eConsultation: another way to inform Waterfront redevelopment

Gardiner Consultation

My family and friends have often (rightly) accused me of trying to do too much at once. While I admit that this is partly a result of my personal struggle with FOMO, I think at least some of the blame lies in the sheer amount of events deserving attention in this city.

Public consultations are on the list of events I don’t get to attend as much as I’d like. In a way this is a good problem to have, as it means there are a plethora of opportunities to inform our city’s development, but it still drives me crazy when my calendar fills up with events I know I’ll miss because of conflicts and other obligations. Waterfront Toronto seems to have recognized that this is a common problem and has created a website for the sole purpose of conducting public consultation on what to do with the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway, from Jarvis to Logan.

Among my many tangential side interests – and I think having tangential side interests is a key symptom of FOMO suffers – is the potential of the internet to encourage and improve public participation in urban planning processes. While I don’t think that reading about planning initiatives on a computer screen is as useful as engaging in face-to-face dialogue with people about issues in affected communities, it does offer an avenue for people who have an interest in informing these initiatives to contribute to the discussion in a way that doesn’t require scheduling around meetings or traveling all over the city.

The pleasantly readable website has a number of interesting features, including explanations of the history and possible futures of the Gardiner, case studies discussing how other cities have dealt with elevated expressways, and a pretty robust commenting system under each of the consultation topics. It seems I’m among the last to learn about this site, as there are already a number of interesting conversations going on in the comments.

The comments will be used to help inform the Environmental Assessment process. If you’ve been following or contributing to the discussion about what to do with the Gardiner this seems like a cool and convenient way to get your voice heard.


  1. I’m using the eConsultation to contribute to another proceeding, and I can’t help but think of what an awful system it is.

    You can’t expand articles easily, so you have to constantly click to read each list of comments.

    You can’t use any formatting in your posts. At all.

    You can’t link to specific posts, making it very hard to reference, or ask someone to checkout your other post.

    It doesn’t verify email addresses.

    The search is broken, it doesn’t search nested comments, just the first level ones.

    I’d hate to think of what they paid for this software when phpBB does a 10x better job.

    If you roll out a system you wouldn’t consider using internally for your company, it shouldn’t be sold.

    They’re running an old version of apache too.

  2. Thanks for this article! There are indeed many opportunities for planners and other decision-makers to use web 2.0 technologies to help engage the public in building our cities.

    The City of Toronto is also experimenting with familiar applications like Facebook and Twitter. If anyone has suggestions about how best to use 2.0 tools in consultation (or which apps to use), drop us a line at

  3. I like the concept but found that for example the Diesel-Linx (formally known as Metrolink) on-line public consultation a bit confusing and cumbersome.

  4. I worked at a transportation planning and engineering firm as an intern this past summer, and there were several planning projects for which we used the internet as an additional resource for public input. It really represents a huge opportunity. We primarily used google map based input methods, so that residents could voice concerns about a certain problem spot where pedestrian and/or bicycle facility improvements might be necessary.

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