“We’ve taken the automobile, which can be a wonderful tool, and totally exaggerated its importance. We have to change that and James Street North is the poster child for what we need to do.”
That car-centred life, he said, has brought many costs.
Greater Toronto Area residents now spend an average of 88 minutes getting to and from work, a waste of time the Toronto Board of Trade has estimated costs $6 billion a year in lost productivity. There are also the costs looming for the health problems of increasingly obese children.
Other studies have concluded the average suburban family spends between 25 and 40 per cent of its budget on transportation.
“They spend all their time in front of screens or being chauffeured from one place to another,” Greenberg said. “They don’t go outside any more to ride their bikes or play.”
The change Greenberg advocates, a change he said is starting to take hold in many cities, transforms the downtown core from a central business district where the object is to move people in and out quickly, to a special neighbourhood where people can live, work and play.
“Young people who grew up in the suburbs are saying that isn’t the life they want now,” he said. “They don’t want to spend all that time commuting.”
Breaking the car culture is happening on many fronts — city planners are learning they don’t have to separate residential and employment zones. That condos and office towers can exist side by side. Or that those uses can be layered together in the same building, that transit services can link neighbourhoods just as easily as highways and that some people have learned they like being able to walk to work.
“Autopia has started to collapse,” he said. “The new North American dream is about being able to walk to work.”
That new dream is being expressed in new neighbourhoods, such as Toronto’s King-Spadina area. A former industrial zone, the factories have been replaced with condo and office buildings and other amenities.
“Today, more people work in that zone than worked there when it was factories,” Greenberg said. “That area has become the kind of 24/7 community that we’ve been talking about.”
Read full article, The Hamilton Spectator, 8 June 2012.