Parking won’t save Lansdowne

The more I think about Lansdowne—think critically about it—the more pessimistic, cynical and a little angry I get about it. It’s an urban-style theme park built for a suburban audience and it’s totally draining the neighbourhood. Management is a mix of dishonesty and incompetence with an occasional sprinkling of low-key hostility.

So it’s really better for my mental and emotional health that I avoid thinking too deeply on the matter. Alas.

On Mother’s Day, the family headed over to Lansdowne. Despite everything I just wrote, it was almost perfect. We were able to grab a quick lunch at Whole Foods (the sushi was good if a tad over-priced for the portion size), buy a chair at Structube and make our 2:00 reservation at Cacao 70…all before I led a Jane’s Walk. (There was also a surprise performance by a string ensemble and choir at the Farmer’s Market that was absolutely fantastic.)

It was at Whole Foods that the most recent revelation occurred.

Ever since opening this “Urban Village”, OSEG and the city have been working to make it more car-centric and, as a predictable result, more hostile to bicyclists and pedestrians. OSEG desperately wanted car traffic. Apparently the “Urban Village” could work without a suburban transportation model. Lovely.

They’ve done a lot to accomplish this. The LCBO and Whole Foods offered validated parking right off the bat (breaking a promise make by OSEG). Parking has been tolerated in Aberdeen Plaza and many other non-car places. This past winter, OSEG started offering validated parking during weekday lunch hours.

If you’ve been to Lansdowne, you know it hasn’t really helped. Any amount of critical thought would have brought you to the conclusion that turning the place into a park-anywhere, car-centric big box mall would do nothing for animating the place.

And now we have some tangible proof.

On our Mother’s Day outing, my wife noted that Whole Foods now validates parking for 90 minutes for as little as a $10 purchase. It used to be you got an hour for twenty bucks.

If parking is popular and businesses rely on it, you wouldn’t see this change. If you’re truly worried about getting all your parking customers a spot, you’re worried about turnover. You need those spots changing hands. You’re not offering people more time for less money.

We’ve had almost two years of Lansdowne with its pro-parking policies, and still it’s not working. Still companies are trying to use it to get people out. They’re not building an amenable locale for hanging out. They’re not building a place for people (and, in case anyone was wondering, people attract people; parking doesn’t). They’re just trying the same thing at a lower price.

Guess what? It’s not going to help. It might—might—help Whole Foods, but any uptick they see will just be at the expense of the rest of the park, and the area. Parking has failed. People look for parking when they want to be somewhere. They don’t go somewhere for the joy of parking.

It’s time for OSEG and the city to get out of its suburban mindset. Lansdowne will never actually succeed in the manner they’re running it. They need a re-think. They need a different philosophy. They need people with a different vision and a better understanding of city life. They don’t need Whole Foods selling more parking time for less money.

And, really, who takes 90 minutes to spend $10 at Whole Foods. Perhaps they need to just be honest about it and admit that they’re getting into the parking business.

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