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04.17.15 – Dean Richard Sommer talks transit, suburbs, and the commuter experience in U of T Magazine Q&A

Last fall Dean Richard Sommer spoke to U of T News writer Brianna Goldberg about regional transit, the commuter experience and the urban-suburban divide. A portion of the interview, which was featured on U of T’s Cities Podcast, was recently published in U of T Magazine.

“For many Torontonians, the daily commute is a spirit-crusher,” reads to introduction to the Q&A, “but what if it could enrich your life instead?”

Sommer argues that when the debate around transit is narrowly focused on how to simply move people from A to B, we often “fail to ask questions about the overall network experience we are trying to build, who we’re building it for, and what the bigger picture looks like.” In other words how does our transit system affect our quality of life?

The interview also discusses the book Huburbs, which the Daniels Faculty published in partnership with Metrolinx, the provincial agency that helps coordinate transportation infrastructure in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Huburbs looks at the inconvenient-to-access and often-ugly transit hubs in the outer GTA,” explains Sommer. “It uses complex documentation analysis and visually sophisticated models to explore how these hubs could be lively and enriching, instead of barren platforms surrounded by parking lots and vacant space.”

On the urban-suburban divide, Sommer argues it’s not always helpful to label one place a suburb and another a city. “It really has to do with the level of maturation of the geography in question,” he says. “It’s all urbanization, and some of the most interesting and diverse areas, culturally, are in what some think of as a suburb.”

For the full Q&A, visit the U of T Magazine website.