yonge midtown pilot toronto

Toronto's curbside patios and bike lanes barely added any traffic despite outrage

Motorists love to hate on bike lanes, and more recently, Toronto's experiment installation of cafés, patios, and cycle tracks on stretches of road formerly allocated to cars.

When the City of Toronto launched its ActiveTO Midtown Complete Street Pilottransforming Yonge Street, between Bloor Street and Davisville Avenue with improvements geared towards pedestrians and cyclists — motorists cried foul over concerns about longer commute times.

But the city recently published data on the pilot project that reveals drivers faced just over one minute of added travel time compared to pre-pilot traffic.

City data shows that northbound vehicle travel times during weekday evening peak periods were an average of 70 seconds longer than the before times. Outside of rush hour, added travel time amounted to less than one minute on the average weekday.

Travel times during the midday weekend period were 78 seconds longer for northbound traffic and 11 seconds longer for southbound traffic in September, compared with fall 2019.

Any concerns there were about spillover traffic when the pilot launched can be put to bed, as the city reports no spillover impacts on parallel corridors Avenue Road and Mount Pleasant.

Yonge Street's vehicular traffic increase of eight per cent during that period was eclipsed by the rise in daily cycling volumes, which were between 45 and 162 per cent higher in August than volumes observed pre-pilot in May 2021.

The pilot's busiest stretch between Rowanwood and Macpherson saw an increase of roughly 600 riders in August compared to May 2021.

Pedestrian volume also spiked, with daily numbers between 34 and 142 per cent higher in August than pre-pilot, though the city largely attributes this increase to seasonal changes and "pedestrian behaviour shifts throughout" rolling lockdowns.

Concerns over emergency response times have also been shot down with city data showing no troubling increases. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

There was only a five-second average increase in Toronto Fire Services emergency response travel times, compared to the city-wide average increase of 43 seconds in 2022 versus 2019.

Toronto Paramedic Services emergency response travel times were actually 38 seconds quicker in the pilot area in 2022 than 2019, standing out against a city-wide response time increase of 113 seconds in the same period.

The findings add onto the recent revelation that curbside patios in Toronto have generated almost 50 times the revenue of the parking spots they displaced, disproving some businesses' concerns that reductions in on-street parking would affect business.

Others seem unconcerned with the concept of the patios, instead complaining about the cheap, rushed-looking patios in Toronto compared with other cities.

The pilot was approved by City Council in 2021 as part of a broader pandemic recovery strategy and was extended one year later.

Cyclists and pedestrians have since celebrated the pilot, and there is a petition with growing support pushing to have the changes made permanent.

An upcoming report is expected to inform the future of the pilot, with a plan to consult the community before making a recommendation to City Council on whether the pilot should become a permanent fixture.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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