Pedestrianization plans meander towards progress
MAR 22, 2013 | BY YUKON DAMOV
Despite a meagre turnout to its St. George Street Pedestrianization Town Hall, the University of Toronto Students’ Union is pushing ahead with the initiative. The forum was intended to be a way of soliciting student input on the proposal and detailing the plan. Anticlimactic though it was, the UTSU laid out its plan in its fullest detail yet.
The UTSU framed their plan as another development in a city gradually inclining toward privileging the pedestrian. They also touted the safety, environmental, and programming benefits of pedestrianization.
As far back as 1959, the City issued a report grappling with the consequences of constructing a car-centric metropolis. In 2009, the City released the Toronto Walking Strategy, which was an official policy encouraging a vibrant walking city. In a similar fashion, the UTSU wants to mimic the Pedestrian Sundays model of Kensington Market.
Rather than permanently close the entire street, the UTSU wants to implement pedestrianization as a pilot project. From Harbord to College, during the early and still-warm months of the school year, the street would be closed for a day at a time, opened up to host events like concerts and becoming a central social hub.
Pedestrianization would not, however, extend the entire length between Harbord and College. The closure would end south of Harbord, to allow for delivery access to the driveways at Sidney Smith Hall and University College.
The plan’s effects on surrounding traffic patterns and congestion was addressed. Ben Coleman, recently elected UTSU Arts and Science At-Large Director, presented his research, explaining that traffic would increase on-campus, but off-campus would be largely unaffected. Increased traffic on Huron and Hoskin, he said, would mean on-campus pedestrians would need to be vigilant, especially at intersections.
To alleviate east-west traffic on Hoskin/Harbord, the jog between Russell and Galbraith would remain open to traffic along St. George.
When Willcocks and Devonshire were considered for pilot projects, St. George was also considered, but determined to be unfeasible. With the modifications to the last plan, the UTSU is confident that this plan is workable.
“This plan appeases the fear that we’re going to exacerbate the problem of traffic on campus, and of impeding deliveries,” said Abigail Cludjoe, UTSU vice-president external and the lead person on the project.
“If we maintain it as a priority,” remarked UTSU president-elect Munib Sajjad, “it can be done.”
- Subtitle: Kensington Market provides model for plans