The City of Toronto Needs a Strong Downtown Planning Policy

The City of Toronto Needs a Strong Downtown Planning Policy

Outdated signs point to Toronto’s indifference about street clutter

An example of signs in the downtown core.

There is plenty of bad news out there about Toronto’s downtown streets. To take just a few examples, a city is having trouble finding land for a downtown parking deck, there’s no timeline for the streetcar line extension, and the city has been having difficulty with its long-term land planning for the Toronto waterfront. Some of these problems are a result of the city’s previous planning policy decisions, but the real problem lies with the city’s present planning decisions, most notably, a failure to properly manage street clutter.

In his essay “What Makes a Good City,” Gary Hadland writes that a city “does not have much to do with downtown.” In that essay, he lists several ways that a city can ensure that its urban core actually thrives, including having a good transportation network, a strong land use plan, and a sound economic development policy. Even in a city like Toronto, where its downtown is currently in freefall, many of those “should have been” policy decisions are lacking.

The recent decline in property values in Toronto’s downtown has not helped improve that situation, but it does highlight the need for an even more vigorous downtown planning policy. By not creating a coherent downtown planning policy, Toronto has squandered years of planning decisions on street clutter as opposed to the more important issues, such as creating a better transportation network and a more efficient land use plan. The downtown planning process should not have involved the creation of a new downtown boundary (i.e. the creation of a new downtown), the expansion of the city’s existing downtown boundary (i.e. the expansion of the city’s existing downtown), the redesign of Toronto’s street grid (i.e. the redesign of Toronto’s existing street grid), the expansion of the city’s land use planning (i.e. the expansion of the city’s existing land use plan), or any other unnecessary planning decision.

The city is in a bit of an odd position, considering that our downtown has become synonymous with urban gridlock. The streets in downtown Toronto already run on the shortest streets and the fewest street blocks possible, and the streets in the suburbs are far more interesting. The problem is that our downtown streets

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