Futurist: Toronto in 2030 and Beyond
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Futurist: Toronto in 2030 and Beyond

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.

It’s hard to know quite what Toronto will look like by 2030. Detailed plans become harder to formulate the further into the future one goes: contingencies multiply upon contingencies, and predictions are rendered ever more tenuous. There are, however, some trends that seem fair to anticipate and some others that are fair to hope for.

Graph courtesy of the City of Toronto.

Toronto will continue to grow, but it will be outpaced by its surrounding regions and by York Region especially. Toronto now comprises roughly 46% of the GTA as measured by population; by 2031 that will have shrunk to 40%. The GTA will have roughly seven and a half million residents, and Toronto about three million. By contrast, Toronto will more than outpace all the surrounding regions in terms of employment growth and will retain a leading share of jobs in the GTA. Despite this, Toronto’s GDP growth rate is projected to decline gradually, going from 4.9% in the period from 1996 to 2001 to under 2% as we approach 2031.
As the regions around Toronto and the GTA grow, so too will our need for an integrated transit system that makes travelling throughout southern Ontario a swift and painless endeavour. The later stages of the Metrolinx plan call for a coherent approach to regional transit, and prominent local thinkers have also been emphasizing its importance. The ultimate goal is to connect the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Niagara region, and the Kitchener-Waterloo region with a single efficient network of high-speed trains.
With a new downtown hub for emerging and digital technologies, Toronto will have, by 2030, successfully navigated the transition to a new economy and may prove to be a leader in this field. Discussions for a collaborative program in digital media are now underway between Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Waterloo. Should those plans materialize, Ryerson’s Master Plan may well have itself expanded to include further densification of its campus. Without space to expand outward it will simply build up, adding new towers to existing low- and mid-rise buildings.

Map, showing areas of population growth and decline, from the City of Toronto.

Densification will have become the guiding first principle of urban development—under increasing pressure from sustainably minded Torontonians, it is likely that successive Ontario governments will strengthen legislation protecting the Greenbelt, curtailing sprawl and ensuring the population growth is contained within our existing geographic footprint. According to Ontario’s Smart Growth plan, the most densely populated areas in the GTA will have 400 residents and jobs per hectare. The list of those nerve-centres: downtown Toronto, Yonge-Eglinton, Etobicoke Centre, North York Centre, Scarborough Centre. Likewise, our schools will have become more densely populated, as the TDSB wraps up a concerted consolidation effort. The traditional model of the neighbourhood school within walking distance of every home may vanish, though this may lead to more TTC-savvy kids riding the rails and fitter kids riding their bikes.
Densification is one way of trying to keep our city’s growth environmentally sustainable; many other strategies will be employed as well. Toronto has a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, a goal that will necessitate taking serious emission-reduction measures decades in advance. Early indications are that district energy and deep lake water cooling—environmentally sustainable energy projects undertaken by Enwave—will be favoured in many of the city’s newer developments; other technologies will also no doubt emerge.

Photo by tomms from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

There are, of course, so many more things that will be going on. Some neighbourhoods will have become gentrified, and others will have fallen into disrepair; political landscapes will shift and our relationship with the rest of the country will change alongside; public spaces will become commercialized and then reclaimed from commercialization. Hell, the Leafs might even win a Stanley Cup again. That’s part of the fun—not knowing just how things will turn out. City-building is a collective venture, subject to the whims, inspirations, successes, and failures of more stakeholders than we can count, its two and a half million citizens prime among them. We can do no more than hint at what is to come.
Research compiled by Hamutal Dotan, Jerad Gallinger, Stephen Michalowicz, and Kevin Plummer.