Learn how and why the Recommended Design Concept was designed.

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YongeTOmorrow has developed design alternatives and evaluated opportunities to improve pedestrian space and the way people move through and experience Yonge Street between College/Carlton Street and Queen Street. The study is being completed in accordance with the Schedule ‘C’ requirements of the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (MCEA) process.

The Focus Area is the geographic limit of design work for yongeTOmorrow and includes Yonge Street from College/Carlton Street to Queen Street.

The Study Area, is bound by University Avenue to the west, Jarvis Street to the east, Roxborough Avenue to the north, and King Street to the south. The Study Area indicates the geographic limits of data collection and public consultation for yongeTOmorrow.

The Study Area extends north to Roxborough in anticipation of a future EA study (Extended Focus Area/ Phase 2 EA, Figure 4) that will focus on the design of Yonge Street from College/Carton Street to Davenport Road. Data collection has already taken.

Map of Study Area & Focus Area

Watermain Replacement

A cast iron watermain constructed in 1889 exists beneath Yonge Street from Queen Street to College Street. This watermain is due for replacement and Yonge Street will need to be reconstructed to facilitate replacement of the water main.

South of Gerrard Street, the last reconstruction of the road base took place in 1954 upon completion of the subway. Yonge Street was resurfaced in 2014 from College Street to the Esplanade to improve pavement conditions.

There is an urgency to arrive at a long-term design solution for Yonge Street so that road works can be bundled with the watermain replacement.

Changes in Downtown Toronto

For over a century, Yonge Street has been an iconic destination in the heart of downtown Toronto for both residents and visitors.

In recent years, growth and technology have dramatically changed the look and feel of our city. Today, Downtown Yonge is booming with development and activity during all hours and days of the week. There are more people using the street and their needs and priorities are shifting.

The area around Yonge Street is undergoing dramatic changes as a result of large numbers of new residential towers being built along and in close proximity to Yonge Street. The trend is continuing with numerous parcels under development or in the planning stages. There are approximately 20,000 residential units in towers over 15 storeys high within this area, with 10,000 new units in the pipeline based on current development applications made to the City. There are at least 2,800 hotel rooms, with 600 more being proposed.

The commercial face of the street is responding to the influx of new residents, becoming more service-oriented, while increasing retail rents are resulting in more chain stores. Ryerson University’s expansion out to Yonge Street in 2014 has also changed the character, bringing more students out to Yonge Street and creating a highly animated zone between Ryerson facilities, Dundas subway station, the cinemas, Dundas Square and the Eaton Centre.

Stakeholder Initiatives & Studies

For many years, community stakeholders such as the Downtown-Yonge Business Improvement Area (DYBIA) have been advocating for public realm improvements on Yonge Street to support the increasing residential and commercial growth, the number of special events taking place in and around Yonge Dundas Square and the volume of pedestrians using the street daily.

City Policy

In 2018, City Council adopted the Downtown Plan (also known as TOcore) and the Downtown Parks and Public Realm Plan. Together, these Plans provide a policy framework and vision for parks and public realm in the core. They identify Yonge Street as one of Toronto’s Great Streets, a Cultural Corridor and a Priority Retail Street.

The goals set for Yonge Street in TOcore are to:

  • create a significant pedestrian destination supporting public life and retail vitality
  • celebrate the cultural aspects of Yonge Street and enhance it as a place for regional festivals and parades as well as a place for day to day use by residents, visitors and workers
  • design a unified streetscape that responds to the various neighbourhood character areas
  • improve the streetscape for walking, transit stops, social gathering, public outdoor seating, café seating and landscaping
  • improve the cycling experience
  • create a significant public space where Yonge Street meets the shoreline

Growth

Between 1996 and 2016, there was a 73% increase in population to 55,000 and a 43% increase in employment to over 225,000 with growth expected to continue. Currently, there are over 10,000 proposed condo units within the Study Area. City Planning expects 400 residents and jobs per hectare by 2031 and projections anticipate the current population and employment numbers to further double by 2041. This in turn would place increased demands on Yonge Street.

Mode Share

While the number of pedestrians on Yonge Street has somewhat lessened during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the last several years, the sidewalks on Yonge Street have daily volumes which exceed 100,000 pedestrians per day. Pedestrian movement is slowed due to crowding especially near Yonge-Dundas Square.

50–75 per cent of people using the entire street are pedestrians, while less than 25 per cent of the right-of-way space is dedicated to pedestrian movement. Weekly pedestrians counts were studied over a four year period between 2014 and 2018 and pedestrian volumes are significant on Yonge Street throughout all 52 weeks of the year.

50-75% of people using Yonge Street are pedestrians (8-hour intersection counts).
Mode share on Yonge Street 50–75 per cent of people using Yonge Street are pedestrians (eight-hour intersection counts).

Mode Shift

Between 1996 and 2016, there has also been a significant decrease in driving and an increase in alternative modes of transportation such as walking, cycling, and transit usage within the downtown area (Figure 3). Driving trips to the study area from within Toronto have decreased from 35% to 18%. Regional driving trips into the study area have decreased from 56% to 37%.Total driving mode share including local and regional trips has decreased from 39% to 22%. Meanwhile, walking and cycling have doubled to 24% and 5% respectively.

At this point, it is unknown how the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in working from home will influence long-term changes in travel patterns across the region and into the core. However, there is a significant residential population in the yongeTOmorrow Focus Area which continues to experience growth and these residents predominately walk, cycle and take transit.

Tourism & Events

Yonge Street has long been a street for events and entertainment. It was the site of the first Santa Clause Parade in 1905 and is now the official route for the Pride Parade, Festival of India, and St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Yonge Street historically has hosted three annual running races, the Bike to Work Day Group Commute and festivals like Open Streets.

Since the opening of Yonge-Dundas Square in 2002, the neighbourhood’s importance as a tourism and entertainment zone has evolved. The square plays host to hundreds of events each year and includes major events like North by North East (NXNE), Illuminite and Canada Day Celebrations.

The Eaton Centre, national flagship stores for many retailers and theatres also draw visitors to the area. A 2014 Environics poll conducted by the Downtown-Yonge BIA indicated that 28 per cent of the pedestrian traffic in the Study Area are visitors to the area and a further 10 per cent are tourists.

Surface Transit

In addition to the Yonge Street subway line, Yonge Street is served by the 97B bus weekday mornings and afternoons every 30 minutes in a northbound and southbound direction. The 97B route runs from Queens Quay to Davisville Station and serves approximately 390 passengers on a typical weekday.

Yonge Street is also served by the 320 Night Bus when the subway (Line 1 Yonge-University) is not in operation overnight from approximately 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. The 320 operates both northbound and southbound with headways of 3.5 minutes until 3:30 am Monday through Saturday and 15 minute headways at other times. On Sunday morning, due to the late opening of the subway, the night bus runs for an additional two hours, from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. with three-minute headways. This route serves approximately 1,400 passengers on a typical weeknight.

Typical existing street width (25.8 m) from College Street to Gerrard Street.
Typical existing width (25.8 m) from College Street to Gerrard Street.
Typical existing street width (20 m) from Gerrard Street to Queen Street.
Typical existing street width (20 m) from Gerrard Street to Queen Street.

 

The design and operation of Yonge Street has remained unchanged since the early 1900s – a 20 m right-of-way with four lanes of vehicular traffic (two southbound and two northbound) occupying 12.6 m and the remaining 3.7 m on each side of the road shared by public realm elements (transit stops, subway entrances, waste receptacles, poles etc.) and pedestrians.

A black and white image of cars driving over streetcar tracks and people crowded on the sidewalks.
Looking north on Yonge Street from near Queen Street on January 12, 1929. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 6569

Throughout consultation, feedback from stakeholders and members of the public provided the following key insights and priorities:

  • Sidewalks feel overcrowded and congested.
  • People often look for an alternate route instead of Yonge Street due to existing traffic congestion whether walking, cycling and/or driving.
  • Pedestrian experience needs to be improved and should be the priority of the street.
  • Public safety is a top priority, encompassing both improving road safety, and design considerations to improve personal security.
  • Vehicle access is needed to support local business operations.
  • Public realm should support local area businesses.
  • Street should be flexible for a variety of uses and changes in temporal demands (time-related).
  • Different opinions about how much space to allot for different transportation modes, uses and in what combination.
  • Desire to make the area more attractive by adding greenery (trees/planters).
  • Yonge Street should support growing volume of people cycling.

A City staff member talking to a woman about the yongeTOmorrow study

The process to arrive at the Recommended Design Concept consisted of three stages of design and evaluation:

Stage of Design Evaluation
Step 1: Long-List Screening
  • A Long-List of street Design Options developed and evaluated to arrive at a Short-List.
  • Three Design Options carried forward.
Step 2: Alternatives
  • Alternative Solutions developed and evaluated using the Street Design Options to arrive at a Preferred Alternative.
  • One Alternative Solution carried forward.
Step 3: Design Concepts
  • The Preferred Alternative developed into Design Concepts which are evaluated to arrive at a Recommended Design Concept

Step 1: Long-List Screening

The Design Team started the study by collecting data and identifying a problem and opportunity statement. Next, a set of goals, objectives and evaluation criteria were created using input from stakeholders.

A diagram showing each of the 15 possible road configuration alternatives
The Long List of Street Design Options which included options with four driving lanes, 3 driving lanes, two driving lanes, no driving lanes and cycling facilities.

A Long List of Alternatives was developed for the typical 20 m Yonge Street right-of-way as follows:

  1. Existing Conditions – Baseline Comparison
  2. Car Free A (Pedestrian Priority)
  3. Car Free B
  4. One Driving Lane A
  5. One Driving Lane B
  6. One Driving Lane C
  7. One Driving Lane D (One-Way Driving Access)
  8. One Driving Lane E
  9. Two Driving Lanes A
  10. Two Driving Lanes B
  11. Two Driving Lanes C
  12. Two Driving Lanes D (Two-Way Driving Access)
  13. Three Driving Lanes A
  14. Three Driving Lanes B
  15. Four Driving Lanes (2031 – Future Do Nothing)

The Preferred Alternative (Alternative 4) was then developed into three Design Concepts: 4A, 4B and 4C. These three concepts evaluated different ways to operate Alternative 4, but all utilize the same physical design (a reduction of the existing four-lane cross section to two lanes from College Street to Queen Street). The evaluation identified 4C as the Recommended Design Concept.

These Alternatives were then evaluated using the evaluation criteria and three Emerging Alternatives were identified in a report to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee in October 2019.

These Emerging Alternatives were then confirmed as the Short List of Street Design Options:

  • Pedestrian Priority
  • One-Way Driving Access
  • Two-Way Driving Access with cycling facilities on a parallel street.

These three concepts evaluated different ways to operate Alternative 4, but all utilize the same physical design (a reduction of the existing four-lane cross section to two lanes from College Street to Queen Street). The evaluation identified 4C as the Recommended Design Concept.

The Short List of Street Design Opions: Pedestrian Priority, One-Way Driving Access, Two-Way Driving access + Cycling facilities on parallel street
The Short List of Street Design Options which best met project objectives and were carried forward to the next phase of study.

During the long-list evaluation, it was determined that the existing four-lane cross section (“Do-Nothing”), three-lane cross sections, and cross sections with continuous cycle tracks did not adequately support project objectives within a 20 m right-of-way and were not carried forward to the next round of evaluation.

Step 2: Alternative Solutions

The priorities along Yonge Street vary based on the adjacent properties and how they influence people’s use of the street.

Four Alternative Solutions were developed by applying one of the three Street Design Options (Pedestrian Priority, One-Way Driving Access or Two-Way Driving Access) to each block of Yonge Street based on its local needs.

A cycling facility feasibility assessment was also carried out on Bay Street, Church Street and University Avenue. Alternative 4 with cycling facilities on University Avenue was identified as the Preferred Alternative because it provided significant improvements to the pedestrian street experience while limiting impacts to traffic operations across the neighbourhood.

Consultation during Round Two also identified that more consideration was desired for people cycling as well as deliveries, loading and ride hailing.

Alternative 4 was chosen as the Preferred Alternative.
Summary of Alternatives identifying Alternative 4 as the Preferred Alternative.

Step 3: Design Concepts

Keeping the feedback about cycling and more driving access to support business in mind, the Preferred Alternative (Alternative 4) was then developed into three Design Concepts: 4A, 4B and 4C. These three concepts evaluated different ways to operate Alternative 4, but all utilize the same physical design (a reduction of the existing four-lane cross section to two lanes from College Street to Queen Street).

Summary of Alternative 4 being refined to form three Desing Concepts: 4A, 4B, 4C

Alternative 4 has been refined by block during the day to form 4A, 4B, and 4C. In all three Design Concepts, overnight (i.e. 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.), there would be two-way driving access for buses, cars and trucks from College Street to Queen Street. All concepts would also include a cycle track on University Avenue.

Design Concepts 4A Most Pedestrian Priority, 4B Pedestrian Priority with Two-Way Driving Access, 4C Pedestrian Priority with One-Way Driving Access and Cycle Tracks(from College/Carlton Street to Gerrard Street).

A range of operational strategies on a scale of most pedestrian priority to some pedestrian priority with higher levels of driving access were assessed:

  • 4A provides the most pedestrian priority and the least driving access. A short two-way local access would be provided between Gould Street and Edward Street to service loading docks. There are more turn restrictions, and fewer curbside activity zones to allow more spaces for cafés, seating and greening.
  • 4B had two pedestrian priority zones flanked by two-way local driving access. It has the least turn restrictions, the most dedicated turn lanes, and the most curbside activity zones.
  • 4C has two pedestrian priority zones flanked by one-way or two-way local driving access. It also adds a cycle track from College Street to Gerrard.

The evaluation identified 4C as the Recommended Design Concept as it provides a balanced approach that provides increased support for pedestrians and cyclists in key places, while maintaining driving access where needed:

Evaluation Criteria Concept 4A – Most Pedestrian Priority Concept 4B –
Pedestrian Priority with Two-Way Driving Access
Concept 4C – Pedestrian Priority with One-Way Driving Access & Cycle Tracks
  • Pedestrian
    Movement
  • Pedestrian
    Experience
  • Retail & Tourism
  • Greening
  • Street Flexibility
  • Special Events
  • Public Safety
  • Health &
    Wellbeing
Best

 

Good Better
  • Cycling
Better Good Best
  • Driving
  • Transit
  • Curbside Activity
Good Best Better
  • Cost-Effectiveness
Better Best Best

 

After Round Three of consultation, refinements were made to 4C based on stakeholder feedback to form the Recommended Design Concept – 4D. Through consultation with area stakeholders, it was determined that Two-Way Operation from Gerrard Street to Walton Street would be more appropriate considering the development proposals located on this block. 4C has since been amended to provide Two-Way Driving Access from Gerrard Street to Walton Street to form the Final Recommended Design Concept 4D

Gerrard Street to Walton Street has been changed from One-Way Driving Access to Two-Way Driving Access.
Summary of differences between 4C and 4D