Toronto is such a rich city with streetcars that have been discarded by almost every other North American city. High Park in Toronto is a great respite from the city, with a feel that is more intimate and less playground like Grant Park in Chicago. Christie Pitts Park is another unique park, sunk below the city so that people can have fun but feel somewhat removed from the urban landscape. Absolute World in Mississauga is high density, something suburbs need, especially Mississauga which is the textbook definition of sprawl.
In a way Toronto and Chicago are very similar: they are both comparable in size, similar in layout with a dense core and sprawling outskirts, and they are both located on a Great Lake. They are also obsessed with lakefront condo development, although Toronto does not treat its lakefront with as much respect as Chicago. Chicago has the 18 mile lakefront trail, and Lake Shore Drive is much more attractive than the Gardiner Expressway. The quality of life, however, is drastically different. People choose not to live in Toronto because they just want to get out of the city, not because they are fleeing a broken system. Unlike Chicago, Toronto has found a way to live with a lakefront airport that places people at the foot of downtown. Going from Midtown Manhattan to Downtown Toronto is a piece of cake. Toronto is viewed as the New York of Canada, but this is entirely fair considering it is the largest city.
The Toronto Subway may be old, but that does not mean it is unpleasant. The cars are bright and roomy, the subway runs every five minutes even late at night, and now they are introducing modern rail cars with (gasp!) articulated joints allowing access to the entire length of the train. Compared to the Chicago L or the New York City Subway the TTC does have some advantages, although New York is doing a pretty good job keeping up with technology with their rail cars. The Chicago L continues to play catchup, stubbornly sticking to their faux wood grain paneling and two doors per rail car. The Toronto Subway also seems to take safety a lot more seriously, with bright yellow panic devices everywhere. Every station has a brightly lit designated waiting area where the conductor’s car stops. And Toronto has introduced a smart fare system that is compatible with subway and commuter rail while Chicago clings to its punch tickets. Onward!