Toronto – large size comes with large problems

For those that have not been here regularly in the last two decades or live across the border, it may be hard to imagine that with all the large American cities, Toronto ranks fourth largest in North America. Earlier this year, it was reported that Toronto’s population has reached about 2.8 million people, surpassing Chicago in the process. That puts Toronto behind only Mexico City, New York City, and Los Angeles.

Sounds impressive, right? That’s a pretty large tax base, for one thing. And surely people will want to visit one of the largest cities in the world, so that’s a boon for tourism. Toronto definitely has its fair share of amenities – world-class museums, art galleries, top-notch dining, amusement parks, green spaces, and so on. Just like a big city should. Most of all, it shows spectacular growth and currently a renewed phase of downtown intensification. Witnesses to that trend are the large number of construction cranes in this city.

However, being fourth largest doesn’t mean being fourth best. Toronto definitely has its large problems to go with its size. For one, gridlock and traffic congestion are pronounced in Toronto. In fact, a recent story [] stated that Toronto is the second worst for traffic headaches in Canada, and sixth worse in North America (L.A. is the worst). Also, one of the major commuter routes through the city, the Gardiner Expressway, is slowly crumbling as it ages. Canadian cities don’t get the same help from upper governments as their American cousins do.

When it comes to transit, it is clear that Toronto is behind other cities in its size class, even smaller cities. Montreal is not as big as Toronto population-wise, yet has more coverage in its subway system than Toronto. To be fair, Toronto is pushing for more transit, but money and politics seem to be stifling progress (Toronto’s mayor doesn’t see eye-to-eye with those wanting light rail transit. He wants more subways built, which would be the right choice if it were in reach financially).

Bottom line is, Toronto is a great city and has the potential to be a true world-class city. But it has to focus on not only being welcoming, but being able to accommodate those it welcomes. If Toronto manages to match the transit services to its world class new Lester Pearson International Airport, then it will truly surpass many of its rivals as the place to be.