yonge street toronto

Yonge Street is officially getting a major makeover through downtown Toronto

Toronto's iconic Yonge Street is officially getting a makeover through the downtown core thanks to a 21-5 city council vote in favour of YongeTOmorrow; an ambitious plan that will restrict vehicular traffic along parts of the major street for more pedestrian, cyclist, event and green space.

Revamping the major arterial route is something city officials have been discussing and working on for years — ten years, according to councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

"Thank you to the residents, biz owners, thought leaders, cultural mavens who spoke in support of this big urban transformation," tweeted Wong-Tam, who has been instrumental in pushing the project forward, following the vote on Wednesday night.

"Yonge St. is a project 10 years in the making and today's historic vote solidifies its bright future!"

The Recommended Design Concept approved by council on Wednesday night targets the stretch of Yonge Street between Queen and College/Carlton.

Under the approved concept, pedestrian priority zones would be in effect between 6 a.m. and 1 a.m. every day. One-way driving access would be enforced along Yonge from Gerrard Street to Walton Street, and Elm Street to Edward Street during these hours.

Car access would be restricted completely between Walton and Elm Streets, and from Edward Street to Yonge-Dundas Square, and new cycle tracks would be added to Yonge between College/Carlton and Gerrard .

In exchange for this driving space, the city would gain a number of new outdoor gathering spaces, curbside activity zones, some much-needed streetscaping and furnishings such as seating and plants to support local businesses.

While there has been some criticism of the plan among pro-car types, response has been overwhelmingly positive throughout the city since renderings of what Yonge street could look like were released late last year.

And it's not as though cars would be booted from Yonge Street completely; all blocks would retain two-way traffic permissions overnight between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. daily.

"The proposed one-way driving blocks provide daytime access for those visiting or servicing a local property by car or truck, while keeping traffic volumes low to support a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere," explains the project's website.

"Driving circulation during the daytime would provide vehicle access to support parking garages, loading, deliveries, ride-hail, tour buses, Wheel-Trans and municipal services while maintaining a pedestrian-focused streetscape."

The final plan is still be subject to further consultation, and construction isn't expected to begin for at least two years.

One way or another, though, Yonge Street needs to change: the City of Toronto is mandated to replace a more than 100-year-old watermain running beneath it, which means that Yonge will be torn up in the near future, regardless of how officials intend to put it back together.

"No city street has been the subject of more visions and revisions (and mistakes) than the central spine that connects the east and west ends of Toronto," wrote Urban Land Institute Toronto of plans for #YongeTOmorrow.

"The advent of the global pandemic has created a unique moment to reimagine this buried urban jewel to strike a more sophisticated balance between public realm, transportation, and spatial equity in order to create a more dynamic and inclusive urban environment for everybody."

Lead photo by

City of Toronto

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