When the details of the King Street Pilot were unveiled, it got us thinking about the rest of Toronto. If the Pilot is approved and successful, there are many other main streets in the downtown core that could better prioritize pedestrians, transit patrons and cyclists.
Congestion and pollution are major issues caused by cars, but they aren’t the only reasons why Toronto should shift away from its car-focused infrastructure. Recently, an article in The Wall Street Journal by Tim Higgins said that “Car ownership, for a long time, has symbolized freedom and independence. But in the future, it may be akin to owning a horse today—a rare luxury.”
Who owns horses today? Wealthy people in rural areas. We have to agree with Higgins; cars as we know them today may be confined to barn garages in the not-so-distant future.
Millennials can’t afford cars
As home prices increase, it’s becoming more difficult to afford the monthly expense of a car, with gas, insurance, and payments.
Over the last few months, the average price of a condo unit in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has consistently remained above $500,000, and last month, the average condo price exceeded $600,000! Some car owners may consider the expenses nominal and necessary to everyday life, but when a young buyer invests their life savings in a home, every dollar counts.
Walkability is key
“Location, location, location” has always been a mantra in real estate, but the definition changes depending who you’re talking to. If a millennial is looking into their first condo in downtown Toronto, they likely want neighbourhood amenities within walking distance. It’s convenient and you don’t need a car.
When buying downtown, you’re paying more per square foot, and part of the reason is because of the nearby shops, services, markets, and restaurants.
The success of car sharing
In the downtown core, there are ZipCar and Car2Go cars everywhere. Some condos even have car share spots in the parking garage. At King and Spadina, Victory Condos by BLVD Developments (Lifetime Developments) has four ZipCar spots in the parking garage. There are three four-door sedan style vehicles and one SUV, so whether you’re going for an extra large grocery trip or picking up furniture from IKEA, there are options.
One complaint people have is that sometimes the cars aren’t available when they need them. But, a quick search on the ZipCar app shows that there are always nearby cars available. Just south of King and Spadina at Wellington, there is a surface lot with two cars.
The passenger economy
In Higgins’ article, he points out that the big automakers are coming to peace with the way car-use is evolving and are trying to brainstorm new forms of ownership. When the big names like Toyota, GM, and BMW are changing up their game plans, it’s time to start paying attention.
With self-driving cars on the horizon, more time and money may be spent on improving the interiors of cars. For example, the design firm IDEO has car concepts for strangers travelling together, without a driver.
With more people sharing vehicles, the need for a car declining as urban centres develop, people desiring walkable neighbourhoods, and technology advancing quicker than ever, city planning needs to start looking even further down the line to anticipate how people move around the streetscape.