Three Eras of Planning

This article is adapted from a presentation I gave on February 26, 2014, to Paul Bedford’s planning class at Ryerson University.  Paul’s students have a term assignment to design a plan for the GTA in 2067 (as well as other papers along the way).  They will work in teams, just as real-world planners would, and have to consider many factors that would inform a 50-year plan.

The date was chosen to be far enough in the future that the students would have to live with the theoretical consequences, and also because it is Canada’s bicentennial year.  2067 is also well beyond the horizon of many plans already sitting in libraries requiring consideration of what lies beyond work already done.

With this as a starting point, I realized that there are two eras roughly the same length in my own history.  One is the post WWII period during which I was born, grew up and have lived my life as a transit advocate (among many other hats).  One is the era from the 1890s to the 1940s that was dominated by the growth of public transit, but eclipsed by the automotive industry especially after the war.  The tension between the first and second eras, between two views of private and public transport, underlies all of the planning debates we have today, and will be central to any plans for the third era, the next fifty years.

Apologies to those who have seen some of my previous talks on the evolution of transit in Toronto.  Some illustrations are good as examples of certain developments, and I am constrained by material available in the City Archives and other online collections, as well as material in my own library.  It is not unknown for academics to recycle material for lectures, and I am following a well-worn path.

Many thanks to Paul Bedford for the invitation to speak to his class, and to his students for their interest.

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