Pictured above: rendering of proposed redesign of Yonge St and Oliver Square. Source: City of Toronto.
Cycle Toronto, Walk Toronto, Residents Associations and local residents were expecting discussion of Re-Imagining Yonge (Sheppard to Finch) at the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee this quarter. If approved, Re-Imagining Yonge would widen sidewalks, build separated bike lanes, and beautify the public realm on this bustling section of Yonge Street north of Highway 401.
We were shocked to learn this week that Toronto’s Executive Committee supported a motion by Councillor David Shiner to slash $4 million from proposed funding that would make Re-imagining Yonge Street possible. The vote defers consideration of the Re-imagining Yonge Street Sheppard to Finch capital project to 2018.
We are deeply concerned that this delay could kill the project altogether.
These proposed cuts will come before City Council for approval on Feb 15, 2017. Please call Mayor Tory (416-397-2489 ) and your city councillor today to tell them, that this is not acceptable.
Deferring Re-Imagining Yonge is bad value for money
Thanks to funding through the Federal Government’s Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF), 50% of the $4 million earmarked for Re-Imagining Yonge is paid for by the Feds. Deferring this project to the future means that we won’t have that money to help pay for this much needed piece of the City’s infrastructure.
Why is Re-Imagining Yonge so important?
There has been massive population growth in this area of Toronto as many large condo and mixed-use towers are continually being built. The population density here is comparable to downtown, and has resulted in very high pedestrian volumes. Unfortunately, Yonge St is currently an unwelcoming place to walk or ride a bike and also has documented safety deficiencies. Most residents of this area do not feel safe enough to ride despite the many benefits it offers, therefore the community vibrancy is being negatively impacted. Widened sidewalks and cycle tracks on Yonge St would unlock an amazing and healthy active transportation option for many people. Furthermore, these cycle tracks would connect riders to the Finch Hydro Corridor, a commuter/recreational trail that traverses North York and beyond.
Toronto has committed to achieving Vision Zero. However, the current configuration of Yonge St does not support an appropriate balance of safety and traffic throughput for its current and future context as a downtown-feeling environment. One study noted a total of 66 pedestrian/cyclist injuries from 2012 to 2014 on this section of Yonge St., and this figure only includes injuries that were formally reported and documented. Three of these injuries were classified as KSI (killed or seriously injured) including one fatal pedestrian injury. The study also found a total of 1070 vehicle collisions. The Re-Imagining Yonge proposal is focused on improving safety for all users.
The Re-Imagining Yonge proposal includes many improvements to the public space along Yonge St. The old, narrow, and crumbling sidewalks would be replaced with new, wider sidewalks. Improved street furniture and landscaping would be added while maintaining some existing mature trees. Enhancements would also be made to three existing public squares adjacent to the street. All of these changes will greatly enhance the public experience of the many people who travel, work, and live in this community each day. This beautified and enhanced active transportation realm would also greatly benefit the high number of small businesses along and adjacent to Yonge Street.
Reinstate Re-Imagining Yonge
For these reasons, we’re calling on Mayor Tory and Toronto City Council to reinstate the $4 million for Re-Imagining Yonge in Transportation Services 2017 capital budget.