UTSU prepares ground for St. George Street pedestrianization
MAR 08, 2013 | BY YUKON DAMOV
The University of Toronto Students’ Union is working to make good on President Shaun Shepherd’s campaign promise to pedestrianize St. George Street from College to Harbord. Development on the initiative is still in the preliminary stages, with some neighbourhood associations and the university administration not yet ready to put their support behind the proposal.
The closing of St. George Street to vehicular traffic will be a boon to student safety and campus unity while also decreasing U of T’s environmental footprint, argued Abigail Cludjoe, UTSU vice-president external and the union’s lead person on the initiative.
“There is a sort of gap between the west, central and east campuses,” said Cludjoe. “Closing of the street will allow and encourage students to engage in an open space whom are not only part of the Faculty of Arts and Science, but also Engineering and Architecture.”
While the St. George Street pedestrianization entails the benefits of increased event space, increased pedestrian safety, and environmental activism, there are complicating factors.
St. George is a major thoroughfare for local traffic, deliveries being the most significant variety. Besides regular deliveries made to Sidney Smith Hall and other institutional traffic, there have been concerns about University College students moving into residence being unable to easily unload their belongings.
This problem can be solved, however, by allowing for deliveries in the evening. This might be done by installing bollards at the ends of the pedestrian zone that can be raised or lowered. The cost of bollards has yet to be determined.
UTSU has been consulting with some relevant neighbourhood organizations, but not all.
“This is the first we have heard of this idea,” wrote David Harrison, president of the Annex Residents’ Association. “Thus we have yet to explore and discuss it. My immediate reaction is that will be a difficult initiative not least because St George is a vital link in the bicycle network.”
Huron Sussex Residents’ Organization commented that they would be “happy to consider a proposal.”
The university administration has not yet thrown its support behind full pedestrianization. “The University has been very supportive of the occasional closure of St. George Street for student activities,” said Jill Matus, Vice-Provost Students. “An example is the Orientation Week street fair that took place last year. There are, however, complex issues around full closure.”
Matus explained that St. George Street was considered along with Willcocks Street and Devonshire for a pedestrianization pilot project. “At that time, neither the City nor the University considered it workable for a variety of traffic, fire access and servicing reasons.”
Nevertheless, Cudjoe’s commission will hold a Town Hall March 20 to receive students’ opinions. With the hopes of gaining support, Cudjoe will send a proposal document to neighbourhood associations, the administration and Toronto City Council, announcing the first formal step on a lengthy road to St. George Street pedestrianization.
- Subtitle: Union set to present proposal to City in April