The Government of Ontario’s promise to provide Toronto with an $8.4 billion, historic new light rail transit system could impact much more than just rush hour traffic congestion. Among the four new lines, which will be a combination of underground and street-level transit, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT is at the center of the city’s larger transportation redevelopment project. Plans for this light rail line have stimulated a new, contemporary vision for the Eglinton Corridor, which will hopefully lead to an increase in housing, new jobs, improved infrastructure and enhanced economic conditions.
The template for redevelopment, known as the Eglinton Connects project, came out of a collaborative process resulting in a fusion of Toronto city planners’ ideas and the opinions of citizens. With the completion of the LRT, there is potential for an upgraded streetscape, which would include bike lanes, broader sidewalks, better car flow and environmental design features such as a tree canopy. A major concern for residents is the replacement of historic properties with high-rise buildings, but planners are attempting to encourage growth while limiting construction to low- and mid-rise, mixed-use structures.
Eglinton Connects is focusing on three major development themes:
- Improving the travelling experience by incorporating space for pedestrians and cyclists in addition to cars and public transit;
- Greening the streetscape through planting vegetation and increasing access to public trails; and
- Building “neighborhood appropriate” mid-rise developments, while also preserving the existing historical properties and designing spaces for public use.
The geographical placement of Eglinton Avenue makes its extensive redevelopment plan especially critical. It is the sole street in Toronto that spans the entire city east to west, and is located directly in the middle of the city’s northern and southern limits. Toronto’s social and cultural “center” is currently located south of the Avenue, but planners hope that the "transit-supported re-urbanization," specifically the mixed-use developments and the “complete streets” design, will cause a shift in the general organization of the city. This shift would align the way Torontonians live, work and interact with Eglinton Avenue with its geographical location at the center of the city.
As this development will follow the completion of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT scheduled for 2020, Toronto is quite a ways from seeing this ambitious project realized.
Is it realistic to think that this project will be accomplished as planned? What could the intent for a change in the city center demonstrate about planners’ ideas for Toronto’s future?
Credits: Photographs by Molly Keeping and linked to sources. Data linked to sources.