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Where is the centre of Toronto?

Posted by Chris Bateman / April 23, 2014

toronto city hallThere is a sign at the side of the 401 just after the cars merge from the on ramp at Brighton, Ont., heading west. It lists the distances to nearby towns and cities, including Colbourne, Cobourg, Oshawa and Toronto. According to the sign, it's 151 kms to Ontario's capital from that exact spot at the edge of a camp ground.

What exactly constitutes "Toronto" isn't immediately clear. One imagines it could be the nearest city limit, which, heading west on the 401, would be the Rouge River. Or it could be 33 Wanless Crescent, a residential address near Bayview and Lawrence that is the geographic centre of the city, according to Torontoist.

But it's neither of those things. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation measures the distances printed on its road signs to the seat of local government - City Hall in Toronto - or, in the absence of such a building or institution, the literal geographic centre of the community. So, if Toronto lacked a council building, the signs would be measured from a quiet front yard in North York.

The distances are not necessarily indicative of the route one's vehicle would logically take. The number indicates the distance a vehicle would need to travel using the shortest possible route to reach the centre of municipal government by highway, and then city street.

That means, in the case of a city as big as Toronto, the distance indicated on the sign may be quite different from what a driver will actually travel. Heading west from Brighton, Ont. to somewhere in south Etobicoke is a journey about 17 kms (10 minutes) longer by highway than it is to City Hall, according to Google Maps.

In essence, the province is in the habit of directing drivers not to the heart of a city, but to its brain.

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

Image: Erik Mauer/blogTO Flickr pool.

Discussion

30 Comments

bill / April 23, 2014 at 09:57 am
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I was taught it was City Hall, and the distance was "as the crow flies"
Linda / April 23, 2014 at 09:59 am
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The center of Toronto is where ever Rob Ford is. That's where you'll find the media swarming, security, rubber neckers...



Olivia Chow has it wrong: The problem isn’t Rob Ford not calling back, it’s that he is returning phone calls

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/04/21/olivia-chow-has-it-wrong-the-problem-isnt-rob-ford-not-calling-back-its-that-he-is-returning-phone-calls/
Joey QEW / April 23, 2014 at 10:30 am
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Pet Peeve alert:

There are street signs in downtown Montreal to direct you to Toronto, and signs to get you to Montreal just north of New York City. Yet you have to get east of Kingston before you start seeing signs for Ottawa on the 401, and good luck ever seeing a sign for Montreal or Detroit.

What's the deal?!
great journalism / April 23, 2014 at 10:41 am
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thanks for asking a question and that not answering it
Jason replying to a comment from great journalism / April 23, 2014 at 10:48 am
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You mean where they said: "What exactly constitutes "Toronto" isn't immediately clear. One imagines could be the nearest city limit, which, heading west on the 401, would be the Rouge River. Or it could be 33 Wanless Crescent, a residential address near Bayview and Lawrence that is the geographic centre of the city, according to Torontoist.

But it's neither of those things. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation measures the distances printed on its road signs to the seat of local government - City Hall in Toronto - or, in the absence of such a building or institution, the literal geographic centre of the community. So, if Toronto lacked a council building, the signs would be measured from a quiet front yard in North York."

Also known as an answer. Great reading there bud
iSkyscraper replying to a comment from Joey QEW / April 23, 2014 at 10:54 am
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Joey, all you ever wanted to know about "control cities" can be found here. Turns out Ontario and Quebec do things differently:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_city
McRib replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / April 23, 2014 at 11:00 am
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interesting!

in fact, more interesting than the BlogTO article ;)
Joey QEW replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / April 23, 2014 at 11:08 am
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Interesting, and I'm sure of some value from an MTO perspective. But in a pre-GPS world, how did it help travellers not to ever (practically) see any signs on the 401/QEW for Ottawa, Montreal, Detroit or Buffalo?
Randy replying to a comment from Joey QEW / April 23, 2014 at 11:36 am
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People generally would have a paper MAP in their car if they were going to be travelling to another city and would spend a little more time planning their route, then just leaving it up to GPS.

Not everyone travels along the 401.
Michael / April 23, 2014 at 11:38 am
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"not to the heart of a city, but to its brain"

That's very gracious.
Driver Commuter replying to a comment from Randy / April 23, 2014 at 11:40 am
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Yes always good to have a physical map in the car. All it takes is one accident on the 401 to back up the entire highway sending you off your planned route and your F'd. GPS doesn't usually provide the most efficient alternate routes
gonzo / April 23, 2014 at 12:19 pm
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University Avenue could have been the heart, culminating at Vimy Circle. A grand boulevard filled with shops and restaurants.

Unfortunately, it was decided that we'd put hospitals and cubicle offices along that boulevard - which gives you zero reason to travel down that road.

The closest thing is probably Yonge street - maybe culminating at Yonge and Dundas square (blech).
bill replying to a comment from Linda / April 23, 2014 at 12:27 pm
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Doesn't count that is the NP version. It carries as much weight as The Sun.
Spike replying to a comment from gonzo / April 23, 2014 at 12:53 pm
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According to you, yes. But ONLY to you. Many people like Yonge & Dundas Square, and it's grown on them over the years.
Astonished One replying to a comment from Joey QEW / April 23, 2014 at 01:11 pm
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Really? That bothers you? There are so few big cities in Canada and they are mostly all along the Trans Canada Highway. Personally that wouldn't be a big mystery to me as to where Montreal is because it is just a question of whether you drive east or west.
Steve replying to a comment from Spike / April 23, 2014 at 01:22 pm
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No, to many people. YD Square is yet another example of something that could be special becoming a clusterfuck of private-public partnerships and unfettered capitalism. It's a soulless fuckin' eyesore.
Ricky Raccoon replying to a comment from Steve / April 23, 2014 at 02:14 pm
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LOL! "A souless fucking eyesore" that just happens to be packed with people all year long and a MAJOR draw for tourists. This rejuvenation has been a huge success but of course we know a goodly proportion of Torontonians will only ever admit to being permanently disappointed with every fricking initiative here. That's the old inferiority complex rearing its head again.
Ricky Raccoon replying to a comment from gonzo / April 23, 2014 at 02:15 pm
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Let it go, Gonzo. That boat sailed a century ago. Let's live in the present. Cities grow and evolve, and we should let our minds grow along with them.
mike in parkdale / April 23, 2014 at 02:54 pm
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Toronto is a lake front city, and even though there's nothing built on the lake, it has to shift the center of the city. Picking the geographic center could work for a city like Calgary, but not really for something on the coast or on a lake.

Steve replying to a comment from Ricky Raccoon / April 23, 2014 at 03:16 pm
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In the future, transplant, stay out of fucking conversations in which you lack a frame of reference. Applies to 60% of the people in this city who think they have the right to an opinion.
Stevie Stardom replying to a comment from Steve / April 23, 2014 at 03:40 pm
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All people should have an opinion, and yes it is their right to have an opinion whether an educated one or not. Wow are you a communist?
GeeGolly replying to a comment from Steve / April 23, 2014 at 05:13 pm
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lol. It's super cute that you think you have more of a right to an opinion than anyone else who calls this city their home.

Fortunately, that's not how the real world works. Yay.
Dylan / April 23, 2014 at 05:29 pm
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Before Google Maps changed their interface, they always labelled the "centre" of Toronto as Yonge and Bloor, which I felt was appropriate. Now they've shifted it to City Hall, which sits more in line with the official opinion. But I like the idea of the "centre" of the city being an area that sits between the core and uptown, and showcases the city's evolving nature and essence - Yonge and Bloor works for this.
McRib replying to a comment from Steve / April 23, 2014 at 05:47 pm
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Hey look everyone, Steve is an original Torontonian, one of only 1000 left! Here he is in all his glory.

Pissing and moaning about everything as usual.

Reggie / April 23, 2014 at 08:14 pm
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Wow for a city that is one of the youngest cities in the world Steve really has laid his claim to it. Don't worry I'm sure he comes from generations of small closed minded thinking, or lack of thinking that are dying off. Steve's the last one in the line...
pmoney / April 23, 2014 at 11:55 pm
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Toronto can be defined as anywhere someone both identifies as living in Toronto and then makes a comment about how some aspect of it "sucks".
Ricky Raccoon / April 24, 2014 at 02:04 am
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Steve seems to be lashing out for some reason. I'm really not sure why he assumed I am a "transplant", but if he is insinuating that I have come from a more cosmopolitan and international background than his own long line of Torontonian ancestors then he is correct.
And for that I make no apology; but rather feel a little sorry for this myopic, unhappy man whose world begins in Mississauga and ends in Scarborough. Not much of a life to look back at, is it?
5yearshere replying to a comment from gonzo / April 24, 2014 at 04:07 am
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See, I agree with downtown Toronto. The "downtown," the "city center" is Yonge and Dundas. Mostly everything is 10 minutes from there via streetcar, bus, and subway. Unless, of course, you're going to the far reaches of Scarborough or Mississauga. But, city hall, being the political center of the city, is also a good landmark, considering it's a 15 minute walk from Yonge and Dundas...
asas / April 24, 2014 at 08:04 am
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always thought and heard eglinton and yonge as the city centre. downtown for sure doesn't have the city centre
BettieLuv / April 24, 2014 at 09:00 am
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For me, YD Square is the centre. I can people-watch there forever and it's only a short walk from anything else downtown.

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