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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The Port Lands, 2043

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Excerpted from the Toronto section of “The Green Traveller Guide”, 2043 edition.

"…No trip to Toronto would be complete without a visit to the iconic Port Lands, one of the first truly sustainable communities to be built in North America.

A BRIEF HISTORY At the beginning of the 21st century, the Port Lands were a barren expanse of underused industrial sites. Although their potential was acknowledged, bureaucratic wrangling and improbable schemes (such as bids for the Olympics and a World's Fair) paralyzed any revitalization initiatives. In the end, however, these delays proved fortunate. They gave time for a widely-based grassroots movement to develop which demanded that the new community become a model of truly sustainable urban development. Pushed by this popular groundswell, the squabbling governments of Toronto, Ontario and Canada finally gave the responsible agency (the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation) an environmental mandate of unheard-of strength, and the powers to enforce it.

GETTING THERE The Port Lands are easily accessible via the Waterfront subway line. It is best to get off at Don Mouth Station, the first of the two stops that service the community. As you emerge from this striking-looking station, you will find yourself in Commissioners' Square, a beautiful public plaza. To the north, you can see Don Park, which looks out over the re-naturalized mouth of the Don river. To the west lies the Media Campus of Sheridan College, a public technical training institute. To the south and east lies the bustling Commissioners' District, the downtown of the Port Lands, whose commercial buildings house the offices of media and entertainment companies related to the nearby Studio District. The many uses packed into this dynamic area mean it is constantly buzzing, with students and workers, with visitors to the galleries and shops along Commissioners' Street, and with residents going about their daily tasks. It is hard to imagine that some of this area, at the nexus of local transportation routes, was originally slated to be parkland (the green space was later re-allocated to other parts of the community).

GETTING AROUND The Port Lands was specifically designed as a car-reduced community. Before new construction was even started, many vehicular roads were removed and those that remain are only a single lane each way. So, needless to say, don't use a car.

PUBLIC TRANSIT If you're short on time, a good way to visit is to take the Port Lands streetcar. Running on dedicated lanes, it makes a remarkably quick circuit around the district, connecting with both subway stops, and it is so heavily used that it runs once a minute for most of the day. If you do not have a day pass, be sure to get a transfer