Toronto city council has voted to move ahead with a proposed redesign of a busy stretch of Yonge Street that would prioritize pedestrians over cars and reduce vehicular traffic to just two lanes.
On Wednesday, all but a handful of city councillors voted to endorse the design concept of the yongeTOmorrow plan, which would see Yonge Street between Queen and College streets redesigned to better accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and those “experiencing the street.”
“While the number of pedestrians on Yonge Street has somewhat lessened during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the last several years, Yonge Street has been struggling to serve the growing pedestrian demand which has resulted from more people living and working downtown,” read a report from the general manager of the city’s Transportation Services department.
“There is overcrowding and insufficient clearway on some sections of sidewalk. The number of pedestrians on the street is expected to continue to grow due to a projected doubling in population and employment in the surrounding area by 2041 along with a continued mode shift towards walking.”
According to city staff, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sidewalks along Yonge Street saw daily volumes exceeding 100,000 pedestrians per day.
Under the proposed new plan, the one-kilometre stretch would include a 6.6 metre-wide two-lane roadway, a 2.7 metre-wide zone for cafés, plants, and furnishings, and a minimum four metre-wide pathway for pedestrians.
The design also includes a plan to reduce traffic volumes by implementing one-way and two-way driving restrictions.
According to the staff report, all blocks would have two-way driving access overnight to accommodate TTC night bus service, deliveries, and regular traffic.
Some have expressed concern about the plan’s impact on motorists and Cadillac Fairview, the owner and operator of the Eaton Centre, has made it clear it does not support the plan as it currently stands.
In a letter to the city, the company said the preferred design concept would be “especially damaging for CF Toronto Eaton Centre and local businesses.”
“We request, in the strongest terms, that these plans be re-evaluated to maintain essential and continuous access along Yonge Street,” the letter read.
“Eliminating vehicular traffic would be catastrophic for business, significantly curtailing the number of customers and their interactions in the area.”
The possible redesign, which is subject to additional consultation, will cost an estimated $70 million, according to the staff report, and construction of the project, which could begin in 2023, is expected to take three years to complete.