July 30, 2014
Author: Leor Margulies
I understand that Ontario Place is looking for revitalization and redevelopment. I also understand that the city is in the throes of the most massive reconstruction and infrastructure projects of all times due to both the Pan Am Games of 2015 and the expenditure of infrastructure money from the federal government having a shelf-life that was running out. As well, the Union Station redevelopment continues to totally gridlock east, west and south traffic at one of the busiest intersections of the city with no end in sight.
So, I as a Toronto resident, have come to accept the necessary delays of progress, redevelopment and infrastructure reconstruction. But what I do not accept is the total lack of coordination and logic on either the municipal or provincial level to ease gridlock or manage transit.
For instance, someone at the city had the bright idea that Simcoe Street, which is 1-way south all the way from Queen to Front should be turned into 2 ways for only one additional block between Front and Wellington. In addition, bicycle lanes have been built on Simcoe, a very admirable and ecologically useful idea. However, instead of allowing the northbound traffic on Simcoe to feed north through to King Street, Adelaide, Richmond or even Queen Street, particularly with the congestion being created by the gridlock at Front and University, no one at the City felt that that was appropriate. It was better to limit northbound traffic at Wellington and move the northbound congestion one block.
But what has really triggered this outburst of frustration is my evening at Ontario Place after having the good fortune to see James Taylor perform last Thursday evening. The only profitable and operating venue at Ontario Place is the Molson Amphitheatre. Nothing else is operating at Ontario Place and right now there is little going on at the CNE. Rather than drive, I followed the advice from Ticketmaster not to bring my car to Ontario Place because there allegedly was limited parking and congestion. Given the poor transit to the Molson Amphitheatre, I take a cab. What do I face? First, there is gridlock along the Lakeshore because of the closure of 2 lanes on the Gardiner. But more so, access to the Molson Amphitheater is restricted so that cabs are not allowed to bring people up to the front of the Molson Amphitheatre but forced to drop them off almost a mile away. That started my evening off on a sour note.
What happens when I leave a terrific James Taylor concert? First, the Ontario Place announcers advise people that the cabs will be available on the right hand side of the walkway. One has to walk all the way out to Lakeshore, almost half a mile away, and there are still no cabs and no cab stands. And there are no cabs available on the street. And there is no transit available until Bathurst Street. 16,000 people exiting from the Molson Amphitheatre and no one has thought of arranging for public transit to get you to the subway stations or Union Station. No one has arranged for a temporary cab stand and as a result, you have thousands of people wandering around looking for cabs or transit.
Is this how one manages public events in this city? A complete disaster for residents and tourists. A little bit of foresight would have brought buses to the Molson Amphitheatre for this concert and other ones to move people out. A temporary cab stand could have been set up across the road from Ontario Place in the CNE. We have an oversupply of cabs in Toronto and yet none were to be bound anywhere near Ontario Place.
With concerts being held all summer at Ontario Place, shouldn’t someone at City Hall and TTC think about getting people to and from such a major summer attraction?