Submitted by: Tony Redington
Over six miles of car-free, mostly urban underground pathway with year-round climate control - what Toronto resident and urbanologist Jane Jacobs would likely admit is the ultimate form of attrition of the automobile on urban space.
The miles of underground span from the near the CN Tower to the south to a point just beyond Eaton's cavernous shopping area northerly. Major bank buildings with all types of internal design, a hotel once the largest in the British Empire (Royal York), City government center, Union Station, CBC heaquarters and programming center, Roy Thomson concern hall, and all the thousands of shops and businesses below and above ground fully accessible and insulated from exhaust along with the "great north" weather patterns.
What Makes Toronto Underground a Great Place?
With a free map for users, the "Path" with ubiquitous signing above, guides users throughout otherwise directionaless spaces--alterantive routing near stairways enables handicapped access. It is accessed by all forms surface transportation--bike, train, walking, subway, stretcar, boat. Like all large urban areas, there are "neighborhoods" reflecting the services (retail, hotel, transportation, etc.), the businesses and other employment centers (banking, government, etc.), or activities (entertainent, nearby sports centers, etc.). For kids there are the waterfalls, benches, small climbing spaces, escalators, and the unlimited byways throughout the area accessed.
Comfort perhaps best describes the underground--even during the high intensity pedestrian traffic at a.m. and p.m. commuter "walk" times. Food courts dotted along the Path and food shops provide plenty of places to stop and watch or divert to internal architectual marvels--old and new contained in the various buildings along the Path. There is a general feeling of safety, as there is in any Canadian city day or night. Very clean with not a single vehicle to be seen.
The activities in range, age, gender and group size--are literally unlimited. Want to watch the Canada's "Today" show in person (often no one others!), access the subway or rail trip, go to a concert, stay at a hotel, shop, watch government, sample cheap eats or gourmet meals--all that and more are available. All this and never go outside...and professional sports--hockey, football, baseball, basketball--all are just a few hundred feet at most from the exits of the Path. For a family it is a fun challenge to find one's way end to end on the Pathway.
If there is a stream of life, then the Toronto Underground reflects it. Ethnic enclaves are not apparent, but diversity of community, activities, and services are there to experience. Yes, there are regulars at certain restaurants, food courts--the older generation observing those coming along, and the mothers with kids on a shopping outing. When it comes the warmth of Toronto natives in the Underground, one can compare the warmth of Vancouverites, the relative coldness of Montreal, and find Toronto and the Underground local population as in the middle.