Toronto council debates future of ActiveTO

City Council is debating the future of ActiveTO road closures along Lake Shore Boulevard West on Wednesday as traffic returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Today, new data will be presented to council regarding traffic delays in the city due to the ActiveTO program on Lake Shore Boulevard West in particular.

The city’s initiative was implemented in 2020 and closes some roads on certain weekends in an effort to give pedestrians and cyclists more space to wander off amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, as the city resumes pre-pandemic operations, traffic increases, leading to more congestion during ActiveTO closures.

Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro has also called for the Lake Shore closure to be reversed, submitting an open letter to City Council arguing that baseball fans cannot travel to Rogers Center to weekend matches.

Many residents argued the value of ActiveTO road closures given the relatively small number of people taking advantage of car-free roads.

Mayor John Tory says the city’s goal is to strike a balance between providing road space for summer events and preventing an excessive amount of traffic congestion.

“We do the best we can balance between those who have to move, which we understand, the neighborhoods who are worried about traffic in their neighborhood when we close some of these streets and on the other hand , to have a livable and fun kind of city where people can experience riding the streets or walking around or walking,” he told CP24 on Wednesday morning.

Tory has previously said the program is unlikely to be phased out entirely.

Last week, Tory said he saw recent data on ActiveTO’s impacts and said the program had “greater negative impact on traffic.”

Data collected by the city in 2021 suggests that when ActiveTO was in effect on Lake Shore Boulevard West, travel times on the Gardiner Expressway and the Queensway doubled or even tripled compared to no road closure .

Toronto lawyer and cycling advocate David Shellnut argues that ActiveTO should stay along Lake Shore Boulevard West to allow residents to enjoy the city’s waterfront.

“In 2020, we know that every weekend tens, tens of thousands of cyclists and pedestrians were there using this space. It’s right next to our beautiful waterfront, lots of businesses. This is the kind of area that should be promoted for active public use, rather than a four to eight lane highway,” he told CP24.

Shellnut added that the road closures provide a safe space for cyclists who he says face an increase in collisions on city streets.

“We (the cyclists) are hit in large numbers there. This discourages people from cycling. This imposes a lot of cost on our health care and policing systems. We really need to fix this problem.

With files from Chris Herhalt of CP24

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