Sunday, May 18, 2014

What is the GTA?

No Teddy update of the prediction this week; as polls are just as wild as before, and thus, not much has changed.

Rather, an answer to a discussion that came up on Twitter. What is the GTA?

In normal everyday speech, the GTA is this:
The GTA is not, and should never be, confused with the old Metropolitan Toronto


Metropolitan Toronto, or "Metro" is shown in both Red and White.

There are a few important things to keep in mind before we go any further in this discussion.


1 - Municipal boundaries rarely match the boundaries people use when talking about areas.
Woodbridge is an excellent example of this. Woodbridge does not exist. Woodbridge has never existed. Woodbridge is part of the City of Vaughan and has always been within the City and Township of Vaughan. However, most people believe Woodbridge is a thing; it is just the name of an area, it has no mayor or city council, it is part of Vaughan, and thus the "Mayor" of Woodbridge is the Mayor of Vaughan.

2 - Municipal boundaries have changed in the past.
Big changes took place in the 1950's, the 1970's, and the 1990's. During these changes, areas that were formerly real places, ceased being such and were merged into other municipalities. Scarborough is one such place, it no longer exists, it is now part of Toronto. Since, however, it did exist at one time, we can accurately track it's boundaries within Toronto. Today's Toronto is the former Metropolitan Toronto, Metropolitan Toronto no longer exists.

3 - Terms used in the past may no longer apply.
In 1940, any  "Greater Toronto" would have likely fit, in it's whole, in the red area of the map above. In 1960 "Greater Toronto" would include "Metropolitan Toronto" and likely not much more. Today, in 2014, Metropolitan Toronto is just a part of Greater Toronto.

4 - Terms used by different agencies mean different things.
The map at the top shows what is the GTA to people in everyday speech. The GTA, however, is something different to Government, to which it means this:
To some pollsters, the GTA is the 416+905, which looks like this on an area code map:
http://www.whitepages.ca/common/images/maps/OTT.gif
And finally, in my own personal opinion, I consider everything in Red and Green on the map below to be part of the GTA:


In short, what the GTA is, is not simple to define. So, we must look at what the GTA is not.



So when is GTA used? What is the GTA thus not?

1 - The GTA is not Southern Ontario
I've heard this from some people, especially those in countries with radically different national-regional relationships than our confederation.

2 - The GTA, usually when used, is used to exclude Toronto
It's hard for Toronto to not be in the Toronto area, or even the greater area of such, however, frequently the GTA is used to exclude Toronto. Pollsters - which, lets face it, are why I'm making this post - will sometimes divide results into Toronto and GTA. When they do this, they intend the GTA to be read and understood as not including Toronto.

So, within that, lets dig deeper.

Frequently, thus, the GTA is used to mean the "suburbs" of Toronto. So are Scarborough and pals "suburbs"? A lot of people in the 905 seem to think they are, but they are not. They are Inner Suburbs. They are very different in many ways from regular Suburbs, especially when you compare Scarborough to Mississauga. Both are similar in size and population, but have very different makeups and lifestyles. Scarborough is served within Toronto, it uses the TTC, has subway stations, and until recently, lacked a downtown core. Mississauga also lacked a core until recently, but has never been served by the subway, and has only had a few TTC routes as Mississauga has it's own transit system, MiWay.


Conclusion?


Where the GTA's outer boundary is can be debated; but it's inner boundary - the one with Toronto - is not under debate. Everything part of the municipality that is the City of Toronto is not part of a Torontoless GTA area.

Don't feel bad if you were, or still are confused. Ontario does nothing to encourage people to use any of these terms properly. Compare to Vancouver where the equivalent area is actually a single legal regional district.

14 comments:

  1. Similarly "what is the 905?" is also a good question. Does it consist solely York, Peel, Durham and Halton regions or any community that has the "905" area code on their landline (Hamilton, Niagara, St. Catherines, Northumberland, Bradford etc).

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  2. To respond to one of your claims. Woodbridge does indeed exist, it is a community within a municipality. People use Woodbridge in their mailing addresses and whatnot. It does not have concrete boundaries, but there is a general consensus of what the area is. People may identify more with the community than the political boundaries of the municipality (created more for governance purposes). Well known examples are Thornhill straddled in both Vaughan/Markham, Malton in Mississauga or Georgetown in Halton Hills.

    Technically North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke do not "exist" anymore either since those cities were abolished in 1997. People still relate more to those former municipalities (and the communities inside that such as Downsview and Rexdale).

    Personally, I see the GTA in four layers.

    1. We got the inner city. I would say this includes the old city of Toronto along parts of York and East York. Dense areas with a downtown culture.
    2. The "416" suburbs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough.
    3. The immediate "905" suburban cities such as Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Richmond Hill and Markham. The demographics and culture of these cities have changed in the last 15 years. People here see themselves more as with a more "Toronto" outlook then they did in the 1990s. These communities are still upper middle class with a more "car" oriented lifestyle, but transit is starting to play a more important role here. Dense development is also occurring with the rapid construction of condos.
    4. The "outer" 905 suburban municipalities that are still part of the GTA, such as Whitby, Newmarket and Burlington. They don't associate themselves with Toronto as much as Vaughan or Mississauga. These places are more WASP-y than those immediate suburban cities.

    ReplyDelete
  3. To ipsos, the GTA is a farce http://i.imgur.com/dI2qAIH.png

    I asked them for their Ontario Polling region boundaries, and they returned a spread sheet of forward sortation areas which are neither contiguous nor compact

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a terrible mess. I'm sure on some level this makes sense, but what level that is? that's far beyond me.

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