Futurist: Toronto in 2020
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Futurist: Toronto in 2020

Now that the dust from Toronto’s birthday parties has settled, it’s time to consider what happens next. Every day this week, Futurist offers a glimpse of the Toronto that is to come.

View Torontoist’s 2020 Toronto map (2.5 MB .PDF)

The Toronto of 2020 will be a different, but recognizable place. Between now and 2020, immigration will have made the world’s most multicultural city even more diverse, new building projects will have altered the city’s landscape, and Transit City will have broken down many of the city’s spatial barriers.

The City’s Urban Development Services Department predicts that by 2020 the GTA’s population will have ballooned to 6.9 million, and that Toronto itself will have grown to approximately 2.9 million [PDF]. Most of this growth will have come from the immigration of visible minorities, who will account for 47.9 to 53.4 per cent of the GTA. Although Toronto will have grown by thirteen per cent, the city is confident that it can add another 187,226 households capable of housing more than 400,000 people [PDF].


Minority demographic statistics are from Statistics Canada.

Over the next decade, Toronto’s population will continue to age. The city’s workforce will be primarily composed of visible minorities. The median age of the city’s visible minority population will be a youthful 35.5, compared to 43.4 for Caucasians. The jobs available to Toronto’s new workforce will have also changed. Toronto’s primary industry, manufacturing, and trade industry jobs will be almost gone, while most of the city’s new jobs will have been created in the business, finance, and retail sectors [PDF].


Income statistics and forecasts are from David Hulchanski’s report: The Three Cities within Toronto: Income Polarization among Toronto neighbourhoods, 1970-2000.

If we believe the predictions in David Hulchanski’s report, The Three Cities within Toronto: Income Polarization among Toronto neighbourhoods, 1970-2000 [PDF], the loss of Toronto’s blue-collar jobs will also bring an end to the city’s mixed income neighbourhoods. According to Hulchanski, in 2020 the city will be divided essentially into high income, predominantly white areas and low income, minority areas. Wealthy Torontonians will have access to the subway and all of the other benefits of the urban environment, while poor Torontonians will be trapped on the city’s fringes in pocket communities. Hulchanksi argues that to avoid this scenario, income support and housing assistance programs have to be expanded in conjunction with innovative zoning policies to rebuild Toronto’s mixed-income neighbourhoods. Service jobs will also need to start providing the wages and benefits that manufacturing and the other now defunct blue collar jobs once provided.
Other researchers have predicted a different, though equally gloomy future. Gordon Pitts, Globe and Mail business editor and the author of Stampede! The Rise of the West and Canada’s New Power Elite, predicts that Toronto’s days on top are numbered. Pitts believes that the West, led by Alberta and its vast oil wealth, will supplant Ontario as the country’s political and economic powerhouse. In Pitts’s scenario, things will have become so bleak that at least one of Canada’s major banks will have moved its headquarters from Toronto to Calgary. When oil was at $147 per barrel, Pitts’s analysis may have seemed plausible, but with oil trading at less than $50 per barrel and the world in the midst of a recession, Pitts’s analysis seems dated. One day Calgary might overtake Toronto, but not in ten years.

Photo by syncros from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

On the sunnier side of things, the Toronto of 2020 will be a lot greener, as eco-friendly buildings will have become commonplace. Toronto Community Housing will be almost finished its ninety million dollar plan to cut greenhouse gases by forty per cent, or 136,000 tonnes, in its two thousand buildings. We can also count on a more efficient power infrastructure. As part of its Project Rebuild program, Toronto Hydro has already started replacing power lines, transformers, and power stations, and it plans to have upgraded a third of its outdated equipment. Finally, if the Ontario Government continues to pursue its Green Energy Act, Toronto will be far more reliant on wind turbines, solar panels, and other sources of renewable energy for its electricity.

Artist’s conception of the new West Don Lands. Image by the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation.

On the waterfront, the West Don Lands Precinct Plan will be complete in 2020. In addition to new residential units and shops, the plan also calls for a 19.5 acre park at the mouth of the Don River [PDF]. In the downtown core, Ryerson University should be finishing up the final stages of its expansion program. This expansion might include a new academic building, university residence, or office building on the current site of the Church Street parking lot and the old business school. But we honestly don’t know. Ryerson’s Master Plan, though ambitious, is still up in the air, and probably subject to a few more alterations over the next few years.
In ten years, the TDSB will also have undergone significant changes. As part of the TDSB’s Better Schools, Brighter Futures program, the TDSB wants to eliminate schools where attendance has dropped to below sixty per cent of capacity, so it can concentrate its resources on a smaller number of modernized schools. The goal is to have an average school utilization rate of eighty per cent, with 450 students per elementary school (K-8) and 1,200 per high school. The TDSB also plans to eliminate all primary schools (K-5). Currently, the TDSB wants to shut down ninety-two schools, but considering the difficulties the TDSB has faced in the past when trying to close schools, it’s unlikely that it would manage to close so many in such a short time period.
There aren’t very many specific building projects slated for completion in 2020, but we can assume that condos and office buildings will continue to be built throughout the city and that Ontario’s Smart Growth Plan will continue to reshape Toronto’s suburban landscape. Areas like Mississauga, Brampton, and Oshawa will continue to grow, as their urban cores are transformed into more compact communities. The suburban area that will likely see the most extensive changes is Markham. The Remington Group is already working to develop a three billion dollar project that it claims will transform Markham’s downtown into a “European-style square.” The development, which won’t be finished until 2030, will add new condos, townhouses, office buildings, and retail space to Markham’s downtown.
Although the Ontario government wants to transform these cities into compact urban areas, where people can walk or cycle to work, it seems far more likely that these cities will continue to serve as hubs from which people will commute to Toronto. In fact, by 2020 Metrolinx will be entering the third stage of its Big Move transportation expansion project. In addition to the hundreds of kilometres of highways and railways already built, the project will start to extend express rail service to Cooksville and Richmond Hill and additional rapid transit services to Hamilton, Burlington, Milton, Durham, Toronto, Oshawa, and York. Another two million dollars will also be invested in three thousand kilometres of walking and cycling paths. While some of these projects are still up in the air, if Metrolinx makes Toronto more accessible, it might just undermine the goals of Ontario’s Smart Growth Plan.

Image by Stephen Michalowicz/Torontoist. Adapted from C. Livett’s 2011 Network image.

While Metrolinx will be bringing the GTA together, Transit City will be shrinking Toronto. In 2020, several new lines will open, including the Don Mills, Jane, and Scarborough-Malvern LRTs. Then of course there’s the highly speculative DRL (Downtown Relief Line). We say speculative because the TTC and the various levels of government have a rather poor history of following through on subway extensions (in 1995, the Harris government terminated the Eglinton West subway after construction had begun). The DRL, if completed, might run from Dundas West Station through the downtown core to Union, and then to Pape Station. Estimates suggest that the line would be able to move over eighteen thousand passengers an hour, which would solve some of the congestion problems associated with Bloor/Yonge Station.
By this time, the TTC will have also finished installing ATCs (Automatic Train Controls) along the entire Yonge-University-Spadina line. When complete, computers will be able to run trains ninety seconds apart and allow an additional, albeit smaller, car to be added to each subway train. In 2020, the TTC may also have started to extend the system to the Bloor-Danforth line. When they’re finished, Transit City and the TTC’s other programs will greatly alleviate Toronto’s congested streets and highways, but whether the additional transport capacity will be enough is impossible to tell.
Toronto is an evolving city that, despite its problems, has always continued to endure. While the Toronto of 2020 will have a larger population, it will also have grown in subtler ways. The massive transit projects that the TTC and Metrolinx are undertaking will extend the city’s reach, giving Torontonians and Ontarians greater access. At the same time, however, the city will have to confront its growing inequalities, so that the Toronto of the future is a city for everyone, and not just a playground for the wealthy.
Research compiled by Hamutal Dotan, Jerad Gallinger, Stephen Michalowicz, and Kevin Plummer. “Toronto in 2020” master map created by Brenda Petroff; all graphs created by Stephen Michalowicz/David Topping.