On The Verge Of A Megalopolis

A suburb girl wandering through the skyscraper world

My Critique Of Canada's Ultimate Downtown

During my on foot trip in the center of downtown Toronto, I encountered numerous, unfamiliar sites that are unique to such an urbanized city. I remember being in awe of how far I would have to strain my neck to get a glimpse of the roof of one of the many condominiums and apartments that enclosed me. I also recall the excitement of the moment being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of an inconceivable amount of people. Downtown Toronto is definitely a clustered population. With tall buildings everywhere you turn, you abandon your concept of distance and discover anything you could ever need is in the palm of your hand, within walking distance. However, everyone and everything still have places to be. From traffic congested highways to the international airport to the railroad tracks (freight and passenger), everything is easily accessible and convenient.

Throughout my trip, I witnessed a wide variety of land uses packed densely within the city limits. Comparing Mississauga, as a suburb, to downtown Toronto, I noticed the very different community patterns. The management/modification of the natural environment and the arrangements people undertake with certain land to produce, alter or maintain it, certainly varies between the two communities. The structure of a suburb is composed of mainly residential (40%) and transportation land use (30%). 10% of land is designated for public/office buildings, while parks and industrial are each less than 10%. Commercial land use has the least amount of area with 5%. Based on my observations during the trip, I estimate that it is mostly transportation and public/ office buildings that have the largest amount of land delegated for in a downtown city, while open space has the least.

Although it's a common belief that the most amount of nature you're going to receive in a city is the sunlight reflecting off the glass buildings, this isn't necessarily true. There have been many eco-friendly adaptations in place to produce a more environmentally conscious city. For example, I saw numerous wind turbines bordering Lake Ontario. These are recent installments that contribute to the production and promotion of clean, renewable energy sources. In addition, I'm aware that the usage of public transit has expanded rapidly over the years, therefore lessening the pollution and ensuring a sustainable future. During my trip, I also gained an insight towards the expansion of recreational activities and green space. Organizations and the residents in Toronto are advocating for the preservation of the city's environment.

One beautiful aspect of downtown that I was exposed to was the culturally rich areas specifically accommodating for the diverse population. There was China Town and Little Italy, for example, that enhance the liveliness of the city. The closest you get to this in the suburbs is the Asian aisle in the grocery store; it's definitely a unique feature of downtown.

I managed to get a glance at a land use conflict in Toronto. Bordering the lake was a huge, polluting factory that was tinting the beautiful view of the lake. Having an industrial land use right beside a huge recreational tourist attraction defeats the purpose of preserving natural beauty. Overall, during my trip to the heart of Toronto, I was able to obtain a well rounded perspective of the city life and the urban planning put into the construction of a city, while thoroughly comparing the suburbs and the urban settlements.

Reflecting Upon My Trip

Walking through downtown Toronto has exposed me to many aspects of urban planning, land uses, and how it all plays out in a real city. I used my already existing knowledge of land uses and applied it to justified the placement, significance and purpose of many land uses throughout downtown. I realized throughout my trip that there is more to a city than just a bunch of really tall buildings that function for the economy. There's that preservation of culture and the environment that makes Toronto one of a kind.

I also realized how communities are altered and modified to meet the needs of the residents through economic development and growth. These adjustments are divided into the following categories: cultural, economic, social, environmental and political. For example, the intersection near the Eaton Center had a four way cross walk for pedestrians. Also, industries are built near highways as access to transportation is a necessity for the sustenance of the company. Development was prompted for Kensington Market, however the people of the area wished to preserve and cherish the character of the area. Another example is how more efficient methods of waste disposal need to be established to protect the natural beauty of the lake. Every community has different circumstances that they need to adapt accordingly to. This justifies the evident distinction between the downtown core and the Mississauga suburbs. Land is less expensive in the suburbs, which explains why the suburbs are modified with schools and community centers for the increasing amount of families.

I was able to identify the factors that contributed to such a rapid growth of economic development and industrialization. Toronto has a natural harbor, which serves as a transportation route and a tourist attraction. Lake Ontario is a very valuable natural resource of fresh water, which explains why the Europeans decided to create a settlement here. In addition, Toronto is has a variety of meeting points, such as the airport, subway, highways, railroads etc. Meeting points implies communication and the center of activities. These attributes are called site and situation factors. Urbanization continued due to the human situation factors, such as the labor force and market. The suburbs are the result of an increased population and the economic perspective of possible profits. Eventually, a suburb like Mississauga may transform into the beginnings of a city, which in turn may prompt urban sprawl. Hopefully, if there's expansion, urban planners are strategic and consider the impacts they may have.

To conclude, I gained valuable hands on knowledge by having a small tour of Toronto. This has helped me realize that everything has a domino effect, one thing affecting the other. I absorbed information by seeing examples of land uses and the comparing the urban and suburban communities.

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A short video elaborating on urban planning within a suburb-city.