Today, Toronto City Council voted 34-5 to approve a staff report proposing numerous Roncesvalles streetscape improvements, including new public spaces and accessible transit stops. This report borrows many ideas from the BIA’s 2003 streetscape strategy, and was unanimously approved by the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee a few weeks earlier, following an extensive Environmental Assessment process. From here, the approved report goes to the province, and an official EA Notice of Completion should follow provincial approval in July.
Once the EA is completed, the City will have the authority to consider various design treatments, including permanent parking lanes, new trees (using the area beneath the parking lane for a continuous soil trench), wider sidewalks and improved conditions for cyclists. These details will be worked out in a formal consultation and design process that begins this summer, led by Councillor Gord Perks (continuing an informal process that Roncesvalles Renewed and its community partners, including all the RAs and the BIA, have been working on for several years).
As host to the busiest surface transit route in all of Canada, Roncesvalles is obviously not immune to massive citywide changes that seek to adjust Toronto’s transportation priorities for the 21st century. But instead of becoming a fast highway, or being carved up and divided between motorists and the TTC, Roncesvalles is poised to benefit from an innovative streetscape plan that uses new ideas to balance the needs of all users, while preserving the vibrancy of our street:
- While the TTC has proposed to open up Dundas West to four lanes of busy traffic (a move strongly opposed by the Dundas West BIA), the TTC has just endorsed a plan that would make similar measures impossible on Roncesvalles. Our street will forever remain a safe and pedestrian-friendly two-lane street. This has been accomplished while preserving existing traffic flow, without new traffic restrictions, while adding new provisions for cyclists.
- Instead of carving up the street, the plan embraces transit by integrating it into the fabric of our sidewalk, creating a seamless transition for riders. When the new streetcars arrive, riders will be able to board at all four doors in seconds, speeding up the streetcar’s progress and improving service reliability. And for the disabled, or people with strollers or grocery carts, our streetcar stops will be the most accessible in Toronto.
- Instead of placing concrete islands in the road used only by transit riders, this plan would create new, multi-use public spaces that can be used for patios, merchandise displays, “outdoor living rooms,” benches, gardens and public art, as well as by transit riders.
- These new public spaces replace some parking, and yet the plan actually preserves 92% of existing street parking (95% outside loading zone hours), and removes all peak hour parking restrictions.
The streetscape proposal received much praise from City councillors for the way it balances the needs of businesses, residents, transit riders, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. “It is a compromise that makes no compromises at all, because it satisfies all those interests,” said Councillor and TTC Chair Adam Giambrone. Councillor Bill Saundercook, who is co-chair of the Toronto Pedestrian Committee, said his committee “strongly endorses” the proposal. And Councillor Howard Moscoe added, “We can all benefit from the work being done on Roncesvalles.”
There is more of this work to be done, obviously, and there will always be room for improvement. The devil will be in the details, which is why community feedback is still so essential. The residents’ associations will host further meetings to discuss the developing plan. The BIA will continue to post information about the proposal, and has sent copies of the sidewalk plan to institutional stakeholders on the street. More information on the Roncesvalles reconstruction project is available here and here.
The BIA urges all businesses and community members to examine the PDFs of the sidewalk plan (part one is the southern half, and part two is the north), and please let the BIA know how the plan can be made the best possible. Where are the opportunities for new trees, benches, lighting or bike parking? How can crosswalks be made the safest possible? How can the transit stops be made inviting and attractive? Where else can the plan be improved? You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.