But it’s also worth looking at Rossi’s underlying assumption about why the tunnel is needed. More car access to downtown Toronto is required, he says, because people have such a hard time driving to jobs in the downtown core. “Companies and workers would rather establish in the 905 than fight their way into downtown Toronto every day,” said Rossi. “I want our kids to have a chance to live and work at good jobs in the city of Toronto.”
The fact is, however, that despite the presence of both the Gardiner and the DVP feeding cars into the downtown core, only a minority of people who work downtown drive there. The vast majority — 71% — of people who travel into work downtown don’t have to fight their way through car traffic — they take GO Trains, the TTC, or they walk or cycle.
Here’s the breakdown for people commuting to Ward 28 (which includes most of the downtown business district) from outside the ward (all figures are from the Transportation Tomorrow Survey, 2006 (PDF)).
Local transit (TTC): 38%
GO Train: 26%
Car driver/passenger: 28%
There’s no doubt that driving into downtown during rush hour is a pain, but if there is concern about commuters having a hard time getting downtown to work, it would benefit far more people — and increase the overall capacity of the transportation network much more — if the tunnel money was spent, instead, on enhancing rapid transit options to the downtown.
It’s also worth noting that, in fact, a fair amount of new commerical real estate has opened in and near the business district recently, so it does not seem like commuting woes are preventing new jobs from being created downtown. Part of the reason these new commuters have been successfully absorbed by the transportation network is that so many new condominiums have been built inside these three downtown wards, within walking distance of employment in the downtown area, that ever-increasing numbers of people are walking or cycling to work. 25% of trips to work by people living in Ward 28 were made by walking or cycling in 2006, 29% of trips by people living in Ward 27, and 30% of trips by those living in Ward 20.