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Yonge Street might get a pedestrian mall again

Posted by Derek Flack / March 17, 2011

Yonge Street Pedestrian MallAs part of a plan to revitalize Toronto's main drag, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam would like to see Yonge Street become a pedestrian mall between Gerrard and Dundas. Although nothing's official, according to the Eyeopener, this was one of the main proposals to come out of a meeting at Ryerson last week in which the councillor and university staff discussed improvement strategies for the area.

Along with proposals for a new Dundas Subway Station entrance at Yonge and Gould (in the spot where the Empress Hotel once stood) and the introduction of "destination" retail outlets, Wong-Tam indicated that she'd like to see the Yonge pedestrian mall implemented as a pilot project in the summer months. This would follow the pilots implemented on Wilcocks and Gould Streets last year.

The Yonge Street idea was also put forward by Joe Pantalone (remember him?) during his mayoral campaign. In fact, it's been proposed numerous times since the 1970s when it was actually tried out for a couple years. But, given what it did for Nuit Blanche this year and the fact that the local councillor is behind it, maybe it'll have legs.

We hope to have some more info in the coming days. But, for now, what do you think of the idea? Is there anywhere else that you'd like to see a pedestrian mall tried out?

Photo of Yonge Street during the 2009 Pride Parade by Chris Bandera in the blogTO Flickr pool.



Mikey / March 17, 2011 at 04:19 pm
This is a great idea! I say go all the way from Queen to Bloor!
TheRealJohnson / March 17, 2011 at 04:20 pm
People can do whatever they want to Yonge street, I'll still continue to avoid it like the plague.

I love Toronto, but Yonge street is a void of commercialism, tourism, overpriced restaurants and bad traffic. While I support any idea that aims to get less cars in the core, I feel like a pedestrian mall will only add to the mess on Yonge.

Never have I seen one image encapsulate the one thing I hate about Toronto more than this header image.

*full disclosure: I like Chipotle.
Tim / March 17, 2011 at 04:24 pm
i always thought Baldiwn from McCaul to Beverly should be pedestrianized. And sure, i'm for it happening to Yonge. It might even encourage *gasp* a restaurant or bar to open up on that strip.
Rob / March 17, 2011 at 04:26 pm
Sounds a lot better than what's currently between Gerrard and Dundas! I don't get how that little seedy strip still exists...
scottd / March 17, 2011 at 04:54 pm
Do it. Keep all the tourists and fast food places and other crap in one spot that I can avoid. : )
Adam / March 17, 2011 at 05:00 pm
While that stretch of Yonge is pretty gross, I love it. Walk down that street on any night and it's such a great cross section of people from all points of the city. Why would you want to trade that for the invariable Disney Store and Applebee's to follow?
Why do we need to make every part of this city look like a cruise ship or a shopping mall or a theme park?
Al / March 17, 2011 at 05:14 pm
I like it, but I doubt this will get anywhere with the current council.
warmflash / March 17, 2011 at 05:16 pm
I'm with Scott D. Do it. And keep all the tourists and crap in one place. Herd them in. Leave them there. And I can avoid the entire mess.
Dave K / March 17, 2011 at 05:30 pm
Great idea, but one destined fail amid a flurry of "war on cars" sloganeering.
Rich / March 17, 2011 at 05:47 pm
Worked in downtown Vancouver for months (Burrard and Seymour Streets leading up to the Olympics last year), works all over Europe, and would be a fantastic idea for Yonge street here in Toronto.
John / March 17, 2011 at 06:26 pm
I would love to see something like this happen. Yonge St already carries a lot more pedestrians each day than cars--it's time to reflect that in the way we provide street space.

My actual preference would be to reduce Yonge St to one car lane in either direction, with real street furniture and plantings in the reclaimed space. Pedestrians crossing would also be given priority in the remaining lanes, in a shared space sort of way.
blue / March 17, 2011 at 08:14 pm
Rob Ford will call it a War On Cars, can't see it happening as long he is the mayor. He has no vision.
Daryl replying to a comment from scottd / March 17, 2011 at 08:48 pm
Why do BlogTO readers hate tourists so much?
Marlon / March 17, 2011 at 09:10 pm
Very exciting! One of the things that really excited me about pants campaign. Whether it happens now or after fatty is curbed like the garbage he is, this will happen and it will be great.
Marlon replying to a comment from Daryl / March 17, 2011 at 09:13 pm
Haters gon hate
JLankford / March 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm
It'll be nice if it's reasonable for small street vendors to setup and offer their goods. If it's just regular giant commercial outlets from Eaton's setting up on the sidewalks, I could care less.

Another good thing to come from this could be more green space. Dundas Square is pretty depressing when you consider it could have been a lovely little park space that still served a purpose for events.
Kate / March 17, 2011 at 10:33 pm
Would it be like the area around Times Square, along Broadway?
I'm okay with that, but my only issue with the above is that it becomes tough to let bikes still get through - and I think that needs to be considered.
al / March 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm
I like the idea. And the traditional argument regarding stores/restaurants needing parking spaces out front is null and void for this scenario.
James / March 17, 2011 at 11:19 pm

I'm in favour of tilting the balance towards pedestrians wherever it makes sense, and it certainly does along this section of Yonge.

However, A full pedestrian mall...I don't see working just yet, if its not kept really busy, at all hours, it doesn't work, no routine police (cruiser)patrols, impeded access for ambulance/fire too, tends to become a very lonely space w/o enough eyes on the street in the wee hours.

My preference would be, cut 2 lanes out, (ie. one car lane each way) with 1/2 the space saved going to wider sidewalks, and street trees room permitting, and 1/2 going to bike lanes, while keeping limited car traffic.

I think that would strike an ideal balance in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Bob / March 17, 2011 at 11:47 pm
I am in love with this councillor.
Sean Boulton / March 18, 2011 at 12:35 am
Yes, by all means - close down two blocks of one of the city's busiest streets in the heart of downtown. Never mind how it would screw up the bus route. Never mind how both right and left turns off northbound Yonge onto Dundas would have to be allowed, but traffic would back up for a mile since only one or two cars could get through each light due to the pedestrian traffic. Never mind how neither Church nor Bay is equipped to handle the overflow, or what it would do to the intersections between those streets and both Dundas and Gerrard.

The existing closure of Gould is bad enough as it leaves no streets via which you can get southbound onto Yonge from the east between Wood and Shuter.

Sidewalks through this stretch of Yonge are plenty wide enough to handle the foot traffic. This is just a bad idea all around.
S / March 18, 2011 at 01:37 am
Cyclists are NOT welcomed.
go home / March 18, 2011 at 01:53 am
I really wish that people who do not enjoy and celebrate the city and the city life would shut the hell up and drive home (and get the hell out of CITY hall).
Canadian_National / March 18, 2011 at 02:29 am
It's a lovely idea. My only concern would be some remaining access for bike lanes, occasional transit, and emergency vehicles. This could be easily incorporated, though.

With big mature trees, street furniture, new lighting and good looking paving, it could be a total winner.

I say extend it right up to Bloor. The area of Yonge south of it to Wellesley is looking really woebegone.
jamesmallon / March 18, 2011 at 02:31 am
@Sean, that argument's been disproven more often than you've had hot meals. You just want to drive your boat wherever you want without any consequences. Apparently your mother never took you to the sandbox to learn how to play nice.
Greg Hannah / March 18, 2011 at 03:47 am
Why the hate-on for Yonge Street? It's got so much more charactor and interesting/obscure shops, restaurants and cafe's than a sterile, boring shopping mall any day! Gerrard to Dundas is reasonable but I'd like to see it closed from at least Queen to Gerrard, ideally all the way up to Bloor St. but that just dreaming. Vehicles and cyclists have plenty of alternate north/south routes. I live downtown and I'm a walker/cyclist/TTC'er by choice but I'd happily choose another route to see a section of Yonge Street pedestrianized for the summer.
Go Councillor Wong-Tam go! She's like a breath of fresh air in Ward 27.
gadfly / March 18, 2011 at 07:24 am
Yeah, been there, done that. Before the usual suspects throw there support behind this (and make the usual comparisons to [insert favorite granola-Euro-city here]), let us also point out that those same cities have a ton of 1 way streets to HELP traffic....?
I haven't driven on Yonge in years (who would?), but just as a 70 storey condo vomits upward on the corner of Gerrard/Yonge, this is probably an idea whose time has passed.
Get rid of the stupid taxi/bus lane on Bay (who the F uses the bus with a subway a block away?), make it and Church 1 way, then you MIGHT have a case for a pedestrian mall.
Over to the usual people who have no idea what they are talking about...........
Kernala replying to a comment from Daryl / March 18, 2011 at 08:07 am
Irony, I guess. Being from Guelph and all it's something really special to call Toronto home after years of visiting once a month.
DC replying to a comment from gadfly / March 18, 2011 at 09:07 am
Oh gadfly...our resident self-proclaimed expert.

You know everything about everything, including traffic engineering.
One-ways are cure-alls. Let's think about this: Church, southbound, Bay, northbound.
6+lanes of northbound lanes vs. 2 lanes of southbound? How is that going to help traffic? Will these reverse at some random point in the day? So many questions for your well thought out expert solution.

Your solution assumes that closing Yonge to cars would be bad on traffic, so we'd need to open up new routes. Well Yonge has been down to 1 lane in each direction around Dundas for some time now...and while quite busy at first, traffic has calmed down..and is mostly taxis anyway. Last year, lanes around Wellesley were shut down for repair work...same thing happened.

What's the harm in trying? Why are you so god damn negative all the time?

And by the way, Who takes the Bay bus? Over 8000/day according to the TTC. It provides better local stops than the subway and direct access to the Ferry Docks.

Sean Boulton replying to a comment from jamesmallon / March 18, 2011 at 09:14 am
@jamesmallon - wow, there's nothing like vague dismissive hand-waving and ad hominem attacks to contribute to a discussion. I'm just as concerned about the effects on the public transit I take to work every morning as I am about how this would impact my ability to drive my boat (a Nissan Cube, by the way, so more dinghy than boat). And no, my mother never did take me to the sandbox but, since she fought cancer for the last three years of her life and died when I was sick, maybe she merits a pass in your eyes?

But please, if my argument's been thrashed so roundly in the past, do share - I'm always open to being educated and, who knows, you might even change my mind. I put forward a few different thoughts, though, so perhaps you'll be so kind as to be a bit more specific.

In the meantime, and sticking with your metaphor, I'll share with younone thing I did learn about the sandbox. When you feel the pressure building up and you need really badly to release it, the best thing to do is to get out of the sandbox and take care of it, or else you'll just end up making a mess of yourself.
Sean Boulton / March 18, 2011 at 09:33 am
That'd be died when I was six, not "sick" - hate typos & not being able to edit my own comments...
Jerome / March 18, 2011 at 03:44 pm
I've always loved this idea. Start, at least, at Dundas and take it to the lake (and build out a pier!).

Put some bike lanes in the their too!
lukev replying to a comment from Sean Boulton / March 31, 2011 at 01:08 am
Ok Sean, here we go:

You say the bus route will be affected. Yonge has a subway, no bus routes except when the subway is closed (and that is at 3 AM when traffic is calm anyways)

You say too many people turn at dundas. If you come down from Mississauga once in a while, you might note that there are no turns permitted at Yonge & Dundas, and presumably it will stay that way.

So both of your reasons are BS. Want to try again?
Sean Boulton replying to a comment from lukev / March 31, 2011 at 01:45 am
@lukev, sure, we can try again. I offered more than two reasons why I'm concerned but, since you've focused on just two, we can discuss both of them.

First of all, Yonge Street has the 97 bus line on it, and a number of spurs of that line that run at various times of the day - even when the subway is open. The relevant one in this discussion is the 97B, which runs from Steeles all the way down to Queens Quay and back throughout both the weekday morning and afternoon rush hours. I know this because I get on this bus every weekday morning at Yonge & Montgomery and then get off it again at Bay & Harbour. It's actually one of the best kept secrets of the city - gets me from door to door more quickly than the subway, even with rush hour traffic, and I can count on one hand the number of times that I haven't been able to get a seat, which is never true for the subway during rush hour when getting on at Eglinton Station.

Second, not to be pedantic, but if I came down from Mississauga, I'd end up in the lake. I'd happily come IN from Mississauga, except that I don't live there. I'm not sure what in my earlier comments gave you that impression, so I'll have to assume that you were just trying to be reflexively dismissive.

Finally, I know that there are currently no turns permitted at Yonge & Dundas - I believe what I said is that turns "would have to be allowed". You clearly disagree, so perhaps you could lay out for me how this would work? If they don't allow cars to turn off Yonge onto Dundas, and Yonge is closed northbound from Dundas to Gerrard, what do you propose would happen to all those cars heading northbound on Yonge once they get to Dundas? They have to leave that intersection somehow, no? Would their owners be expected to hoist them onto their shoulders and portage them through the pedestrian mall up to Gerrard? Or would they just abandon them there at the intersection like some kind of ever-growing monument to faulty urban planning?

You are right with one point, though. "Both" my reasons were BS - basically sound. Do YOU want to try again?
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