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FORUM: CaféTO and ActiveTO city programs coming back (Mar. 2021)

March 26th, 2021 · No Comments

Many reasons for optimism for the year ahead

By Mike Layton

The huge success of last year’s ActiveTO and CaféTO projects has shown that Torontonians are eager for safe opportunities to walk and bike around our city, and to patronize local establishments that have struggled over the last year. Locally, residents from across Ward 11 have seen the ways that inspiring actions taken in their neighbourhoods can significantly increase quality of life as we navigate through our recovery period.

The City of Toronto is now in a unique spot to be looking towards redefining our streets away from traditional, and one-sided, use. 

More specifically, the ActiveTO program is dedicated road space that facilitates active transportation for essential trips and physical activity, and was a significant component of the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild’s COVID-19 — Impacts and Opportunities Report. It’s become clear that transportation infrastructure will be critical for Toronto’s recovery, and will ensure a pathway to build back better and prioritize investments that support key priorities all through an equity and resilience lens. 

ActiveTO is composed of three main programs; Major Road Closures, Quiet Streets and Cycling Network Expansion. Over the past year, this set of programs allowed for the largest expansion of cycling infrastructure in the city’s history and supported thousands of safe cycling and walking trips.

The major road closures were short-term recurring closures (i.e. weekends and holidays) of major roadways adjacent to popular trails to provide more space for walking and cycling, thus enabling physical distancing. The program was deemed a success as thousands of people made use of it  with record numbers in May and then levelling off to over 36,000 people during weekends in June, July and August.

As Transportation Services has proposed that the ActiveTO Major Road Closures program continue in 2021 and beyond, one exciting addition to this project that I would like to share is city staff’s recommendation that a Complete Street ActiveTO Pilot be installed on Yonge Street this year. The pilot will not close Yonge Street, but will see the addition of patio spaces, cycling infrastructure, and a separation between pedestrians and the roadway. Parking will still be available and drivers will still be able to travel through the area.

A midtown ActiveTO connection is essential, and it is clear that Yonge will provide the best possible route due to the number of businesses it will help support; the needed safety enhancements it will provide; its location on a subway route; and its low traffic volumes compared to Avenue Road and Mount Pleasant – the other two streets that staff evaluated.

As we continue to navigate the new and difficult circumstances created by the pandemic, I strongly believe that the Yonge Street pilot will go a long way in supporting residents and businesses. The installation of on-street patios, protected bike lanes, parking and delivery areas, and beautification measures will ensure that everyone can safely enjoy Yonge Street this summer.

In the pilot, city staff will be taking best practices learned from successful projects such as “Destination Danforth,” and adapt them to Yonge Street through consultation with businesses and residents, and through ongoing refinements based on data and community feedback. I look forward to being part of that process, and will also share the opportunities for public consultation through my newsletters and website as they become available.

I want to thank residents for contributing their ideas and support towards making our neighbourhoods more conducive to green infrastructure and active living.

As always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with my office with your questions or concerns at Councillor_Layton@toronto.ca or by calling 416-392-4009.

Mike Layton is the city councillor for Ward 11, University—Rosedale.

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Tags: Annex · Opinion