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In its 48 years the Gardiner Expressway has seen a lot of traffic, yet in that same time period not much has been done to improve transit. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
In its 48 years the Gardiner Expressway has seen a lot of traffic, yet in that same time period not much has been done to improve transit. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Road Sage

Don't hate Toronto's Gardiner Expressway. Hate the city planners Add to ...

Dear Toronto,

It’s your old friend, the Gardiner Expressway. I’m writing because I’ve been feeling a little negativity coming my way. There are fewer likes on my Facebook page and #gardinerexpressway is trending. It seems people are angry – angry because I’m under construction and will be congested for two years to come with two months off in summer 2015 for the Pan Am Games. (I have no idea what they are either but we’re getting a train to the airport so don’t make a fuss.)

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Why the uproar, people? You’ve had plenty of warning. You’ve known for at least a year that one of my lanes running in each direction would be closed and that there would be eight construction projects going. The mayor held a press conference at the end of March to tell commuters they could car pool, use public transit or allow for extra-long commutes. This didn’t calm anyone.

It’s like telling someone who’s going to get punched in the face twice a day for two years to “distribute the bruises evenly across your face, use ice, and allow for a more swollen face.” It’s like telling the passengers on the Titanic to “lifeboat-pool, use the breast stroke and allow for frozen water and drowning.” It’s like, well, you get the idea.

I understand your frustration but don’t direct your ire at me – an inanimate structure. Don’t hate the expressway. Hate the city planners. If you’re looking to blame someone, your options include your mayor, all municipal, provincial and federal politicians, and most importantly, you, the self-righteous self-serving citizens of the Greater Toronto area.

The mayor suggests people take public transit?

How? GO trains don’t leave early enough. GO buses take too long. As for streetcars, in most parts of the city, it is quicker to walk. Streetcars are useless. The subway is okay if you live near one. But if you have to take a bus, forget it.

Toronto has always prided itself being a world-class city. We were “New York run by the Swiss.”

Everyone knows that world-class cities have “world-class public transit.” London, New York, Tokyo, Paris, they spend and have spent a ton on public transit. It’s the best way to get around those cities and everyone, except the uber rich, uses it. Toronto, in contrast, has done nothing for more than 50 years. No new subways (that thing in North York is a joke).

The TTC is overburdened and broken. It tries but it has little to work with. In the past 50 years, Toronto has grown to become the fourth largest city in North America. How many new major subway lines or LRT systems have been built?

Exactly.

And somehow you’re surprised by the gridlock when an 800-metre stretch of expressway gets narrowed down for repairs?

People moan when a broken-down antiquated piece of urban transit infrastructure (yours truly) needs repair. In the city’s core we have the landed bohemian gentry who cycle from their trendy neighbourhoods on the outskirts of downtown to their jobs in the city. As far as they’re concerned, everyone who commutes should simply move. They don’t mind gridlock because gridlock drives up real estate values. All those condos you see going up? They’re being built because no one wants to suffer the gridlock. It is gridlock that makes their two-bedroom dung heap in Parkdale worth $600,000.

Meanwhile, the suburban commuter drives hours each way and bemoans his or her lot in life. Suburbanites want big houses, big back yards, space for two cars, and to be free of the unsavoury folk they see downtown. Oh, and they want to drive from Mississauga to the city in 20 minutes. And they don’t want to pay extra taxes, or toll roads, or take public transit. They see no problem with this thinking.

So, dear Torontonians, the next time you want to tweet about #gardinerexpressway, take a moment before pressing send. Maybe I’m not the problem. I’ve been around in one form or another since 1966. I’ve seen a lot of traffic. The real issue here is that after 48 years you still think that I, the Gardiner Expressway, am the answer to your traffic problems.

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