of way and traffic speeds would be severely limited. With this idea, large sections of our downtown core could eventually be closed to traffic facilitating a “people first” environment.
Pedestrianize streets are the norm in many European city centres, particularly on High or Main Streets in the United Kingdom, and have been successful in Toronto when they have been piloted or permanently installed. They are a low-cost, easy, and highly visible form of urban intervention that City actors and businesses have experience with. Requiring simple barriers, possibly street painting, and sign replacement, pedestrian streets are among the most simple and effective strategy for activating public realms to increase economic activity on streets that typically act as either parking lots and conduits for thorough traffic.
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Toronto should invest in the CNE, leveraging existing assets to keep the exhibitions grounds open year round, increase amenities, and modernize remaining heritage buildings.
Pros: The existing infrastructure is already in place, the buildings can be better utilized, and all-season activities can increase tax revenues for the city, provide retail and recreational space to community groups and non-profit organizations as well as larger exhibitions.
Cons: High cost of retrofitting existing buildings, there are already venues available for exhibitions and events, the CNE is too far out of the way to be used year-round.
The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) grounds are a major cultural asset that are underutilized and in need of renovation. Several buildings have already been renovated or expanded, including BMO Field and the Direct Energy Centre, in general the grounds remain disconnected from the city and poorly served by public transit. The grounds should be better integrated into existing waterfront amenities, including the revitalization of Ontario Place and Queens Quay.
Several strategies to improve the CNE have been proposed in recent years; including the construction of a Casino and amusement park. City council is sending mixed messages about the future of the grounds. While the casino and amusement park were turned down, council approved the expansion of BMO Field to accommodate CFL games and increase capacity and banned all electronic music events on the grounds within a few weeks of one another. There is desire to make better use of these grounds as historical and cultural asset, but the city remains conflicted over how best to achieve this goal.
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Toronto should become a leader in retrofitting public buildings with solar panels to encourage greater use of renewable energy sources.
Pros: Increased energy savings, boost to local green economy, municipal leadership on major green energy reductions.
Cons: High upfront costs of installation, seen as ‘unnecessary’ spending during times of financial cutbacks, and arguments that Toronto’s climate is not well suited for a expansive solar program using current photovoltaic technology.
Toronto should lead by example in promoting renewable energy and securing our path to a sustainable future by installing, where possible, solar panels on civic buildings. By linking the panels directly into the grid, the City can take a bold step to reduce municipal energy consumption and provide leadership on taking renewal energy seriously. Building upon the success of provincial green energy policies and the progressive policies already adopted by the City, such as the green roof bylaw and work of the City’s environment office, installing solar panels on civic buildings will send the signal that Toronto takes climate change and renewal energy seriously.
A residential program designed to streamline approvals and reduce financial barriers for installing solar panels on single-family homes, condos, and apartment towers could accompany the civic solar program. Partnerships with local universities, advanced manufacturers, and environmental organizations could leverage the city’s existing assets and provide financial and political support for renewable technology.
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Toronto should reform its development charge system to reflect the true costs of both sprawl and increased density on surrounding infrastructure including transit, green space, and amenities.
Pros: True costs of development are passed on to developers and tenants rather than the city, greater focus on real impact on surrounding neighbourhoods, could provide additional revenue for transit services and public space.
Cons: Will increase prices of new houses, further encourage suburban sprawl by making suburban development cheaper, seen as the sole responsibility of the city to service its residents.
Increased development on major transit lines benefits the city as a whole, but places great stressors on existing neighbourhood infrastructure. Development charges, the city’s financial tool to cover the costs of serving new residential and commercial developments, are evenly applied across the city. Levied on a per-unit basis, revenues from the charge are allocated towards the upgrades of power, water, and gas infrastructure required to serve new residential and commercial units. The charges, however, are often much lower than the true costs of increased density. As a result developers are able to add greater density, and realize higher profits, while paying only a fraction of the costs their developments have on the very transit infrastructure that makes their projects so appealing to buyers. The system should be changed to ensure that developers pay directly for pressure added to surrounding infrastructure, specifically on the TTC, by those who buy their units.
Outside of the downtown core, suburban development requires the construction of new infrastructure elements – particularly power, water, and gas lines - while also adding vehicles to already congested arterial roads and transit routes. The real economic, environmental, and social costs of suburban development are much higher in suburban contexts when compared to downtown intensification. The challenge for policy makers is balancing their revenue tools to encourage densification, while accounting for increased streets on downtown infrastructure and transit, without inadvertently driving developers and residents to the suburbs due to affordability issues. Simultaneously, policy makers must ensure that
While the cost of changes to the development charge system will likely be passed on directly from developers to homebuyers, it is essential that the impacts of increased density would not fall upon municipalities alone. Developers should be encouraged to provide funds for upgrades to nearby transit stations. Beyond Section 37 community benefits, a reformed development charge system can be used to ensure that increased density is accompanied by necessary infrastructure improvements.
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Toronto police officers should be held more accountable for their actions through mechanisms such as requiring all officers to wear video cameras on their person.
Pros: Protects officers and citizens from unfounded lawsuits and shows Toronto policy services are receptive to calls for improved public relations, quick win as part of larger toolkit.
Cons: Cost of implementation, argument that it is the tip of the iceberg and funds could be spent on other services: such as increased mental health crisis training for front line officers.
Recent controversial encounters between police officers and individuals in moments of crisis have challenged the public trust of police services. Requiring police officers to wear body cameras would increase public accountability for police officers actions as well as protect police officers from unwarranted criticism or lawsuits. Adding body worn cameras is a low cost, high reward solution to repairing that trust and increasing protection for those in uniform.
Increasing police accountability would have to be part of a larger policy agenda, possibly eventually paired with changes to the armed status of front line officers, that works on both sides of every interaction between police and citizens. In terms of governance, cameras could be paired with changes to the administration of the Police Services internal Special Investigations Unit (SIU).
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Toronto should advocate further integration of new immigrants into society through strategies such as recognizing foreign credentials and professional experience.
Pros: Greater social inclusion, sudden increases in talented, local labour pool. Toronto needs to live up to its ‘Diversity, Our Strength’ Motto,
Cons: Concerns over veracity of foreign credentials and professional experience. There are processes for gaining Canadian accreditation in place, but it is not the responsibility of the city to determine employment qualifications.
More than ever, Toronto is a city of immigrants. Their foreign credentials and professional experience, however, often go unrecognized by institutions and employers in the city. Beyond the proverbial story of the foreign qualified doctor driving a taxicab in the downtown, not recognizing foreign experience is a wasted economic opportunity across many industries. As a result, highly qualified residents are often under-employed and many industries face skilled labour shortages with qualified workers living and working in close proximity.
Toronto should advocate for provincial recognition of foreign credentials and experience as well as work with the private sector to reduce barriers of hiring talented immigrants. Organizations will be stronger because they will truly be hiring "the best" and will benefit from the diverse talents that Toronto has to offer. There is the potential to decrease unemployment and under-employment, especially in low-income areas with high concentrations of new immigrants, and provide the resources to improve neighbourhood well being, social inclusion, and social-mobility.
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Toronto should seek new ways of operating and financing existing parks as well as look at abandoned spaces as opportunities to create new parks
Pros: Improvements to the public realm, public health, economic revitalization of neighbourhoods, reduction in urban heat island effect, opens the possibility to the public private partnerships.
Cons: Higher costs of maintenance and capital improvements.
Toronto needs to adopt a more inviting and inclusive environment to taking care of our public parks. The City should seek to eliminate barriers that prevent community and park groups from accessing public green space especially in inner suburban neighbourhoods. The need to obtain permits and insurance to have organized events, sports or gatherings in public parks can limit the level of engagement and participation. Furthermore, as Toronto continues to increase its density, it is imperative that the City look at abandoned, underutilized or vacant places as new opportunities for green spaces.
The Metcalf Foundation’s report Fertile Ground for New Thinking: Improving Toronto’s Parks is an excellent resource that suggests ways to improve Toronto’s parks. These include: prioritizing communities and neighbourhood park groups, experiment with and embrace new policies, explore new ways of financing, using food to engage new interest and develop a citywide voice for parks.
Toronto could look towards New York City and the Central Park Conservancy’s Park Partnership for inspiration. Central Park is one of the oldest and most successful examples of where public-private partnerships can work for municipal parks. The idea for a PPP in 1980 was radical, but necessary due to the park’s deterioration in the 1960s and 1970s.
The structure/governance of Central Park was overhauled to create a single position within the Parks Department to oversee the planning and management of the park. The new structure also called for a board of guardians to provide citizen oversight to create a more effective business structure with more accountability and control over what happened in the park.
Until 1993, there was no agreement between the City of New York City and the Central Park Conservancy. The relationship between the City and the Conservancy has evolved due to ongoing communication and 20 years of working together. The Conservancy involves the public in the planning of any improvements to the Park and the management agreement makes clear that the City Parks Commissioner is the final authority in the park. The Conservancy, an independent organization, is accountable to the City of New York – and as importantly to its users and donors whose expectations are that the park will be well maintained, accessible, safe and beautiful. The Conservancy now raises 85% of Central Park’s $42.5 million annual expense budget and is responsible for all basic care of the park, and the City has come to rely on the partnership.
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Toronto should advocate for affordable childcare at the provincial level and develop it’s own affordable childcare strategy to allow for greater workplace participation.
Pros: Allows parents to enter the workforce, essential social service, could encourage population growth, could make downtown more family friendly.
Cons: High costs of implementation, requires additional taxes, and partnerships between private sector provides and city and provincial organizations.
The lack of access to affordable childcare prevents many working families from reaching their economic potential and has major impacts on the quality of life of city residents. For many, the cost of childcare is often very close to the potential income they could earn working in full or part time positions. As such, it doesn’t make economic sense to work, as they will not see returns on their efforts. In order to pay for childcare, some workers have to hold multiple jobs that typically require the parent to spend additional time outside of the home. When parents are unable to be home with their children, both parties’ quality of life are negatively impacted. Finally, access to affordable childcare could also provide incentives for young families to have children and remain living in downtown neighbourhoods, where higher costs of living, often prove as a financial barrier to growing families.
Access to affordable childcare benefits children, parents, employers, and businesses. The city has experience managing and providing childcare services, but they just need to be scaled up. Readers argued that affordable childcare could be financed and implemented in several ways. First, financing could come through a targeted add-on tax based on the model currently used in Quebec. Second, a public private partnership between the city, childcare providers, and financial institutions could provide low-cost loans to the families for financing childcare costs following the pilot program underway in New York City. Third, the city could increase financial and policy support for Family Well Being Circles to provide a holistic alternative between institutional childcare and unlicensed home care situations.
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Toronto should use the City of Toronto Act to its full potential and implement new ways of generating revenue.
Pros: No additional legislation is required, the City has the capacity and authority to raise revenue through additional streams, ability to target revenues from fees and taxes to specific priorities, such as building and maintaining transit or green space, can augment traditional revenue sources and provincial transfers.
Cons: Political resistance to any new taxes or increases in current fees, hesitation at the municipal level to act independently.
The City of Toronto act afforded the city the broad authority to impose direct taxes and fees. However, the land transfer tax and the now defunct, vehicle registration tax are the only examples of the City executing its newfound authority. Instead, property taxes continue to fund close to 40 percent of the city’s budget, while other cities in North America, and especially those that Toronto competes with, have more diversified revenue streams. The property tax rate in the city is also much lower than that of municipalities in the GTHA, despite the greater scale, concentration, and costs of programs in the city. In recent years, property taxes have increased below the inflation rate and have been supplemented by revenues from the land transfer tax. In addition to pegging the property tax rate to inflation to ensure the funding of municipal government, it is time to explore the possibility of implementing new revenue tools such as sales taxes on alcohol, tobacco and entertainment or direct taxes in the form of parking levees, congestion charges, and development charge reform.
Guaranteed financial revenue, from sources such as a transit or congestion tax or the reinstatement of the vehicle registration tax, will provide the City with the capacity to dedicate funding to long-term projects and reduce maintenance backlogs on existing assets. While these taxes would provide dedicated revenue to essential city-building policies and programs, they must also be accompanied by increases in provincial funds for essential social services.
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Toronto should seek to improve the housing stock and livability within our inner-suburban neighbourhoods by removing restrictive zoning, strengthening community programming and conducting energy retrofits in tower block apartment buildings.
Pros: Improves the quality of life for over 1 million residents, essential for maintaining existing affordable housing stock.
Cons: High cost of implementation, difficultly working with privately owned buildings, fears retrofits will be paid for my residents in terms of higher rents leading to possible displacement
Tower Renewal is a visionary project that seeks to preserve and enhance the 1,200 tower apartment buildings throughout Toronto. These buildings are home to almost 1 million residents and represent approximately 20% of Toronto’s rental housing stock. They are vital assets that have faced years of neglect and are facing significant environmental, social and economic decay. The Tower Renewal Project seeks to conduct energy retrofits to reduce carbon emissions and operating costs to building owners, transform tower neighbourhoods into mixed-use communities and develop social opportunities through programming and new services.
The Tower Renewal office was opened at city hall under the Miller Administration and made significant progress developing a ten-year strategic plan, partnerships with the local non-profits, particularly the United Way, and conducting pilot projects at sites across the city. Although the office was severely cut back with the election of the Ford Administration, Council recently approved the rezoning of over 500 tower sites across the city, a key tenant of the program. Residential Apartment Commercial or RAC Zoning allows small businesses, from permanent retail stores to temporary farmers markets, to operate in and around tower neighbourhoods.
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Toronto should reform its municipal elections to improve accountability and participation by adopting proportional representation, advocating the province to extend voting rights to permanent residents, and putting specific infrastructure referendums on ballots.
Pros: Increases accountability of local government, improve representation across the city, ensures the continuation of programs and policies, and increased political consensus
Cons: Possible costs of implementing new ward boundaries and accommodating expanded city council chambers, may not be legally be able to grant municipal voting rights to permanent residents,
The current municipal governance structure is not effectively serving the city. Political gridlock, a weak mayoral system, and disproportionate representation of suburban interests have constrained the development and implementation of city building polices and programs. Adopting proportional representation and political parties at city council, extending voting rights to permanent residents, and placing certain infrastructure elements directly on the ballot could ameliorate the endemic dysfunction at city hall.
If politicians were elected by proportional voting, every member of council was an ‘at large’ member, voters could choose candidates who best represented their self-identified community’s interests rather than their geographically situated interests., The city could also advocate to extend the right to vote to permanent residents as another strategy to improve the responsiveness of municipal governance Immigrants play an extensive role in the city’s economy and cultural milieu, but until they complete the long path to citizenship, these members of society lack a say in municipal governance despite paying taxes. Similar movements are underway in other major North American cities with high concentrations of non-citizen, permanent residents. In addition to allowing permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections, there are smaller simple opportunities to empower non-citizens, such as the right to vote in local and school board elections, run for office, and weigh in on local ballot initiatives.
Political turn over and waffling has set back major infrastructure and social programs in recent years. By placing major city-building initiatives on the ballot, voters can have a direct say that make binding decisions. This model is already in place in several US states, particularly California’s proposition system, and may be applicable for the municipal level in Canada as well.
Toronto should overhaul its internal and external communication strategies to ensure coordination across departments as well as reduce barriers to public engagement.
Pros: Essential for democratic process, low costs of improving language, highlights the work that the city is already doing that the public may not be aware of – particularly progressive policies like green roofs.
Cons: High costs of improving design of communication channels, including changes to the website, development proposal billboards, and special event information. The onus should be on citizens – the information is already out there.
The City of Toronto does a poor job communicating with residents and businesses. It’s website is inaccessible, out of date, and complicated to navigate. Online platforms should be improved to increase civic engagement, particularly with regards to petitions to allow small, medium and larger issues to reach city hall faster. Toronto needs to do a better job of communicating the impacts and reasons behind current and future development projects and policies.
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Toronto should look towards alternative ways of providing public housing by entering into new partnerships or by selling the Toronto Community Housing Corporation to a third party.
Pros: Increases accountability of public servants, improved management has the potential to reduce waiting list time and restore public confidence in the TCHC, essential for expanding the supply of affordable units.
Cons: The private sector has different mandates and accountability standards than public sector, providing affordable housing to residents is an essential municipal service, alternative strategies, such as increasing provincial and federal contributions to the operating and maintenance of TCHC properties, rather than privatization, is in the best interested of city residents.
Toronto should look towards a new model of delivering public housing that shifts responsibility from the city to private sector property management firms and landlords. The TCHC is reeling from years of scandals, tens of thousands of families languishing on waitlists for units, and crumbling housing stock. The City should enter into a partnership or sell the Toronto Community Housing Corporation to offload responsibilities. Utilizing the skills and experience of an independent professional organization will produce a new operating culture and improve living conditions and services to tenants. Privatization is a financially responsible way to improve the efficiency of the TCHC as well as free up the city to concentrate resources on other sectors. Alternatively, the city could advocate for increased financial contributions from Provincial and Federal governments.
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Toronto should improve the accessibility of the TTC to allow all individuals, regardless of individual mobility and cognitive characteristics, to use the transit system.
Pros: Accessibility improves the transit experience for all users, a basic right to provide hospitable environments to those with disabilities, basic human right, legally obligated.
Cons: High cost of implementation that could be spent on expanding service, more cost efficient to supplement with increased para-transit service.
Despite the TTC’s relatively young age, large portions of the network remain inaccessible to those with mobility impairments, traveling with strollers or parcels, and large groups. While the TTC approved an Accessibility Plan in 2008, the retrofit schedule is several years behind and severely underfunded. To date less than half of subway stations have accessibility infrastructure, the entire in service streetcar fleet is inaccessible, and para-transit services, predominately WheelTrans, face annual service reductions and budget debates. The TTC has worked diligently to prepare timetables, procedures, and standards for retrofitting the existing system; accessibility issues are competing for limited resources with signal improvements, track maintenance, and service expansion.
Improving the accessibility of a transit system benefits all users, makes navigating systems easier, the transit experience less stressful, and more inclusive. Accessible environments are a basic human right and need to be recognized as such. While the costs of retrofitting subway stations and streetcar stops is in the tens of millions, those with physical and cognitive disabilities have the right for a barrier-free transit system. Regardless of mobility level, the users in Toronto face significant transit service deficits. Those with mobility impairments face even less options when it comes to moving around the city – which has major impacts on quality life through limiting housing, employment, and social opportunities.
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