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Transit expert points out what TO can learn from LA and Denver

When Toronto transit has something to learn from Los Angeles, you know something's gone wrong.

Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and director of its Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative, spoke at the Munk School of Global Affairs on February 27 about the importance of transit in the development of a mature and growing city.

He talked to Yonge Street before his presentation about some of the primary issues, and as it turns out, both Los Angeles and Denver have done some things Puentes figures other growing cities, like Toronto, can learn from.

"The main thing," Puentes says, "one would not want to do is plan in isolation; the transit for transit's sake approach. In the US, we waste a lot of money that way. Given this larger preoccupation, obsession I should say, with this shift from a consumption-based economy to something more productive, like advances manufacturing, trying to find a way to connect transit investment to those economic ends is a way to garner not just political support, but support from the general public."

Denver, he says, has planned its transit growth to match areas of projected population growth, seeing it not just as a way to get people from place to place, but to transform the city into a more productive place. And Los Angeles, long known as the city with the subway no one knows about, got two-thirds approval from voters during the recession from a mayor who made the case for extending that subway down Wilshire Boulevard to Santa Monica. Voters agreed to a half per cent increase in sales tax that’s expected to generate as much as $40 billion over the next 30 years. Voters in Denver did something similar, under a similarly good mayor, whose since has become governor.

"If we do believe that low carbon is going to be something that we're going to have to do long term," Puentes says, "not just as an environmental imperative, but as a market imperative... if these metropolitan areas are going to be economically healthy in the future, they're going to have to have options for transit that can't be car-oriented."

The other two talks in the series will be held on March 26 and April 16 at the Munk School from 4pm to 6pm.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Robert Puentes

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.

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