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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

POLL: Your thoughts on tearing down the Gardiner


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Urban Affairs critic Christopher Hume, in today’s Toronto Star, expressed his disappointment that local decision-makers lack the gumption to do the best thing for the waterfront and tear down the entire Gardiner Expressway. A lot of opinions have been expressed since Spacing broke the story a few weeks ago about Waterfront Toronto’s plans, and here’s your chance to let us know by voting on it and telling us your thoughts in the comments section.

(NOTE: Spacing has been experiencing some delays from our polling service — please come back soon if you can’t see the voting option)



  1. See the problem I have with the plans to tear down the Gardiner is that I use it a lot and I’m worried what tearing it down will do to the traffic on Lake Shore. Speaking from a practicality standpoint, the Gardiner is really good. Yes it looks ugly, but sometimes function is more important than form.

    As an alternative, maybe we need a Boston style “big dig” and put the Gardiner underground.

  2. @marc: Do you have a problem that the Spadina Expressway was never completed, or that the Crosstown or Scarborough Expressways were never built? Do you miss the eastern extension of the Gardiner (it used to go to Leslie Street). I’m guessing you’d get used to it (somehow).

  3. I think it’s a good first step, because we will finally see what the impact to local traffic will be. Unlike many autoholics, I doubt the impact will be severe at all, and if this ends up being true it will provide us with the impetus to tear down the rest of it.

  4. Yes, I’ve been thinking that, too. Won’t Lake Shore just replace the Gardiner as the waterfront nuisance? It seems almost an equal hindrance. Although one big fat roads, I suppose, is better than two.

  5. imagine all those cars using the dvp to come downtown. how is it going to be pedestrian friendly? the number of lanes of traffic needed to accommodate the traffic flow will make it even more difficult/dangerous to cross the street. yeah sure pedestrian bridges could be built but how far apart would they be?

    i just think everyone wants it down but hasn’t fully thought through the after affects.

    also, can’t the money used for this be put to better use elsewhere?…

  6. I’m actually less keen on a Gardiner teardown since the barrier to the Waterfront is more the moving cars than the roadway, and we need improved transit to deal with that, then tolls. Unfortunately, there’s minimal to bad leadership on effective transit from the City, and taking the $300M from the FSE shelving and putting it to a Gardiner teardown is not providing better transit, especially in the west end where travel demand is far greater.
    We also need a good east-west bike route, especially from Parkdale, and why can’t we rework the Gardiner to add a good bike lane – it’s a great! view and the road surface is like glass (glassphalt?)
    And maybe some of that $300M should go to fixing up the roads where the bikes ride.

  7. I’d add another layer onto the Gardiner if it meant less traffic on east-west downtown streets. The wall of private condos, train tracks, and the nasty Lakeshore/Queens Quay traffic will forever cut us off from the lake view anyway.

    Richmond and Bloor are going to be even worse if the DVP has no place to go at its end.

  8. People the Gardiner as a crosstown route as well as people coming from dvp.

  9. It’s funny to see the stories and opinions coming out of this. Those people who are pro-car are of the opinion that removing even 1mm of dedicated car space is the end of the world. Those people who are anti-car, just wish they could get rid of the blasted things completely. Most people just figure that they will find another way around.

    Those who want to bury the Gardiner, need to really study Boston’s Big Dig first, the $2.8 Billion project, was plagued with problems, and problems mean cost overruns, it ended up costing over $14 6 Billion, or over 5 times the original estimate. You still have ramps and access points, and while you can grass over the tunnel, you don’t really gain back the land, because you can’t really build on it, and it’s too wide to build over, like you can a subway tunnel.

    As to the cost of tearing it down, yes it looks like a lot of money, but the oldest sections of the Gardiner are now over 50 years old, the newest sections are over 40 years old,that means maintenance needs will get more and more expensive as time goes on, and there will be more closed periods while they try to get maintenance done.

    What I think makes the most sense, would be to close that section, for a year, then reassess the traffic issues that result. If adding a couple of lanes to The Lakeshore will be enough, then add the lanes and knock that section down.

  10. I’m unsure why some people continue to see a wide road as a barrier. I understand that sentiment, but its not really rational. For instance, I ride my bike across University Ave each day and I have never, ever seen it as a barrier to getting to the west side of the city. It might be busy, but it has never stopped me from crossing it.

    Psychologically, it is bridges that create a barrier for me. I avoid the King-Dufferin/Queen-Dufferin rail bridges because they are hostile environments. The Gardiner-Lakeshore comparision is apt in this case.

    I think its small minds that see Lakeshore and Leslie intersection as a barrier. It might not be pleasant — I won’t defend the urban form out there — but calling that part of the Lakeshore a barrier is a really weak argument. The urban design of it can be changed, but honestly, I ride my bike along there all the time and the traffic is not an issue since the bike path is separated. If the tear down east of Jarvis is focused on providing space for bikers and walkers that is removed fromt eh vehicular experience, than it should be fine for most of us.

    Whatever is planned/designed in for this grand boulevard will not be great, but a better improvement than what we have now and a template to move forward. We shouldn’t expect amazing urbanity out of it, but recognize that there will be traffic, hopefully a transit line too, that will make it just fine. The “Lakeshore as a barrier” only helps those who want to keep the expressway up. And even if you replaced every lane of the Gardiner with transit, it still wold be an awful experience down there.

  11. I dislike the Gardiner like most, but the assertion that it cuts off the waterfront does not make sense. As a pedestrian or cyclist it had always been Lake Shore Blvd. and Queens Quay that cuts me off from the lake. Note that if one approaches the lake via Bathurst Street the Gardiner hardly registers at all, and the only hurdle comes when you have to cross Lake Shore Blvd.

  12. To GMD, who referenced the aborted highway projects of the 50’s and 60’s, I would remind him that along with all those highways, several public transit initiatives were also canceled. Also lost was any momentum we might have had to keep building infrastructure within the city. When all those projects evaporated with the Spadina Expressway, there wasn’t any will left in the government to start something new. Are we better off without the Spadina, Richview, Crosstown, et al? Probably. But their cancellation has led to nearly 30 years of stagnation…and that can’t be looked upon as a positive.

    The only way we can fix our problem is to build.

    If we’re tearing down the Gardiner to replace it with something truly better (transit, roads…doesn’t really matter) then I’m all for it. If we’re tearing it down out of spite and replacing it with a “least of many evil” solution, then we’re not really changing anything. Unless I’m missing something and someone can explain to me how crossing 10 new lanes of traffic to get to the lake is less of a barrier than crossing 6 old lanes.

  13. Tearing down the Gardiner will not improve gridlock, give us better transit or improve access to the lake shore. The major impediments to those issues is fundamentally bad planning. One can find eyesore expressways around the world that have been interwoven with fabrics of local communities to create dynamic, functional public spaces.

    I commute to work daily on the TTC but I recognise the importance of having quick moving arteries to facilitate vehicular traffic, even in the urban core. Without that frieght does not move, commerce and business is stiffled and the detested 905ers, who supply the city with so much of its highly skilled workforce, will start looking locally.

    The solution is not to start tearing down, but to start building around and into the gardiner, laying down effective modern transit and some competent urban planning without OMB interferance.

  14. Agree with Josh above. This proposal is hardly likely to be an improvement.

  15. Tearing down the Gardiner does not mean freight or anything will be stifled.

    Seriously: Vancouver gets awarded the most livable city in the world for the last 10 years and they are the only major North American city without an expressway ripping thru the city’s core. I seriously believe there is a conenction to this.

    anyone here saying that the LakeShore is the barrier is silly — its the Gardiner above that makes crossing the LakeShore seem horrible. Without an overhang it will feel safer and traffic will be slower. The experience will be so much better.

  16. A lot of individuals indicate Lakeshore BLVD is the main reason for feeling cut off from the Toronto Waterfront. If you create regular evenly spaced traffic lights that are properly timed and countdown pedestrian walkways so pedestrians know how long they have to walk across, then Lakeshore BLVD becomes pedestrian safe and can work well. Ask the residents of other global cities like Rio de Janiero, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Mumbai, Chicago, San Francisco…all of whom have great beach front “University Ave” -esque highways. The one in Rio in particular has large grassy medians, large mosaic stone esplanades and squares that separate traffic running in opposite directions. Lakeshore Blvd can become a destination of fountains, quaint parks, public art installations and public spaces rather than being a high speed route for Ajax/Pickering/Milton communters to get their Tahoe/Suburban/Escalade/4Runners to work downtown. Toronto needs to move forward in its vision as a legacy for current and future citizens…not according to the budget of a single 4 year government term (imagine if subways were built 20 years ago along currently assessed LRT routes…the price tag then looks incredibly affordable now!!!) For too long, this city has been mired with blatent, mind-numbing proposals for short term budgetary reasons.

  17. Tearing down the Gardiner is short-sited. I can’t think of anything positive which will come of it. It will require widening of the Lakeshore, be even more of an eyesore and in the end will hinder the movement of traffic and people. It just isn’t a realistic plan (yet).

  18. Selman indicates ,”…detested 905ers, who supply the city with so much of its highly skilled workforce, will start looking locally”…locally for what…work? There are no jobs out there…GM closes in Oshawa, you have a ghost town. Apparently 40% of Peterborough works at GM…that is a 45 min. drive everyday each way!!! Great f%$kin’ quality of life!! I used to live in Whitby…trust me, the majority commute and work in Toronto for work. 905ers…I used to be one of you for 21 years…it’s about the two car garage, large land space so “I can spend all weekend cutting and watering it” and having 4 bedrooms…oh, and a nice backyard patio like my neighbour. Ahhhh…the North American dream…. I gave up that ghastly, life-limiting and environmentally and spiritually destructive suburban life style a longtime ago. 905ers…if you wish to work in Toronto to pay for your mortgage and afford your absurd tax bills to accomodate your indulgent green lawns and absurd land use, then live by the wishes of citizens of the City of Toronto. I don’t want to use my Toronto tax dollars to finance the keeping of an expressway for your suburban commuting “ease”. Toronto needs to start thinking about a future legacy of great urbanity — creating great urban spaces and improving local accessiblity to waterfront in addition to an LRT line and bike lanes that encourage locals to leave their car at home (and the time is now since it will only get more expensive with time — it would be a shame if my 4month old daughter is debating this issue 20 years from now on Spacing!!). This issue should NOT be about making it easy for suburbanites to commute back and forth to a wasteful haven of living in their soul-less suburban banality. If the commute begins to hurt with tearing down the Gardiner, then suburbanites may see that watering and cutting that large lawn will be least of your worries. Let’s take Toronto back for Toronto and its local citizens!!!

  19. I’m still confused. The tracks would still be there, right? if not, what would they do with them. So they’re raised and blocking the access as well. My main concern when I walk down is the tracks, not so much the Gardiner. What are they planning to do to them?

  20. I voted “it won’t make a difference” because I’m one of those crazy people who thinks that Lakeshore and the rail corridor constitute the real barrier. I’d add the Gardiner’s ramps to the list, so I do think that it’s part of the problem. On the other hand, I don’t buy Rhonda’s assertion that Lakeshore’s traffic will somehow become slower and safer without the highway looming over it.

    The Gardiner is going to need serious maintenance leading to its temporary closure, and possibly to the closure of sections of Lakeshore below it, as Wogster says. The alternative is to leave it there until it starts falling apart, at which point you suddenly wish you hadn’t deferred the expensive and “inconvenient” temporary closures — you can ask Quebec how agreeable that situation is. So it may make sense to pull the thing down and focus on the surface streets if we can possibly do so. But let’s not pretend that there’ll be greatly improved access to the waterfront.

  21. It’s rare I comment further on a story, but I think I need to clarify a couple of things.

    What I think they should do, is close the section of the Gardiner they want to tear down, and wait a year. At the end of that year, reassess the situation.

    If it means much heavier traffic on other streets, then perhaps the city needs the Gardiner, however if it means little extra traffic, and no real problems on other streets, then knock it down.

    The problem with the Lakeshore idea, is that they assume we need to replace the Gardiner’s capacity somewhere else, and that may not be the case.

  22. The fact of the matter is that the elevated structure is aging. What would probably make the most sense would be to do away with the Gardiner, widen the Lakeshore as recommended and proceed with the Transit City proposals for the Bremner LRT and Waterfront East LRT. The newer LRVs will be vastly superior to the older CLRVs especially with their increased vehicle length.

  23. AJ wrote: “Let’s take Toronto back for Toronto and its local citizens!!!”

    When is the wall going up? If the planners of the 70s and 80s hadn’t bought into the government-mandated social engineering of creating sprawl instead of compact cities, we probably wouldn’t have people commuting for hours to get downtown. Many of the detested 905ers moved from Toronto anyway … maybe when there’s better compact form than buying a 500 sq ft birdnest condo for $250k more people will live in Toronto and work here long-term, but the builders aren’t building that yet, they’re still cashing in on the boomer echo. So, are detested 905ers that take the GO train “good” while those that drive their Escalades “bad”?? If the choices of new housing in the downtown area were a little more family-oriented some people could be induced to move back to the city. Some people refuse to line the pockets of the real estate agents with their “bidding war” cash grabs for mediocre city houses. When this nonsense stops, probably when the selfish and greedy boomers move on, things might change. Until then “soul-less suburban banality” will exist.

  24. I find it impossible to assess the extent to which Lakeshore is a “barrier” while the Gardiner exists above it. Surely one of the main reasons Lakeshore is so troubling to cross are the ramps and other access routes to and from the Gardiner.

    Adding a single lane to the Lakeshore to get rid of the Gardiner seems fair enough to me, and a major improvement.

    Also, I think the word “barrier” has many meanings, only the most literal of which is a physical impediment to movement. One way in which the Gardiner is a “barrier”, for instance, is the extremely high level of noise from it that is constant and carries in all directions due to its height. While I agree that in some respects the railway crossing is also a barrier, in this respect the Gardiner is far worse, and it creates a zone in which one wishes to pass through as quickly as possible. There is simply no comparison with, say, University Avenue in this regard.

  25. AJ,

    You might want to consider reality. There are more jobs in the 905 region that in Toronto. The unemployment rate is higher in Toronto. 905ers have more of their income tax dollars sent back to Toronto. While everyone in the province pays income tax, the province provides Toronto with $1,000 more per person in grants than the 905 cities. Your Toronto ‘tax dollars’ do not even pay for half of what the city provides back, on average.

    Using 2006 data from the Municipal Performance Measurement Program it shows that Toronto spent $8,422 per household in 2006. On the other hand Mississauga and the region of Peel combined, spent $3,848.29 per household.

    So the average household in Mississauga pays more than $500 per year in property tax than the average household in Toronto and gets $ 4,573.71 less in services.

    You should also note that more people from Toronto travel to work in the 905 than the other way around. I am sure that 905ers are just as indignant of having to support roads to allow Torontonians to get to work.

    The reality is that it is the commercial / industrial and multi residential taxpayers of Toronto, along with the rest of the province, that subsidises Toronto residents. Allowing them to have the highest municipal spending and the lowest residential taxes.