There are many things that define a great city. When you return from your travels to Hong Kong or New York or Delhi and beyond, one feature you’ll probably tell your friends about is the local transportation system. We all know about the gridlock on the Los Angeles freeways, the tolls to drive into downtown London, the slick and efficient train system in Switzerland, the autobahns in Germany and the horn honking mayhem on the roads of India. What might visitors talk about when they return to their home country after a visit to Toronto?
If their stay involves a few days in Cabbagetown or Corktown, they might rave about how easy it is to get to the CN Tower or the Hockey Hall of Fame. If they can’t walk, their options are numerous and frequent. Parliament Street after all is a rich thoroughfare in that it’s only 3 city blocks from the Yonge Subway line. Everyone benefits from the streetcars and buses that crisscross the city on their way to wonderful places. In the north, there are two buses leading to the Bloor line, one of which will deliver you to the Yonge line. If you’re a wheel chair user, Wheel Trans will be there for you. If you have the money, a $10.00 cab ride will take you pretty much anywhere in the core.
But in terms of the ongoing discussion underway at city hall, I’m not sure our issues along the Parliament Street strip are particularly important. A more relevant demographic to ask are the workers who have to travel from Scarborough to Etobicoke each day to make ends meet. They might have a more valued take on how the transportation grid should be set up. They’re not only relying on the existing bus/train/streetcar routes but they are on the system at least 5 days each week and might spend up to four hours travelling back and forth to work. These are the people who I want to hear from.
Our local transit systems also contributes greatly to real estate values. This a much more important topic than it was 25 years ago. Gridlock and gas prices are getting worse each year so this trend will undoubtedly continue. There’s a formula I use when discussing values with clients and it goes like this. The closer you are to a subway station, the more valuable your house is and the easier it is to sell when the market is soft. Some of you might remember the days when we had soft markets. Also, the closer you are to the office towers downtown, the more valuable your house is. This is one of the reasons our great neighbourhoods (like Cabbagetown) are selling for such high prices.
So, next time you spend time in another part of the world, identify what it is you like about their local public transportation systems and tell your councillor. This will help them contribute to any meaningful debate we might have about how to make our great city work better.
Duncan Fremlin is a Real Estate Broker and a long time resident of Cabbagetown.