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7 urban trends Toronto must resist in 2013

Posted by Chris Bateman / January 5, 2013

toronto bike laneOn the last day of 2012, urbanism blog Atlantic Cities published a list of worldwide city trends it hopes will not last another year. At a glance, several of the activities on the naughty list seem to apply directly to Toronto; casinos, tacky marketing schemes, and large-scale sports development for a single, grand event.

OK, so I'm a little biased towards forever banishing most of these trends to a black portfolio somewhere in a leaky storage container in the basement of city hall. Anyway, let's hear your thoughts in the comment thread below.


According to urbanist Richard Florida, "politicians and cities see [casinos] as economy boosters, but often the social costs outweigh the economic benefit." Right now, a cluster of gaming companies are flirting with the city for a potentially lucrative deal to build a downtown complex. I'm willing to bet any casino will be a hideous turd on the city whoever builds it so this one is firmly in the reject pile.


In July 2011, the TTC approved a new ad contract with Pattison Outdoor Advertising that laid the ground work for the sale of naming rights to subway stations. Commercial advertisers are apparently frowned upon so Ryerson University was one of the first to express a real interest in renaming Dundas station. Its location next to the stop might have made it a little more palatable - the proposal seems to have died - but this is a trend that really should vanish before something horrendous, like McDonald's Spadina or St. Coca-Cola station, happens.


According to the Atlantic Cities, elevated, heated, and brightly painted bike lanes are being proposed in various cities around the world, and this is a problem because it focus on style over practicality. In Toronto it's hard to scorn any new bike lane, whatever form it takes, if it means making the roads safer. Who knows - maybe an ambitious project will help us find some sensible middle ground.


The original list cites the Olympics as the prime example, but Toronto and the GTA could also be heading for trouble with development ahead of the 2015 Pan Am Games. Milton is getting a world-class velodrome, Markham is building a pool complex, and U of T is working on a new high-performance sports centre. Here's hoping that these venues serve some real practical use once the games are over. In Hamilton, the replacement for Ivor Wynne Stadium will host the Tiger-Cats once Pan Am soccer wraps up.


Recent years in Toronto have been marked by disputes between users of various modes of transportation: cars vs. bikes, bikes vs. pedestrians, streetcars vs. cars, etc. That needs to stop if this city is going to ever provide a sustainable and efficient way of moving everybody where they need to go, and back again. Writer Emily Badger describes the partisan disputes in other cities (it's not just us!) as resembling "warring Balkan tribes." It's time for a truce, guys.


They're delicious, they're fun, but quite why Toronto isn't willing to make it easier for food trucks to operate in the city is baffling. It's not just us; Columbus, Ohio is leisurely working on new laws for its 150 food trucks over concerns about where the vehicles are allowed to park. It can't be that hard to work this out, can it? Afterall, the National Post recently predicted mobile eats to be one of this year's big food trends.


Plastic bags were out, then they weren't. Transit City was dead, then it wasn't. The Jarvis bike lanes survived then vanished. This year let's make the right decision the first time around and stick to it. Sadly, this is the one resolution that most likely won't come true.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photo: "in the lane" by 'Xander @416cyclestyle from the blogTO Flickr pool.



Mike / January 5, 2013 at 02:24 am
I'm pretty sure UofT (With the city) are building a pool and sports centre in Scarborough for Pan AM. I was at one of the community meetings less than 2 months ago to see the presentation. Looks pretty good. Hope they don't screw it up.
JP / January 5, 2013 at 03:09 am
If selling naming rights let Toronto build more transit, then I would happily ride the McDonalds line or whatever.
Ryan / January 5, 2013 at 06:06 am

Why don't you move to Vancouver instead of giving advice that would mess Toronto up???
Grimzeek replying to a comment from JP / January 5, 2013 at 08:21 am
No, it won't. Also, calling a station 'McDonald's Station' is extremely tacky and stupid.
Craig replying to a comment from Ryan / January 5, 2013 at 09:00 am

You're saying that better commuting for all would screw up Toronto? I don't know about you but I'd prefer to have better options for commuting. But then again I don't like spending an hour sitting on the Gardiner wondering if I'll fall through the deck this time.
Dave / January 5, 2013 at 09:15 am
Metro stations like Berri-UQAM, Guy-Concordia and Longueil-Sherbrook Uni don't seem to be causing anyone any harm in Montreal. There are some fair points in this article, but who really cares what a subway station is called?
Shawn / January 5, 2013 at 09:47 am
I use the subway and transit to get me across the city, not to maintain an air of pretentiousness and moan about gentrification to anyone within earshot. I have my doubts that enough money would be raised to make a noticeacble change, but as long its not called the NAMBLA Bloor station, I'd use it.

And the bike v. transit v. pedestrians v. drivers case would be a lot better if more bicyclists understood the concept of red lights, open streetcar doors and the rules of the road.
Kristy M / January 5, 2013 at 09:50 am
I disagree with most of the things said.
A casino would be great for the city. Pretty bike lanes, named subway stations. Big deal. There are plentiful other cities that have these and are more then fine.
Yes food truck Accessibility would be better for the city - agreed
Doing it right the first time. I agree. Look at the ontario teachers. Our premier is imposing things just to take it back before he steps down. Maybe it's the new trend. ....
RobK / January 5, 2013 at 10:06 am
It seems like these trends would be palatable if there were some common sense at City Hall. A casino works only at Woodbine - nowhere else. The advertising and sponsoring of stations isn't bad, if done well and looked at creatively (i.e. - why isn't Samsung or Sony providing free flatscreen tvs in all stations to provide news and updates for a bit of free advertising?). Bike lanes should be utilitarian in their design and purpose. Development should be done with an eye to the future, or else what's the point of building something?

Commuters are being pitted against each other by political forces - and it's working, sadly. Food trucks, and other food places should be regulated to ensure safety but should be flexible enough to be creative and flourish - don't heavy-hand their efforts. Doing and undoing is a part of city life - that's ok. It's when things have progressed past a point of no return and are undone that it becomes problematic.

A city isn't devoid of life, these trends should be welcomed, but only if common sense prevails. The reason these are brought up as issues is because we put up with inept leadership at City Hall. Change that and this list changes completely.
loper replying to a comment from Shawn / January 5, 2013 at 10:25 am
I for one would ride the NAMBLA subway everyday. Hubba Hubba.
Matt Y replying to a comment from Shawn / January 5, 2013 at 10:47 am
"And the bike v. transit v. pedestrians v. drivers case would be a lot better if more bicyclists understood the concept of red lights, open streetcar doors and the rules of the road."

Yes, because only bicyclists need to understand that. All motorists and pedestrians are perfect and adhere to road rules.

Turn off the basement light and get out occasionally.
McRib replying to a comment from Shawn / January 5, 2013 at 10:51 am
and there you go, exacerbating the 'us vs them' issue.

i'd imagine more car drivers are killed around the city than cyclists. I'd imagine that more pedestrians are killed around the city than cyclists, usually from getting run over by cars.

But your great idea to end the 'us vs them' problem is for cyclists to behave better.

Jose / January 5, 2013 at 10:57 am
"Victoria Secret Station".

If it helps our subway system expand and become more efficient, who cares about what the stations are called?

Some people try too hard to make this city so world class and decent, that it ends up being a joke in other people's eyes anyway. The city needs money, and if you have to give it up to corporate people to fund it then so be it.

If you want the city to be a hippy town, move to Vancouver.
Khristopher replying to a comment from Jose / January 5, 2013 at 11:08 am
This city has become a hippy town over the past 5 years. You used to only smell patchouli in Kensington, now you smell it everywhere.
Khristopher replying to a comment from Jose / January 5, 2013 at 11:09 am
I don't see the big deal with a Casino downtown myself. I do think the CNE grounds would suit it best or Ontario Place. I'd say the Islands too if they had a better connection than ferries.
Khristopher / January 5, 2013 at 11:10 am
Oh, and another thing... I really think BlogTO should stick to factual stuff, and less opinion.
Jeff / January 5, 2013 at 11:31 am
It's amazing how many people publish opinions based on incorrect information. The notion that the city of Toronto has the ultimate say on IF there will be a casino is evidence of the fact that the author really doesn't know what he's talking about on the issue. It's a provincial matter governed by the AGCO and OLG who, weeks ago, said that the chances of a Toronto casino are very very slim.

Stop kicking dead horses.
RobK replying to a comment from Jeff / January 5, 2013 at 11:47 am
Let's not kid ourselves, in order to maximize revenue, the OLG wants a casino in the City of Toronto badly. They won't get as much anywhere else. If a casino is to be put in Toronto it's prudent to go through the consultation to determine where the best place would be.
scottd replying to a comment from Kristy M / January 5, 2013 at 11:51 am
The sole purpose of a casino is to take tax dollars out of Toronto and send them to Queens Park who will then refuse to fund transit and affordable housing among other things. It is the reverse of the Mike Harris downloading.And its a scam. I have experience in the gaming biz and casinos are on the way out except in exotic locales. Online is where it is at. I think gaming is for fools but the only way it makes sense is if a casino is 100% run and owned by Toronto; otherwise its a tax scam.
Me / January 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm
urban trends Toronto must resist in 2013: Anything BlogTO thinks is a good idea.
DL replying to a comment from Me / January 5, 2013 at 12:44 pm
I really need to stop clicking the opinion articles on this site. It doesn't present arguments, it doesn't present anything resembling common sense or compromise. It just shouts out things the writer thinks are dumb and anybody who disagrees that they are dumb are dumb themselves.

Casino: Niagara Falls is an hour away. People go there, gamble away, then come back and work in the city to recoup their losses. Why not just keep them in the city and save some gas? Or give the out of towners who come here for business a place to have a few drinks and play a few games? Montreal has a casino. Ottawa has one and may soon have two. The almighty Vancouver has a casino. These cities have not descended into some ridiculous alternate-reality Hill Valley. Toronto won't either.

Sponsoring subway stations: "We want more transit! But don't do anything logical to pay for it, cuz that would be embarrassing."

Fancy bike lanes: What the HELL is a fancy bike lane? One with colour? Is it really awful to add colour to bike lanes to make it easier for drivers to not cross into it when i'm trying to bike to the store for some milk? NYC has em. Why can't we? And I don't think anybody has ever considered heating bike lanes here. Heated driveways barely work in this country, and we're going to heat roadways?

Future-proofing sports facilities: I think the bigger, more obvious example is at the foot of the CN Tower.

Food trucks: Sorry, they're awesome, but not if they're creating congestion. This needs to be handled properly.
Puhlease / January 5, 2013 at 12:53 pm
You can dress up the outside of a food truck as nicely as you like and come up with a snappy name. It doesn't change the fact that food trucks are generally unsanitary.

That being said, I don't care if someone wants to abuse him or herself by eating from one. :)
ZHF / January 5, 2013 at 01:15 pm
I'd assume the sports venues will be used for training university and olympic athletes after the pan am games.. like in Calgary and Vancouver...
Kat replying to a comment from Khristopher / January 5, 2013 at 01:51 pm
A casino on the island? Seriously? Yes, let's commercialize one of the only green spaces Toronto has.

Also, for the people complaining that blogTO is too opinionated - it's a BLOG. That's the point. Why don't you go over to The Star and read the news without any bias whatsoever. :-\
Me / January 5, 2013 at 02:19 pm
it's not so much "disputes" as really it's only the bicyclists whining they can't get their own way and are expected to abide by the rules.
Mike B. replying to a comment from JP / January 5, 2013 at 02:24 pm
Completely agree. Yes, it's unpalatable at first, but we don't live in a perfect world.

Look at London: Their Thames cable car/gondola lift project went over budget, so they got a £36 million sponsorship from Emirates, and now it's called the Emirates Air Line.

The world didn't implode. People are using it. An Emirates Air Line is better than no air line.
Kieren replying to a comment from Mike B. / January 5, 2013 at 02:48 pm
Isn't another issue that all advertising rates are owned by Pattison in Toronto? In other words, it would be up to Pattison to develop and evaluate all the proposals, scooping up 10% off the top. It's not worth it.
Irony! / January 5, 2013 at 05:24 pm
Using your opinion to state that opinions are dumb. BLOG to not FACTUAL NEWS SOURCE TO.
Justin replying to a comment from Khristopher / January 5, 2013 at 06:04 pm
Duh, that's what blogs are for - facts are a commodity; opinion based on analysis & insight aren't
boo / January 6, 2013 at 01:16 pm
Mr. Bateman, go apply to the NY Times and replace yourself with someone half as more partisan than yourself and this Blog will be something worth reading.. PLeeease
Jimbo / January 6, 2013 at 06:18 pm
3 words - "Ontario Place Casino" scrap any other plans and build it there.
Grimzeek / January 6, 2013 at 06:51 pm
The one thing I hope doesn't become a reality this year is private liquor stores; we need those like people need cancer.
Eli / January 6, 2013 at 08:25 pm
With all the fixies in Toronto, that velodrome would have gotten a lot of use after the games are over.
Marc / January 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm
Too much invading advertising. There was none of that before, and there was more money before despite a smaller population. Read "No Logo" by Naomi Klein, not as a complete reference, but something just for interest.
Confused replying to a comment from Mike / January 8, 2013 at 04:04 pm
How can you be just "pretty sure" when say that you saw the presentation?

I really wish people would be precise with their use of language.
Tzv / January 10, 2013 at 04:35 pm
Favourite pastime for a liberal is telling others how to live. I don't like casinos but my wife does. So when I want to be a good sport I have to drive to Niagara just so that my wife can play the slots. Thanks for making that decision for me. A more democratic way to be against casinos is to ignore them and not go while allowing others that enjoy playing against the odds to do so. As for the sponsorship and naming rights; saying no to free money and being broke at the same time is just plain moronic. It would not take away from longing for more subway lines if we sold the naming rights to all the stations to private corporations.
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