Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Gardiner Report Revealed

Yesterday, the Toronto Star got ahold of the Gardiner Expressway report Mayor David Miller kept secret for so long. One million dollars and one freedom of information request later, we learn that Miller wanted to keep secret these four ideas of what to do with the Gardiner:
  1. Tear down the Gardiner east of Spadina and replace with a 10-lane grand avenue to Jarvis, 8 lanes to the Don River. $758 million, 10 years.
  2. Do nothing. It will continue to cost $12 million per year to maintain, that's $120 million in 10 years.
  3. Replace it.
  4. Keep the upper structure of the Gardiner, but remove some of the ramps so that less traffic can get on. The line-ups at the remaining ramps will make the Jarvis Street line-up look like a walk in the park.
Option #1 is the way the report authors want to go.

Mayoralty Candidate Jane Pitfield thinks what to do with the Gardiner is not an election issue; Miller didn't want it to be an election issue. The city has been deteriorating under the do-nothing watch of successive Mayors that every major issue facing Toronto -- the Gardiner, garbage, local electricity generation, roads, subways, etc. etc. -- is a pressing election issue, whether the candidates like it or not.

Seventy percent of Gardiner users are from out of town. That leaves thirty percent using it for in-town driving or from local destinations. The report does not seem to consider how to siphon those users off the Gardiner and Lakeshore altogether. People use it for a quick in-town route because there is no subway downtown and the other east-west downtown streets are clogged. The streetcars are way too slow, getting bogged down in car traffic along the narrow main streets and filling up to the rafters pretty quickly. The powers that be could get rid of a significant chunk of Gardiner traffic just by providing a fast efficient public transit alternative. Given that many criticize subway expansion in other parts of Toronto because of the lack of density, they would have to get behind a subway in the downtown, for the entire length of Queen is dense with traffic, retail shops, and residential housing from the Beaches to Etobicoke. Queen now looks like Yonge Street did back in the 1950s. A subway would be full on the first day in service.

However, we're stuck with a half-picture report. I'm not sure about their preferred option. A 4-lane University Avenue is hard enough to navigate -- I couldn't imagine a 5-lane Avenue. On the other hand, the upper structure looms over the cars and few pedestrians below and chokes off the waterfront from the rest of the city.

Whatever we think of the proposals, at least we're talking about it. No thanks to Miller. Thanks to a freedom of information request that was actually honoured.

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