Media Releases

U of T Cities Podcast Ep. 4 Future Cities

October 27, 2014

Featuring Richard Florida, Patricia McCarney, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Meric Gertler

This final elec­tion-focused episode fea­tures U of T experts Kathryn Kuiten­brouw­er, Richard Flori­da, Patri­cia McCar­ney and Mer­ic Gertler, as they envi­sion cities of the future through lit­er­a­ture, schol­ar­ship and more. Full sto­ry and more at .

Ear­li­er episodes in the series looked at the future of traf­fic, tran­sit and sus­tain­able cities through research and entre­pre­neur­ship com­ing to life at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.




[Sting: This is the U of T Cities pod­cast. Brought to you by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to]


(Music up)


Let’s start with a pho­to­graph. A gleam­ing lake. A scat­ter­ing of build­ings. And, at the cen­tre, a dome, and a pointy tow­er shoot­ing straight up from it, dwarf­ing every­thing below.


Peo­ple the world over rec­og­nize the icon­ic shapes of the Toron­to sky­line. But how much longer will Toronto’s sky­line look like this? And does that sky­line even describe Toron­to any­more, any­way? When you live here, when you come here, this two-dimen­sion­al cut-out trans­forms. But into what?


This is the U of T Cities pod­cast, I’m Bri­an­na Gold­berg.


Ear­li­er in this series we met U of T researchers and entre­pre­neurs build­ing the future of traf­fic, tran­sit and sus­tain­able cities.


They told us about new types of vehi­cles, new types of economies, new dreams of tran­sit  as they push at the edge of issues polar­iz­ing this election’s can­di­dates.


And now, as vot­ing results roll in, we’re in the midst of a new era for the city.


So in the final episode of this elec­tion-focused minis­eries, we’re going to think big­ger, go far­ther, be wilder as we talk with U of T thought lead­ers who can already see the future of Toron­to. They’ll give us a view – or a sketch, any­way – of the chang­ing nature of cities in our world.


Lat­er in the pod­cast we’ll check in with Richard Flori­da. Direc­tor at U of T’s Mar­tin Pros­per­i­ty Insti­tute and senior edi­tor at The Atlantic mag­a­zine. The con­cept of the ‘cre­ative class’– where inno­v­a­tive engi­neers artists, and design­ers dri­ve change in economies? That was his idea.


And today, he’ll explain how new class divi­sions in places like Toron­to are remak­ing the struc­ture of cities world­wide – and for decades to come.


We’ll also hear from Patri­cia McCar­ney. She’s a polit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor and direc­tor of the Glob­al Cities Insti­tute at U of T. And she’ll describe a new project mak­ing it pos­si­ble for cities to mea­sure against each oth­er – for the first time ever – when it comes to data on air pol­lu­tion, water clean­li­ness and more. It’s a huge under­tak­ing, set­ting stan­dards for cities – but it’s hand­ing urban cen­tres the pow­er to make glob­al change.


Also ahead, Mer­ic Gertler — U of T’s pres­i­dent and an expert in the geog­ra­phy of inno­va­tion. He’ll explain why Toron­to needs this uni­ver­si­ty, and vice ver­sa, and why you’ll see both the city and the uni­ver­si­ty  tak­ing a bold, glob­al lead both now and in the decades ahead.


But first, let’s turn the page on the sto­ry of Toron­to.




So far in this series we’ve talked to geo­g­ra­phers and engi­neers and polit­i­cal sci­en­tists and archi­tects. But it’s the artists who doc­u­ment the dra­ma, the fric­tion of chang­ing cities, in ways that get remem­bered.


[Kathryn intro]


Kuiten­brouw­er is a best-sell­ing author – and both a PhD stu­dent and some­time cre­ative writ­ing instruc­tor here at U of T. Her lat­est book, All the Bro­ken Things, is about a boy who wres­tles bears… even though the sto­ry is set in typ­i­cal­ly bear-free Toron­to.


I was imag­in­ing it actu­al­ly out of town and I was think­ing I would write this nov­el set in Grims­by or some­where in the coun­try out­side of Toron­to. And I was kind of gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion and one of the things that I do when I research is I watch movies and there are a few movies about bears that was at the Local Junc­tion Video Store which doesn’t exist any­more, on Jane Street. And I was stand­ing in line with the video in my hands and this man said “oh, what’s that?” I showed it to him and he said “you know what’s real­ly inter­est­ing about it is that I used to bear-wres­tle.” And I imme­di­ate­ly knew that the sto­ry was set in The Junc­tion because I thought, oh, it’s a city sto­ry and some­how this bear cub that the boy was wrestling moved from this coun­try place, this like farm, to this back porch in this lit­tle ram­shackle cot­tagey kind of house in The Junc­tion.


The Junc­tion. It’s the area north of High Park. It used to be called work­ing class. But as the city grows out, it’s gen­tri­fy­ing at hyper-speed.


Kuitenbrouwer’s sto­ry, about bear-wrestling and eth­nic ten­sions in the neigh­bour­hood – plus some much dark­er bits of Ontario his­to­ry – bucks the idea of a sim­ply urban Toron­to. It talks about a city where nature and urban spaces com­bine. Where ‘the city’ is so much more than just ‘the down­town core.’


We’ve heard about the idea of a hybrid city again and again through this minis­eries – when it comes to the future of tran­sit plan­ning and vehi­cles on the roads.


But of course it’s hap­pen­ing in the sto­ries we tell, too – gone are the tales of parochial old Toron­to the Good. Kuiten­brouw­er and oth­er authors at U of T are bring­ing our future city to life in sto­ries reflect­ing a city as wild as it is, as wild as it can be.


(music out)


I grew up in the coun­try out­side of Ottawa and I’ve always had an affin­i­ty for ani­mals and so the first sto­ries that I start­ed to write about Toron­to, these ani­mals were seep­ing in. And I mean of course because The Junc­tion is bor­dered on the south by High Park, this mas­sive green space in Toron­to, and bor­dered on the west by the Hum­ber Riv­er and all the park­ways that run through there. And on the north, even though it’s not real­ly nom­i­nal­ly a green space, the rail line which is kind of a con­duit for ani­mals too, there are con­stant­ly ani­mals in the neigh­bour­hood. When we first moved to the High Park area I fell asleep to crick­et sounds, which is some­thing that I hadn’t expe­ri­enced at all when I had lived clos­er to down­town. And I’ve seen fox­es run­ning up Clen­den­nen and I’ve seen deer on the Hum­ber, and I’ve seen coy­otes. I’m wait­ing to see an actu­al bear but peo­ple keep say­ing they haven’t actu­al­ly spot­ted a bear but they feel as if they might when they walk in High Park now that they’ve read my book. The ani­mals were already kind of in the space and I lever­aged them, so they already were there. In a way, we say encroach­ment, and it’s us of course encroach­ing on their ter­ri­to­ry. We’ve pushed back the city, we’ve built sub­urbs and we’ve tak­en over their habi­tat and so they don’t have any­where to go but kind of come back this way. I love the fact that they’re com­ing back into the city and I want des­per­ate­ly for the city to not only acknowl­edge but hon­our the fact that these ani­mals can live here and in the sort or sur­vival way of can-lit to kind of not be as scared of what is con­sid­ered wild, you know the north­ern vision of man against nature, which always struck me even as a young per­son as absurd. Because of course we are actu­al­ly a bit nature, you know we are part of it, we’re not sep­a­rate from it. One of the ear­li­er sto­ries, a sto­ry that was pub­lished in Grana­ta has this sce­nario where a young woman and a young man are in a rela­tion­ship, and the man loves the woman for in excess of the way that she feels about him. And the more he loves her the more ambiva­lent she is. And the more ambiva­lent she is the more stray fer­al dogs fol­low her and they’re men­ac­ing the sit­u­a­tion all the time. I stole those dogs from Rus­sia and I stole them pre­cise­ly because I want­ed to bring ele­ments of the end of the Cold War into what seems to me a glob­al space Toron­to could be, a kind of glob­al space. So when the Cold War end­ed, a lot of Russ­ian fam­i­lies couldn’t afford to keep pets any­more and so they just let their dogs out on the street and these dogs have obvi­ous­ly repro­duced, and they’ve formed packs and they’ve fig­ured out how to use the sub­way sys­tem. There are these amaz­ing YouTube videos, if peo­ple are inter­est­ed they should look them up, of dogs lis­ten­ing for the sub­way dri­ver announc­ing the stop, and they just like become alert when their stop is called, and they get up and they trot out because they know, for instance, that there may be a bak­er there who’s will­ing to give them a loaf of bread. Or there might be a butch­er who will throw a bone at them. So I just want­ed to kind of col­lide Rus­sia right into Toron­to. I hope more peo­ple write about Toron­to, because in a sense the more writ­ers embody the space the  more it becomes what­ev­er it hap­pens to be. And I think that a space is both there, but it’s also a space in which we have fan­ta­sy and a space in which we have expe­ri­ences that are only pos­si­ble in lit­er­a­ture.


(music in)


That was Kathryn Kuiten­brouw­er. She’s an author, an Eng­lish lit PhD stu­dent and has taught more than 40 cre­ative writ­ing cours­es as part of con­tin­u­ing stud­ies at U of T.


Her lat­est book is called All the Bro­ken Things, it’s pub­lished by Ran­dom House Cana­da. Learn more at


Speak­ing of High Park and green space, the news site is where you can also learn about the university’s work in urban forestry, U of T’s sus­tain­abil­i­ty office, and find a whole pod­cast episode about build­ing sus­tain­able cities.


Lat­er in this episode, we’ll get a phone mes­sage from U of T’s Pres­i­dent Mer­ic Gertler – live from Brazil.


Also com­ing up, Patri­cia McCar­ney explains how her work devel­op­ing city data stan­dards for things like air pol­lu­tion – and, pos­si­bly, bear pop­u­la­tions.


But first, with neigh­bour­hoods like the Junc­tion gen­tri­fy­ing – where will Toronto’s work­ing class go? We’ll hear more about exact­ly who will live where in the city of the future.




Richard Flori­da is… every­where. He’s a pro­lif­ic author – you’ve seen his work in the New York Times, The Atlantic mag­a­zine and City Lab, the Globe and Mail and more. His think­ing on social and eco­nom­ic the­o­ry result­ed, among oth­er things, in a wild­ly pop­u­lar book called The Rise of the Cre­ative Class. You’ll often see him on TV offer­ing insights into the growth and change of urban spaces. But above all he is a lover of cities. Both the real, phys­i­cal spaces – and the ideas behind them.


Flori­da directs U of T’s Mar­tin Pros­per­i­ty Insti­tute. That’s where he and some col­leagues crunched the num­bers to arrive at a new vision for cities as class con­tin­ues to dri­ve mas­sive change.


[Music out]


What we’re find­ing is that our cities in met­ro­pol­i­tan areas are increas­ing­ly divid­ed, not only by income, but by the kinds of work we do, by socioe­co­nom­ic class. And those divides are tak­ing shape around three or four things. The afflu­ent knowl­edge work­ers tend to be the ones that are mov­ing back to the cen­ter of the city. We’re col­o­niz­ing the most eco­nom­i­cal­ly func­tion­al, dens­est neigh­bour­hoods close to work. And often­times the areas that used to be fac­to­ry build­ings or office build­ings are now turned into res­i­dences, lofts and con­do tow­ers for these peo­ple. They’re col­o­niz­ing the areas around knowl­edge insti­tu­tions like the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. A house in a place like The Annex used to be the equivalent…three or four families…now one rich fam­i­ly comes in and buys that and turns it into a three or four or five thousand…in New York now we’re see­ing peo­ple tak­ing over large build­ings, fac­to­ry build­ings, and for­mer apart­ment build­ings, and turn­ing them into 10,000 plus square foot homes with garages for their cars. You’d have to be some unfath­omably wealthy to do that. And then along any­thing that looks like a vibrant water­front. Any great water­front in any great city, whether that’s Los Ange­les or Mia­mi, a city that had quite endem­ic pover­ty, but along that bay-front and ocean­front, come these gleam­ing tow­ers of advan­tage. And what’s hap­pen­ing of course is the work­ing class has almost dis­ap­peared. Quite trag­i­cal­ly. My dad was a fac­to­ry work­er in Newark, New Jer­sey, in the great Iron­bound sec­tion. Quite trag­i­cal­ly these work­ing class neigh­bour­hoods have near com­plete­ly dis­ap­peared. And not just from Toronto’s water­front and from Toronto’s indus­tri­al neigh­bour­hoods, from the Port Lands and the Don Lands and all this, in every city we’ve looked at. Boston which once had a great work­ing class. Detroit. And then these ser­vice groups, these low income groups are being pushed fur­ther and fur­ther out into the sub­urbs. And then to just make this in the most point­ed way I can, we’re no longer see­ing a city where the urban core is poor and the sub­urbs are advan­taged and rich. Nor do we see nec­es­sar­i­ly, what some peo­ple call a great inver­sion, where all the rich peo­ple move back to the city and pover­ty shifts to the sub­urbs. What we’re see­ing, we call it a patch­work or a quilt, of con­cen­trat­ed advan­taged next door to con­cen­trat­ed dis­ad­van­taged, and where the urban and sub­ur­ban blur. And our new metrop­o­lis is one of frac­tals, of frac­tures, of advan­taged and dis­ad­van­taged liv­ing side-by-side. And that’s quite trag­ic because just as the good mid­dle-class fac­to­ry jobs have been tak­en out of our econ­o­my and labour mar­ket, so have those good mid­dle class neigh­bour­hoods that so many peo­ple, like my very own par­ents, aspired to. They are fad­ing as well.


Bri­an­na Gold­berg: So we’re talk­ing about patch­works, we’re talk­ing about blur­ring. I don’t know how far you can see into the future, but what are glob­al cities going to look like?


Richard Flori­da: Look, we’re going to put bil­lions more peo­ple around the world in cities. We have 3½ bil­lion peo­ple in cities now. Some esti­mates are say­ing we’ll end up as world pop­u­la­tion increas­es to its peak, say out to 2100 or 2150, and the rate of urban­iza­tion which is about half of us today, goes out to about 75% or 80% or 90%, sev­en, eight, nine bil­lion more peo­ple in cities. So just think about that. And most of those are not going to be com­ing to Toron­to, although Toron­to is going to grow nice­ly, or New York or Lon­don. They’re going to be pop­u­lat­ing the new­ly-built or rapid­ly expand­ing cities of the emerg­ing world, I think, accord­ing to one esti­mate that’s pret­ty good, prob­a­bly put 7 or 8 bil­lion peo­ple in those cities in the new­ly emerg­ing world, devel­op­ing world, and less than 1 bil­lion in the cities in the advanced world. A cen­tu­ry ago who could’ve imag­ined a city of 5 mil­lion peo­ple. New York, when you took Brook­lyn and Man­hat­tan and put them togeth­er, there were less than 2 mil­lion rough­ly at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry. Nev­er mind a city of 10 or 20 or now 30 mil­lion peo­ple. I think the Tokyo metrop­o­lis is 35 mil­lion, New York is 25 mil­lion, Mex­i­co City is a lit­tle big­ger than that. Places in India are even larg­er. And then not just cities, but we call them the mega-regions. A good exam­ple of that is the area that stretch­es from Boston to New York to Wash­ing­ton, which is now 50 mil­lion peo­ple and 2 tril­lion dol­lars in eco­nom­ic out­put. The Shang­hai-Bei­jing Corridor…now we’re going to prob­a­bly be look­ing at places that are con­cen­trat­ed urban spheres that are 100 mil­lion peo­ple. So are cities are going to grow much big­ger, they’re going to grow much taller, they’re going to grow much denser. And tak­ing this back to Toron­to, this is the gran chal­lenge Toron­to faces. Toron­to is now a met­ro­pol­i­tan area of say 5½ to 6 mil­lion peo­ple, depend­ing on how you cal­i­brate that. When you look around the world, as a met­ro­pol­i­tan area hits that thresh­old of 5½ to 6 and cer­tain­ly 8 to 10 mil­lion peo­ple, they just stop grow­ing. The rea­son they stop grow­ing is this old car depen­dence sprawl­ing mod­el, go and build cheap stuff, cheap infra­struc­ture, cheap hous­es, cheap roads, and expand to the periph­ery. It just stops work­ing. As any­one in Toron­to knows, the place is cap­tured by grid­lock. You can’t get any­where. Road rage in on the rise. The war on the car, the war on the bike. A place like Toron­to, if it wants to be a glob­al city, and obvi­ous­ly we now have more than half our peo­ple com­ing here from for­eign coun­tries so we are a glob­al city, it has to rethink its growth mod­el. And the rea­son New York City could grow to 8 mil­lion or 9 mil­lion peo­ple, and the rea­son the met­ro­pol­i­tan area could grow to 20 or 25 mil­lion is because of a mas­sive invest­ment in tran­sit, an exten­sive sub­way sys­tem, an exten­sive rail sys­tem, an exten­sive net­work of tran­sit. It’s eas­i­er for me to get to La Guardia or Newark Air­port from Low­er Man­hat­tan than it is for me to get to Porter Air­port or Pear­son Air­port from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. That’s ter­ri­fy­ing. So we real­ly have to grow dif­fer­ent­ly and I think that’s what’s so vex­ing about this elec­tion. When I look at this elec­tion I see it as a fight between a Toron­to that wants to con­tin­ue to sprawl and a Toron­to that wants to grow in a dif­fer­ent way. And unfor­tu­nate­ly, I think the appeal of this old­er way of life, the appeal of the sub­ur­ban home and the pri­vate car, espe­cial­ly to new Cana­di­ans who are com­ing here for oppor­tu­ni­ty, they want a stake in a new coun­try, they want to fol­low the Cana­di­an dream, they want their piece of the pie, what peo­ple don’t real­ize is you can’t give that any­more. My dad, in the 1950s after he came back from World War Two and worked in that fac­to­ry, he moved out­side of Newark, New Jer­sey to this place called North Arling­ton, quite close by. They had a Chevro­let Impala, they had a small mod­est lit­tle cape cod house. Boy, he felt like he’d achieved the Amer­i­can dream. But you can’t get that any­more. We have to have a new dream which is much more urban and peo­ple liv­ing dif­fer­ent­ly. And I think for us, that means that tran­sit, invest­ing in tran­sit, begin­ning to real­ly increase our den­si­ty, under­stand­ing that we can’t just con­tin­ue to sprawl, are the key fea­tures. And I think that’s what the debate is. When I look at Tory ver­sus Ford ver­sus Chow, that’s real­ly the dimen­sions of that debate today.


[Music in]


That was Richard Flori­da, direc­tor of the Mar­tin Pros­per­i­ty Insti­tute at U of T. To learn more, head to


This idea that Flori­da brings up about the rise of tran­sit – it’s some­thing very much on the minds of urban the­o­rists at the Glob­al Cities con­fer­ence that just wrapped up in Sao Paulo, Brazil.


U of T’s pres­i­dent and chief cities expert was there – and want­ed you to feel like you were, too. So he called in with the lat­est news on trans­porta­tion pol­i­cy.


This is Mer­ic Gert­er and I’m in Sao Paulo, Brazil where I’m par­tic­i­pat­ing in a Glob­al Cities con­fer­ence orga­nized by the Fac­ul­ty at U of T, togeth­er with their col­leagues at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sao Paulo. We’re here to iden­ti­fy impor­tant research projects to be under­tak­en by fac­ul­ty and stu­dents at our two uni­ver­si­ties. And we’re focus­ing our dis­cus­sion on 4 themes. The uni­ver­si­ty and its rela­tion­ship to the city, urban infra­struc­ture, resilience and sus­tain­abil­i­ty, healthy cities, and the social and eco­nom­ic chal­lenges of glob­al cities. The dis­cus­sions have been very stim­u­lat­ing and pro­duc­tive. In fact this morn­ing I learned some­thing fas­ci­nat­ing lis­ten­ing to the pre­sen­ta­tion by one of our col­leagues at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sao Paulo. He talked about the wide­spread demon­stra­tions in the city in the sum­mer of 2013, fol­low­ing an announce­ment by the city gov­ern­ment that they were plan­ning to increase tran­sit fares by the equiv­a­lent of ten cents a ride. In response to the wide­spread unrest, the city decid­ed to change its course of action, and instead to dou­ble-down on alter­na­tive trans­porta­tion modes. In par­tic­u­lar cycling. So the city of Sao Paulo cur­rent­ly has some­thing like 154 kilo­me­tres of new bicy­cle lanes, and that includes over 60 kilo­me­tres that they built in the last year alone. More­over, their plans are to reach a total of 400 kilo­me­tres of cycling lanes through­out the city by 2015. There seems to be wide­spread sup­port for this ini­tia­tive across the city where cycling is clear­ly now cool. So per­haps Toron­to can learn some­thing from Sao Paulo’s expe­ri­ence as it thinks about how to respond to its own trans­porta­tion chal­lenges.



That was Mer­ic Gertler, pres­i­dent of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. We’ll hear more from him lat­er in the pod­cast.


But first, if you want to get bet­ter, you have to mea­sure up. Set­ting bench­marks to build cities of the future, with Patri­cia McCar­ney…




It seems like some­thing that should have already exist­ed: a tool for a city like Toron­to to look at a sim­i­lar city, like Chica­go, and say, “What are they doing bet­ter than us? And how can we learn from them?” Com­par­i­son. It’s a sim­ple way to build more live­able cities.


But there hasn’t been a way to accu­rate­ly com­pare data from one city to anoth­er. Until now.


I’m Patri­cia McCar­ney and I’m a Pro­fes­sor of Polit­i­cal Sci­ence but I’m trained as a Plan­ner teach­ing in Polit­i­cal Sci­ence about the cities. I’m also the Direc­tor of the Glob­al Cities Insti­tute here at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and in addi­tion to that I’m now the Pres­i­dent and CEO of some­thing called the World Coun­cil on City Data.


McCar­ney and her team at U of T’s Glob­al Cities Insti­tute brought togeth­er data from a wide range of coun­tries. And with help from cities, indus­try, aca­d­e­mics and oth­ers, they built a first-of-its-kind sys­tem to com­pare city data… and to set inter­na­tion­al stan­dards on it.


Inter­na­tion­al stan­dards. You know, like the kind on your oven or your smartphone…Sounds a bit… dry. But in this case, it’s down­right polit­i­cal. These stan­dards will be the fuel for evi­dence-informed debate as cit­i­zens and pol­i­cy mak­ers fight for smarter cities and smarter change.


[music out]


Most data is built by nation­al insti­tu­tions, nation­al gov­ern­ment, nation­al sta­tis­tics agen­cies, but it’s not built by cities in a com­par­a­tive frame­work that cities can talk to each oth­er. So that’s why bor­ders mat­ter, that’s why Toron­to can’t talk to Chica­go because the Nation­al Sta­tis­tic Agen­cies mea­sure cities and mea­sure things dif­fer­ent­ly in cities. So we start­ed back in 2007/2008, to try and think about how to build this. We start­ed with 9 pilot cities across Latin Amer­i­ca, the U.S. and Cana­da. Toron­to being one of them, Mon­tre­al and Van­cou­ver being the oth­er two. Also Bogotá, Sao Paulo, King Coun­ty which is Seat­tle. A num­ber of cities. And we asked the ques­tion what indi­ca­tors are you already gath­er­ing in your city? And we thought there would be quite a bit of data in cities but we weren’t sure. It turned out cities gath­er tremen­dous amount of data. And they gath­er it on exact­ly the same things. So they gath­er it on tran­sit, they gath­er it on water, waste man­age­ment, edu­ca­tion, health, safe­ty, all the usu­al deliv­ery of ser­vices that City Man­agers and May­ors care about. It turned out that the 9 cities were gath­er­ing hun­dreds of indi­ca­tors each on all the same things. 1,100 indi­ca­tors were put on the table when we con­vened the meet­ing. It was here at Metro Hall with May­or Miller at the time. The 9 cities came togeth­er, put all of their indi­ca­tors on the table. There were 1,100 of them across 9 cities, but there were only 2 that were com­pa­ra­ble. So we decid­ed it was time to crack that. We want­ed to solve this. You know, how are we doing on emer­gency response time, how are we doing on hos­pi­tal beds per hun­dred thou­sand rel­a­tive to our peers. And May­ors increas­ing­ly are ask­ing that ques­tion. So we start­ed to build def­i­n­i­tions, method­olo­gies, numer­a­tor, denom­i­na­tor, evening it all out and stan­dard­iz­ing the mea­sures. Flash for­ward 6 years. From our 9 pilots back then we rewrote 100 indi­ca­tors method­olo­gies def­i­n­i­tions. What is a police offi­cer right down to Par­tic­u­late Mat­ter in the air – ‘PM 10 mea­sure­ments. We end­ed up with 255 cities report­ing our stan­dard­ized set of indi­ca­tors. 255 cities across 82 coun­tries with Toron­to as the hub for this incred­i­ble net­work of cities. That’s what we’ve built inside the Glob­al Cities Insti­tute here at the Uni­ver­si­ty. We decid­ed 2½ years ago now, to actu­al­ly go to the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for Stan­dard­iza­tion. It’s based out of Gene­va. It stan­dard­izes light bulbs and all the parts of your cell­phone and trac­tors and car parts, and is very tech­ni­cal. And said we have a stan­dard for city indi­ca­tors, that cities can actu­al­ly have an even set of mea­sures. They didn’t quite under­stand the impor­tance of it, I would say. That’s a polite way of say­ing we came home with noth­ing to show for it. They just weren’t inter­est­ed in city indi­ca­tors. But a few months lat­er we had a call from Gene­va to say that in fact the Japan­ese Nation­al Stan­dards body had also stepped-up and said we’d like to stan­dard­ize met­rics around infra­struc­ture for cities. Then the French were also ask­ing for man­age­ment sys­tems. So they said here’s Cana­da ask­ing for a stan­dard on city indi­ca­tors, the Japan­ese and the French, let’s put you togeth­er. And we have been work­ing for 2 years and we have now the first ISO Stan­dard ever on cities. We were very fast-tracked. It should take 6 years to build an ISO Stan­dard. It took us 2. And that’s because we’ve been here at U of T build­ing this. We’ve been build­ing it for 6 years. We had 255 cities test­ing it. So it’s built by cities and it’s built for cities based on their pri­or­i­ties for what they want to mea­sure. So we went very quick­ly. So we have now a new stan­dard that we’re build­ing and this is called, very cre­ative­ly, ISO 37121. So in the numer­ic of ISOs, ISO 37120 was our first one and now we’re build­ing 121. And that’s on resilience. So that’s going to be a huge boon for cities because increas­ing­ly with the extreme weath­er events, so our ice storm, and in Sandy, New York, and all over the world, and in the Philip­pines right now. The num­ber one pri­or­i­ty for cities is to think about how to pre­pare bet­ter because of the flood­ing that’s hap­pen­ing in so many cities. Even in the U.S. there’s Class Action suits now because peo­ples’ base­ments are flood­ing and cities are going to face dif­fi­cul­ties get­ting insur­ance because of this. They already are. So now, this next stan­dard will help to actu­al­ly build capac­i­ty and trans­paren­cy in local gov­ern­ments that says we are ready, here’s what we’re doing, here’s our mea­sure­ment, here’s the evi­dence. Which will help to build insur­ance cov­er­age and cred­it wor­thi­ness rat­ings, and all kinds of spin­offs that we hadn’t even sus­pect­ed or thought about 5 years ago when we were build­ing this.


Bri­an­na Gold­berg: I’m think­ing about, when you’re talk­ing about Par­tic­u­late Mat­ter, Shang­hai comes to mind obvi­ous­ly. They have chal­lenges with pol­lu­tion in the air. And there’s so much pow­er that the Stan­dards can have, that it can give to cities, but it also expos­es their soft under­bel­lies. How do you get cities onboard with this, and how will it actu­al­ly end up affect­ing their poli­cies or the way that their cities devel­op?


You raised the ques­tion about Chi­na, about Shang­hai. Shang­hai, in the past when we were build­ing the indi­ca­tors in the first round, we didn’t have one city in Chi­na report­ing for the very rea­son you’re sug­gest­ing. All data is gath­ered nation­al­ly in Chi­na so a lot of the sta­tis­tics are geared to all cities in the coun­try, but it’s not cities report­ing. And our mot­to was to have cities report­ing because we real­ly want­ed to make sure this was being built by cities. And it was built under the pri­or­i­ties for cities. And that is why we got trac­tion so quick­ly, because those were the pri­or­i­ties. But now, with the ISO Stan­dard, Shang­hai was one of the first cities to step up and say we want to be part of this test of con­for­mi­ty for ISO Stan­dard. The Chi­nese are at the table help­ing us to build this. Why is that hap­pen­ing? Well, as you say, Bei­jing in par­tic­u­lar which has one of the high­est PM con­cen­tra­tions, it may not make them look good, that’s true, but what we’re find­ing is that when you have good evi­dence to say to a senior Gov­ern­ment, our city real­ly needs help on PM, or our city real­ly needs help on infra­struc­ture invest­ment, or our com­mute time is the worst in the world, it may sound like you’re being ranked and you’re real­ly behav­ing in a sub­stan­dard mode, but it also helps to lever­age. It lever­ages fund­ing from senior lev­els of Gov­ern­ment. The cred­i­bil­i­ty on a third par­ty ver­i­fi­ca­tion of that data has so much trac­tion inter­na­tion­al­ly.


[Music in]


That was Patri­cia McCar­ney, head of the Glob­al Cities Insti­tute at U of T’s Daniels Fac­ul­ty of Archi­tec­ture, Land­scape and Design. You can read about her work on the World Coun­cil on City Data and more at .


Com­ing up, we’ll hear the president’s views on U of T’s best kept secret.…




Mer­ic Gertler knows cities. He stud­ied them as an award-win­ning urban­ist and geo­g­ra­ph­er and now he’s help­ing to build one as pres­i­dent of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.


Because if you count out the more than 80,000 stu­dents at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and add that to the square footage its three cam­pus occu­pies across the GTA – this uni­ver­si­ty and its stu­dents, staff and fac­ul­ty make up a huge part of this city.


And Toron­to thrives on the uni­ver­si­ty and the uni­ver­si­ty thrives on the city. It’s a mes­sage Gertler shared recent­ly in a speech at the Big Cities, Big Ideas lec­ture series, held at U of T’s Munk School of Glob­al Affairs.


The fol­low­ing is an edit­ed por­tion of his remarks… and heads up that the alum­nus he men­tions, Bill Bux­ton, is the com­put­er sci­en­tist behind a com­pa­ny called Autodesk Alias. It makes com­put­er-assist­ed design tools… his work has also been behind the scenes on touch­screens, ani­ma­tion soft­ware, and oth­er human-com­put­er inter­ac­tive tech. Here’s Mer­ic Gertler pick­ing up from where he left off when he addressed the Toron­to Board of Trade.


[Music out]


At that occa­sion I made the case that a strong uni­ver­si­ty helps build a strong city and vice ver­sa. A strong host city enables a uni­ver­si­ty like this one to excel nation­al­ly and inter­na­tion­al­ly. I also sig­nalled that the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to is embrac­ing its role as a city-builder and that it wel­comes oppor­tu­ni­ties to col­lab­o­rate with oth­er actors and orga­ni­za­tions in the city region to advance qual­i­ty of life and qual­i­ty of place, and to address our chal­lenges and sees our oppor­tu­ni­ties here in the GTA. Now, I say this not just because it’s the right thing to do, and I say this not just because I’m a cities guy who comes by these inter­ests nat­u­ral­ly, but also because it is real­ly a mat­ter of enlight­ened self-inter­est for the uni­ver­si­ty. The bet­ter we make Toron­to, the eas­i­er it is for us to attract and retain fan­tas­tic fac­ul­ty staff and stu­dents from across Cana­da and around the world. So the first point is that uni­ver­si­ties do many good things for cities, per­haps the most impor­tant thing that they do is that they impart dynamism and resilience to the economies of their host regions. They help these places rein­vent them­selves over time and that is, of course, real­ly, real­ly crit­i­cal. But at the same time that they are sources of dynamism, they are also sources of sta­bil­i­ty. And it’s that unique com­bi­na­tion which I think togeth­er, makes them even more valu­able. The idea that uni­ver­si­ties are tremen­dous sta­bi­liz­ers, sources of sta­bil­i­ty in urban economies, and also on the local neigh­bour­hoods that they inhab­it. One of the ways that uni­ver­si­ties are able to do these two things is by con­nect­ing their host city region to the world and vice ver­sa. So uni­ver­si­ties like this one con­nect Toron­to to the world and con­nect the world to Toron­to. They are one of the por­tals, the con­nect­ing points between us and the rest of the globe. In 1975, a twen­ty-six year old music grad­u­ate from Queens arrived at U of T intent on design­ing his own dig­i­tal musi­cal instru­ment. This is Bill Bux­ton, Alias now Autodesk was not a U of T start-up per se, but it was and it remains a hotbed of inno­va­tion in entre­pre­neur­ial activ­i­ty based right here in Toron­to, pro­duc­ing lead­ing-edged soft­ware for 3D design, engi­neer­ing and most famous­ly for enter­tain­ment. Apart from dis­rupt­ing and rein­vent­ing the way humans inter­act with com­put­ers, Buxton’s con­tri­bu­tions at Alias and Autodesk, helped earn the com­pa­ny 3 Acad­e­my Awards. So since the days when Bux­ton first joined Alias/Autodesk, the firm has employed more than 100 grad­u­ates of U of T. Where over, over the years since those days, there has been fre­quent and con­tin­u­ous move­ment of employ­ees and fac­ul­ty and stu­dents between the firm and the uni­ver­si­ty, just shut­tling back and forth. And in 2011, U of T and Autodesk togeth­er received a Syn­er­gy Award for Inno­va­tion from NSERC rec­og­niz­ing the remark­able out­put and val­ue and impact that has come from this part­ner­ship. Now it’s a mar­velous sto­ry and I recount­ed it for a num­ber of rea­sons. It illus­trates beau­ti­ful­ly, many of my main points about the sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship between uni­ver­si­ties and cities. In par­tic­u­lar it clear­ly shows how vital uni­ver­si­ties can be for the pros­per­i­ty of their host regions and vice ver­sa. It demon­strates how things that are found in a host region ben­e­fit and enrich the uni­ver­si­ty as well. And final­ly, the Bux­ton sto­ry nice­ly demon­strates how uni­ver­si­ties can be gate­ways for their insti­tu­tions and for the city regions in which they are sit­u­at­ed. But there is one oth­er way in which the sto­ry of Bill Bux­ton is emblem­at­ic of Toron­to and its lead­ing research inten­sive uni­ver­si­ty, and that is this, that hard­ly any­one here knows this sto­ry. The suc­cess of Toron­to and indeed the suc­cess of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to as a cen­tre for inno­va­tion is a well-kept secret.


That was U of T’s Pres­i­dent Mer­ic Gertler speak­ing at the Big Cities, Big Ideas lec­ture series. To learn more about his solu­tions for spread­ing the word about the well-kept secret of inno­v­a­tive Toron­to – and for a link to the full ver­sion of the speech – head to .


That’s where you can find more about the com­pa­nies U of T is help­ing to devel­op as they build Toronto’s future econ­o­my.




From sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ships to inter­na­tion­al stan­dards, and ser­vice class­es patch-worked against cre­ative class­es patch-worked against sky­scrap­ers and live­li­er green space flush with enlight­ened cit­i­zens and deer run­ning through trails in High Park – these are just a few glimpses into Toronto’s future. And it’s made pos­si­ble by the research, writ­ing and entre­pre­neur­ship going on at U of T.


But of course it doesn’t stop there.


U of T is help­ing Toron­to get health­i­er at places like the Cen­tre for Urban Health Ini­tia­tives  and the Cen­tre for Research on Inner City Health and the stu­dent-run com­mu­ni­ty health-focused IMAGINE clin­ic.


It’s open­ing up to active cit­i­zens with spaces like the Toron­to Pan Am Sports Cen­tre at U of T’s Scar­bor­ough cam­pus.


It’s inte­grat­ing stu­dents with Toron­to com­mu­ni­ties through ini­tia­tives like the New Col­lege Learn­ing With­out Bor­ders pro­gram, study­ing through field trips to Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket and oth­er cul­tur­al cen­tres…


It’s teach­ing stu­dents how to build cities with the new Master’s degree in Cities Engi­neer­ing and Man­age­ment… and then there are cours­es from cities experts like Deb Cowen and Zack Tay­lor and Eric Miller and all the oth­er researchers inter­viewed in this and ear­li­er episodes.


We at the U of T Cities pod­cast were pleased to bring you all these sto­ries in this minis­eries.


To find pre­vi­ous episodes fea­tur­ing inter­views on arti­fi­cial­ly intel­li­gent traf­fic lights, an envi­ron­men­tal­ly-respon­sive tran­sit sys­tem, pre­dic­tions for a new dig­i­tal econ­o­my… and a whole lot more… just head over to U of T News at .


That’s also where you can find news and fea­tures on the U of T work trans­form­ing cities, entre­pre­neur­ship, health, edu­ca­tion and more.


You can now sub­scribe to U of T News Pod­casts on iTunes. The link is at


Today we fea­tured  music made avail­able on the Free Music Archive. The artists are Cheese N Pot‑C, Tha Silent Part­ner and The Cus­to­di­an of Records. Also, Jaz­za­fari, Mnag Quad and Cos­mic Ana­log ensem­ble.


This pro­gram was pro­duced by me, Bri­an­na Gold­berg, with help from U of T News edi­tor Jen­nifer Lan­thi­er. Spe­cial thanks to Dominic Ali for record­ing the Mer­ic Gertler speech—and spe­cial thanks to all of you, for lis­ten­ing.