Toronto's popular sidewalk cafe program just got extended but some aren't happy
Toronto city council voted on Wednesday to adopt the CaféTO 2022 and Beyond staff report, approving a move to make the popular program a permanent fixture on city streets, while delivering benefits to restaurateurs like waived permit fees, business grants, and promotional programs.
"The CaféTO program has helped more than 1,200 restaurants and main streets across the city and provided millions of dollars in support for the restaurant industry throughout the pandemic," said Mayor John Tory.
"This successful program supports operators, protects jobs and creates vibrancy. It's one of many important initiatives I'm proud we have put into place and I know it will help Toronto come back from the pandemic stronger than ever, while also providing much-needed support to local businesses for years to come."
CaféTO is here to stay! Today Council voted to make the outdoor patio program permanent, and to waive permit fees for the program again in 2022.— Joe Cressy (@joe_cressy) November 10, 2021
By redesigning our streets for people, we're expanding uses for public space across the city. pic.twitter.com/fJFYQBT7So
Aside from staff and patrons of the over 1,200 restaurants benefitting from the program, how does everyone else feel about today's news?
As always, motorists are the group with the least to gain from a program that supports pedestrians and businesses that rely on foot traffic, seeing sidewalk cafes as an impediment to their ease of travel.
Hey great! Let's permanently bugger up any chance of decent traffic flow in the city ever again! 🙄— Jeff Kahl (@jeffreykahl) November 10, 2021
Others not pleased with the program's extension cite safety concerns, implying that we should all just avoid sidewalks altogether.
Until some drunk driver plows through a group of people sitting in the "curb lane." This was a temporary measure to help restaurants stay afloat... Not an excuse for you to shut down streets permanently. Time to get back to business. We no longer need to sit in the gutter.— JMC (@johnnysane) November 10, 2021
It all boils down to the clash of very different worlds, with Toronto's urban core leaning towards walking, cycling, and transit use versus lower-density areas with less reliable transit infrastructure that rely on sprawling highways to get around.
Are cities for living in or driving through?— Pierre Poilievre's Burner Phone 🇨🇦💰(fake, obvs) (@PPollievre) November 10, 2021
This was very much an issue during the council debate to pass the motion, the usual suspects (representing wards with some of the highest car ownership rates) arguing that the program added to traffic.
Initial questions about CafeTO from councillors Holyday and Minnan-Wong are focused on whether CafeTO is delaying travel times for Toronto drivers. Shocking, I know. Transportation GM Barbara Gray say part of making program permanent will be analysis of how patios impact traffic.— Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) November 10, 2021
And even if there were a few extra lanes for cars to squeeze into before CaféTO, traffic has long been a problem in this city.
Hey! Traffic was shit before, at least we’ve reclaimed space for people not cars— Rory Gallard (@rorygallard12) November 10, 2021
Despite the Twitter backlash from drivers, there appears to be overwhelming support for the program among restaurant operators, customers, and the public.
A survey that gathered over 10,000 responses showed 91 per cent support for extended sidewalk and curb lane cafés.
An updated registration process for the expanded program will open early in 2022, and the installation of the next generation of sidewalk and curb lane cafés will start to appear on Toronto streets as early as May.
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