The dominant form in downtown Toronto is concrete. The dominant color, grey. With quad-lane roads, condos on superblocks with large setbacks, and few trees to soften the omnipresent shades of charcoal, your first impression on visiting the core is how grim it is, and how unpleasant your experience as a pedestrian.
This insensitivity to our city’s effect on people has been lost in all the noise around taxes, bike lanes, streetcars vs. subways, and anxiety around housing costs and density. Somewhere among all these fights we’ve forgotten that cities don’t simply exist to provide employment and efficiently shunt people between locations, but that the most memorable ones surround you with beauty and bring pleasure to the everyday.
Having visited places like Seattle, Oslo, Stockholm and New York I’ve realized just how far we have to go to make the downtown a truly wonderful place to live and visit. And, if I’d to pick two things to change they’d be: constraining cars to a lane each in both directions, and, using the extra space to plant trees and grass. These two changes would be a powerful signal that people – that our daily happiness – is as important as commuting and employment to the city’s being.