On July 10th 2015, Toronto takes center stage. Toronto will be hosting the 2015 Pan American/Parapan American Games, the third largest sporting event after the Olympics and the Asian Games. The city will welcome almost 9,300 athletes and 1.2 million ticket holders. With a lot of planning and the construction of state-of-the-art sports facilities underway, Toronto hopes to showcase itself as a world-class city that can host a very successful Pan/Parapan Am games.

Pan/Parapan Am Games Athletes' Village that will be converted to affordable housing after the Pan/Parapan Am Games, from http://www.waterfrontoronto.ca/uploads/crops/1332_panamvillage_1_870_450_both_.jpg

But the real legacy the games will leave is that of transportation, recreation, and housing development. The Pan/Parapan Am games serves as a catalyst for several long overdue infrastructure investments in Toronto needed to bring the city to world-class status.

By 2015, Toronto will finally have a direct train from downtown to Pearson International Airport. Instead of taking a bus and a subway for two hours or a $60 taxi, travelers will be able to easily get from the airport to Union Station downtown in twenty-five minutes. This will save time and make the trip into the city much more enjoyable for tourists and Torontonians.

Union to Pearson Express Train Illustration, from http://www.upexpress.com/en/information/information.aspx

The Pan/Parapan Am Games is also putting the pressure on Union Station, the busiest transportation hub in Canada, to meet its interim renovation deadlines. Although it will only be partially complete by July 2015, the connections between local, regional, and national rail lines will be streamlined, made more navigable, and capacity will double, all crucial aspects to efficiently move the influx of people through the region.

Toronto's Union Station undergoing extensive renovations, Dec 2013

In addition to transit infrastructure upgrades, the Pan/Parapan Am games “is accelerating the building of a community that was already planned and under development.” The Athlete’s Village in the West Don Lands development will house 10,000 athletes and will be converted into affordable housing following the games. This condensed construction timeline, dictated by the games, means that new housing will be available sooner than originally planned, and help ease the high demand for affordable units in Toronto.

Finally, the provincial government has pledged $3.5 million to help create a continuous recreational trail in areas surrounding the Greater Toronto Area. Adding 250 km (155 miles) to the Trans Canada Trail may attract tourists to explore Southern Ontario’s outdoors, but crucially, it will allow Ontarians to do the same for years to come.

Current Ontario Trails Map

Wanting to put its best foot forward for the Pan/Parapan Am games, Toronto is finally getting the attention and investment it needs. Most importantly, this investment from the three levels of government will be felt long after the gold medals are handed out.

Are there important and overdue improvements needed in your city? What will it take to bring about the change?

Credits: Image by Lindsay Vanstone. Data, illustration, and maps linked to sources.