This winter has been so mild, such a change from what we’re used to. But as always, seasons change, the years change from year to year — our neighbourhood and city changes incrementally all around us.
Some things change faster than others.
I didn’t think this New Year would bring as much change as it has so far for me. Tragically, my father passed away on New Year’s Eve. At only 65, Dr. John William Sellors died of the brain cancer he’d been battling for a few months. At Thanksgiving, our family was on cloud nine — totally unaware of the change that would be upon us. My dad was active and fit with a pulse of 45 beats per minute. A loving father and husband, born and raised in Toronto, he was a family doctor who worked in Hamilton and Seattle, and was a world renowned medical researcher with McMaster University, the WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; he loved to read, teach, travel, snowboard, chainsaw sculpt, and ride his ATV through the Muskoka bush. He had just retired and grandkids and hobbies were on his mind. He is deeply missed.
Our lives changed that fast.
But most big changes don’t come that fast. Among the thoughts I’ve had recently, one that I keep coming back to is our concept of time and thinking in generations. Unfortunately, in Toronto, we usually have to measure major change over generations. Building transit and other major infrastructure improvements takes forever. Our last subway line opened in 1978. The Eglinton-Scarborough underground streetcar will be finished in 2020 and the Spadina extension and airport link in 2015 (after being mandated in 1999). The seven-kilometre St. Clair West streetcar project took seven years to complete. I keep thinking: will the city have a world-class transit and transportation system by the time my generation’s kids need it or will gridlock truly overcome us? It goes without saying that we all need a better transportation system now but the tough part to swallow is: even if our lawmakers made the decision today to fund a plan, it wouldn’t be built and open for another 15 or 20 years. We’d be essentially starting a project to be finished by the next generation.
Other cities do things much faster. Some cities have not stopped expanding their transit system since the 1970s or 80s. We did and we’re paying for our mistake now. We should not repeat that mistake and make sure city hall installs an Office of Subway Construction. By comparison, New York has 468 subway stations to our 69. Midtown roads are both frustrating for drivers and unsafe for everyone else — increased transit is a good way to battle gridlock and unsafe roads by providing a true alternative to the car, so that personal vehicle use is reduced. I’d take transit more if it wasn’t so crowded, limited and unreliable. Right now, our transit system does not offer a true, reliable alternative to personal transportation.
Change is good, change has to happen. Change means movement and movement means life. Some parts of our life seem to go so fast, whereas other parts go so slowly and incrementally. Strategically planned changes to our city and region seem to be made apart from time — at a glacial pace. The people who work on these proposals and take part in the local public process must wait so long and sometimes the proposals aren’t even completed.
May this New Year give resolve to our government decision makers and bureaucrats so we can enjoy new transportation infrastructure with our kids — we don’t have to wait a generation. Life will pass us by.
As good as Midtown may be, if we don’t have visionary change soon, this city will never be what we all want it to be.
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