Jessica Hume will be covering the Ourtopias at the Design Exchange June 15 to 16 for the Spacing Wire. “Ourtopias: Ideal cities and the roles of design in remaking urban spaces” runs June 14 to 16 at the Design Exchange. www.dx.org
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TTC Chair Adam Giambrone is excited today, and everyone in the room can feel it. Standing at the podium of the Design Exchange, the Toronto city councillor smiles broadly as he tells the audience that the province has just announced it will be giving $24 billion for public transit. The money will be split three ways among GO Transit, the 905 area and the city of Toronto.
â€œThis money is enough to pay for the whole Transit City Plan, plus more,â€ Giambrone said. If it all goes through, Toronto â€œwill be in a position to compete with Madrid,â€ a city known for its remarkable transit system.
Giambrone’s presentation, part of the OURTOPIAS design conference, is a discussion of the Transit City plan, the future of transit in Toronto. He says Toronto is a transit city, it’s just that the transit we have isn’t good enough.
â€œTransit pervades all aspects of urban culture,â€ he said. â€œEven if you don’t use transit, it’s still a very important part of city life.â€
Indeed. Streetcars, for one, have been a symbol of Toronto since the city’s early days. Giambrone sees the Transit City plan as an opportunity to redefine the city’s image. â€œTransit is about more than just getting people from A to B,â€ he said. â€œIt’s also got to be about quality of service and enjoyment of public space.â€
While Torontonians are understandably loath to get too excited about anything promised by city council until it actually materializes, the plan looks good on paper. Giambrone is determined to think outside the public transit box, bringing architecture, sustainability, art and enjoyment of public space into the goals of improved public transit.
â€œWe want to be the greenest transit authority in North America,â€ he said. â€œIt’s not just about being fancy and modern, but also about transformation, reflecting the city’s commitment to sustainability.â€
Sustainability, as Giambrone sees it, isn’t just about getting people out of their cars. This year the TTC broke its own record for ridership. Transit in Toronto is seeing an increase of about 4% ridership a year. Not only does the TTC have to improve and expand to accommodate those choosing to ride the Rocket, but the ways it uses energy will have to become more efficient. Solar power and methane are possibilities for optimizing the TTC’s fleet of vehicles.
The Transit City plan involves the creation of seven new Light Rapid Transit (LRT) lines. The benefit of LRT is the fact the trains would have their own designated lanes, and therefore wouldn’t be competing in traffic with cars. The new routes would also provide more intraregional transportation, arguably the most important aspect of improved public transit. Most traffic congestion is a result of 905-416 commuters, not people travelling within the city boundaries.
â€œIf you want people to get out of their cars,” the TTC chair chimes, “you need to give them some impetus for taking transit.â€
For a listing of the proposed routes, see the Spacing Wire post on Transit City.