Imagining better streetscapes

Ever wonder what our downtown might look like with a pedestrian mall instead of a street clogged with cars and trucks, both in motion and parked? With benches, trees, cycle lanes, brickwork pathways, more patios and merchant booths? A liveable, walkable, safe downtown full of families, shoppers, pets, children, visitors and residents alike; a place for buskers, for events, for artists and performers… well take a look at the before/after images on betterstreets.ai. You can see several imagined transformations that are close to our own downtown. It’s not hard to imagine Hurontario Street like this.

The re-imagined streetscapes are the work of artist Zach Katz using an AI program called DALL-E that “creates images from text captions for a wide range of concepts expressible in natural language.” Vice magazine quoted Katz as saying he was using the technology to further help advocate “for safer car-free streets.”

Anyone can commission Katz to create a rendering of a transformed street for as low as $49 USD. I think it would be a worthwhile expenditure for either townhall or our BIA to commission several images from different locations and views. And then show the public and the BIA.

Creating a pedestrian-shopper-visitor- and event-friendly mall downtown could easily be tested by the next council to see if the concept is viable and popular. Make the transformation of just a single main street block from Victoria Day to the Labour Day weekend. It would be a greener, environmentally-friendly thing to do, encourage walkability and encourage visitors to our downtown. It has to be well-designed and planned, not simply cheap barricades erected to stop traffic: it needs to look and feel inviting.

And I believe the next council should be brave enough to try it.

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