Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Evidence demands Toronto tear down the Gardiner east, will council listen?

By: Metro Published on Thu May 28 2015

The reports are in on the Gardiner. The analysis is done. The numbers have been crunched and crunched again.

It all points to the same conclusion: When Mayor John Tory and 44 other members of council meet on June 10, they should vote to remove the eastern part of the Gardiner between Jarvis Street and the Don Valley Parkway.

Tear it down, and don’t look back — the reasons why aren’t complicated.

There’s the money. Maintaining the elevated expressway connection is far more costly, requiring about $500 million more in construction and maintenance costs compared to simply removing it and building a University Avenue-like boulevard.

Then there’s congestion. On this, the studies are in agreement. With reasonable signal timing along the replacement boulevard, the impact on commuters in 2031 will represent about two to three minutes of additional delay in the morning rush hour when compared to maintaining the elevated connection. How much is avoiding a two- or three-minute delay really worth?

And finally, there’s the relatively small number of people who actually use the east Gardiner. Traffic on this section represents just three per cent of morning commutes to downtown, according to a city traffic analysis. In comparison, GO and TTC ridership represent 68 per cent.

It doesn’t take an expert to ask: “Wouldn’t investing a half-billion dollars on service for those transit riders mean more benefit for more people?”

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But two weeks before the vote, that evidence doesn’t seem clear to everyone at city hall, including Mayor Tory.

Based on public statements, inside sources and council voting patterns, my vote projection currently predicts that 19 members of council, including Tory, are in favour of the “hybrid option,” which would see the elevated highway maintained, with some modifications to ramp-placement that would allow for development east of the Don River.

Scroll below to see Matt's projection for how city council will vote on the Gardiner issue, or click here to download the document in PDF format.

At this point, 12 councillors are firmly on the other side, and appear ready to support removing the elevated highway and replacing it with an eight-lane boulevard.

That leaves 14 undecided.

With 23 votes needed to win a vote, these undecided councillors will ultimately decide what happens.

It’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Once made, there’s no going back. The outcome will define Toronto’s lakefront and transportation network for at least 100 years.

More than that, however, the decision will also indicate what kind of city our political leaders want Toronto to be.

Do we want to be a city that shovels money at expressways or a city that invests in people?

This post was originally published at on 2015-05-28T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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