Two Toronto councillors are pursuing different paths in their efforts to improve the city’s main drag.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, whose downtown ward includes the Yonge Street strip, is seeking approval for a one-month trial this summer to increase pedestrian traffic and business by reducing lanes and “widening sidewalks” between Gerrard and Richmond streets.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a member of the mayor’s executive and chair of the city’s public works committee, has other changes in mind, suggesting it might be time to study converting Yonge and Bay to one-way streets south of Bloor Street as a way to improve traffic flow.
“I think we need to look at innovative approaches to deal with gridlock and congestion in the downtown core,” Mr. Minnan-Wong said after floating the idea to reporters Tuesday.
One-way traffic, he said, would also create more space on both streets for dedicated bike lanes.
Ms. Wong-Tam has worked with local merchants for the past year on ways to improve Yonge Street. Those efforts included a planning study that first proposed revitalizing the tired retail strip by making more room for pedestrians and sidewalk cafés and one less lane in each direction for cars. At the urging of local merchants, the zone to test the concept was extended further south from Dundas Street to Richmond Street. A traffic study also was conducted.
“I think there should be research and studies behind everything we do,” Ms. Wong-Tam said when told about Mr. Minnan-Wong’s suggestion for Yonge Street. “We can’t necessarily do it because of a whim of a councillor.”
Mr. Minnan-Wong said the one-way option could only be considered as part of the larger downtown traffic study that is now taking place.
That study is expected to be done by the end of the year.
Mr. Minnan-Wong said he does not object to the one-month pilot, proposed to run from Aug. 17 to Sept. 16. Any move to change traffic on the street beyond that would require more study, he said.
Asked if she hopes to make the changes on Yonge Street permanent, Ms. Wong-Tam said she will take it “one step at a time.”
Organizers plan to monitor commercial activity during the pilot program and will use those numbers to help determine the success of the changes. “One of our main objectives is that we have to see a better environment for the merchants,” she said.
One-way streets, she said, “don’t facilitate good commercial activity. We know that for a fact.”
Toronto and East York community council will consider the pilot project for Yonge Street at its meeting next week.