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The Pros and Cons of Moving to Toronto
Moving to Toronto may seem intimidating to some of us. After all, it is Canada’s largest city, with over 6 million people calling it home, and everything else is comparatively small potatoes. But Toronto has a huge variety of opportunities, and if you’re able to make the transition you can come to love it.
Here’s a look at the pros and cons so you can decide if Toronto is the right move for you.
There’s a lot to love about the 4th largest city in North America.
1. Economic Opportunity
If you’re looking for a career in arts, culture, media or tech, Toronto may be a great move for you. One of Canada’s economic powerhouses, Toronto offers economic stability and opportunity in a variety of fields, with an increasing focus on tech. While a couple of cities are vying for the “Silicon Valley North” crown, the Toronto-Waterloo corridor is making a bid that must be taken seriously. With offices for Google, Uber, Shopify, Vice magazine and more, there are over 200,000 tech and internet related jobs and counting.
What’s hot in 2016? Startups and co-working spaces. If you’ve got an entrepreneurial mindset, you’ll find plenty of options for co-working just a quick Google search away. Co-working spaces are not only great for cheap office space for 1 to 5-person teams, but it gives you a chance to have a real mailing address, not a PO box.
2. Endless Exciting Things to Do
From arts and museums to fashion to nightlife to major league sports, Toronto has something for everyone. Year-round, there are exhibitions like Ripley’s Aquarium, Canada’s Wonderland, the Hockey Hall of Fame, Castle Loma, the Ontario Science Centre…the list goes on and on.
Here’s a shortlist of just a few of the bigger events the city has to offer.
- The Canadian National Exhibition every summer.
- The world-class Distillery District Christmas Market.
- The Pride Festival has grown to a month-long extravaganza.
- The Royal Winter Fair
3. Multicultural Diversity
Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. More than half of its population was born outside of Canada according to 2006 census statistics, and about 47 percent of Toronto is a member of a visible minority. No matter what your heritage is, you’ll be able to find someone who shares it in Toronto.
4. Low Crime for Such a Big City
With an amazingly low crime rate, Toronto is one of the safest big cities in the world, and the safest large city in North America. There is even better news if you’re headed to “the 6”: Toronto’s crime rate has been falling for years.
That being said Toronto is still a major city and there are pockets where people, especially women walking after dark, should be careful. Right now, these areas include Jane and Finch, Scarborough, and parts of Etobicoke. If these challenged neighbourhoods are anything like some of the previous listings on Toronto’s bad neighbourhoods list, in a decade or two they’ll become gentrified.
5. Easier Winters – for Canada, at Least
Unless you’re coming from Vancouver or Victoria, you’ll probably find Toronto’s winters comparatively mild. The GTA gets a moderating effect on its temperatures from Lake Ontario, and also from the heat island effect.
6. An Airport in the Downtown Core
If you decide to make your home in downtown Toronto, you’ll find Billy Bishop/Toronto Island Airport incredibly convenient as long as you’re headed to cities along the eastern seaboard of North America. Since you can pretty much get off the TTC in Toronto and onto a plane for Montréal, New York or Chicago (with connections pretty much anywhere else in the world), you’ll never feel stuck.
Considering that the alternative is the 75-minute or more journey to Pearson airport in Mississauga, a 10-minute bus ride is pretty sweet.
Unfortunately the news is not all good for the Big Smoke.
1. Housing is Expensive
This August, the average cost of a detached home climbed to $1.2 million, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. Even though there are less expensive options in condos and townhouses, it’s not exactly great news if you’re looking to settle down.
Renting is of course less costly, but is still incredibly expensive by anyone’s standards, except perhaps Vancouver’s. Expect to spend minimum $1,200 a month for a 1-bedroom apartment or condo. If you plan to find 2-3 roommates, you can probably bring your monthly costs down, but you’ll definitely be paying $400 – $500 more every month unless you live in the suburbs. The other bad news is that apartment sizes tend to be much smaller than elsewhere.
Speaking of suburbs, that brings us to the second biggest problem…
2. Traffic, Congestion, and Long Commute Times
If you’re from out of town you may find Toronto’s typical 8-to-12 lane expressways unbelievable, but even with that level of infrastructure there’s still a lot of congestion. Torontonians have an average commute time of 65 minutes, the longest in the province, according to a recent study.
Many Torontonians save money by foregoing the convenience of a personal car. Toronto has lots of mass transit alternatives, including rail, busses, streetcars and subways lines to make it easier. The problem is that if you have to cross regional boundaries, you’re stuck paying for multiple transit passes.
The good news for future transit riders is that the GTA should all be nicely integrated in 2017. As of now, only about 10% of the network is using the same payment system.
If you’re a bicyclist, you’ll be happy to know that there are more dedicated bike lanes every year. People know that cycling reduces congestion and smog, so they do try to encourage it. You can find out more information about the Toronto Cycling Network here.
3. It Can Be Hard to Make Friends
In other parts of Canada, Torontonians have a reputation for being unfriendly and standoffish. The truth is probably more that they’re too busy to say hello to the stranger on their own at a party or in the lunchroom at work. People are often too involved with what’s on their phone screen to notice what’s going on.
“We’re a busy, go-go-go city,” notes Meg, a Toronto native who has also lived in other cities before returning to her home town. “Unless you ask for what you need quickly you may find you get a chilly reception.”
But a lot of the best answers to loneliness in the big city can be found online. Meetup.com is a favourite because it allows you to find friends by interest. Most neighbourhood associations also have Facebook pages, and are great resources for people looking to explore, socialize, and get involved in issues affecting their local community.
4. Not the Best Place for Nature Lovers
It may come as no surprise that outdoorsy types may have trouble getting their nature fix in such a large city. There are a variety of parks, especially in suburban areas, and boating on the lake, but serious rock climbers, hikers, and camping enthusiasts may only be able to get what they need from vacation expeditions.
The downtown core is especially greenspace-challenged, but some great options include Trinity-Bellwood park, Allen Gardens and High Park (which has a stunning cherry blossom display every April-May).
5. Very Hot Summers – for Canada
In many Canadian cities, summers are mild enough that you can often get away without air conditioning. In Toronto, it’s essential.
With over 7,000 square miles of asphalt and glass in the Greater Toronto Area, that’s a lot of heat being absorbed, and it often overpowers any cool breezes that may come off of Lake Ontario.
6. Developers Ruined the Waterfront
If you’ve been to cities like Chicago that have great waterfronts, you’ll find Toronto disappointing. Formerly public land has been relentlessly sold off to property developers, who put in mile after mile of condo towers. Which can be nice if you own a condo there, but not if you live nearby and would like to enjoy some of its natural beauty.
Luckily, a few select spaces and activities remain, but it’s just a shadow of what it could have been.
Is Moving to Toronto the Right Decision for You?
Depending on your age and what you’re looking for, Toronto can be thrilling or an ordeal. Young people attending one of its world-class universities will undoubtedly love it. Families looking for a home big enough for 2 or 3 kids may find things difficult.
One thing is for sure: there’s no excuse for boredom in such a dynamic city.
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