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Recommended Design Concept 4D

The Recommended Design Concept is composed of a physical design, for which Environmental Assessment (EA) approval is being recommended, along with a flexible operations approach that is not tied to the physical design.

Physical Design

Typical cross section from Gerrard Street to Queen Street.
Typical cross section from College Street to Gerrard Street.

The Recommended Design Concept proposes a consistent, yet flexible road design that can accommodate different operations and programming. The following design elements are consistent for the full length of the focus area from College Street to Queen Street:

  • 6.0 m-wide, two-lane roadway with mountable curbs and vehicular unit paving
  • 2.7 m-wide furnishing, planting and café zone
  • 4.0 m-wide (minimum) pedestrian clearway with pedestrian unit paving

The typical cross section from Gerrard Street to Queen Street is more constrained at 20 m. From College Street to Gerrard Street, the right-of-way is six metres wider than the rest of the corridor. The character of the adjacent properties is also less tourism and entertainment-focused. Cycle tracks, which provide links between the existing cycling facilities on College Street and Gerrard Street are recommended for this section.

The roadway and streetscape would look and feel the same and the road and streetscape design can accommodate Pedestrian Priority, One-Way or Two-Way operations from College Street to Queen Street.

Flexibility was identified as a key priority during the study. The physical design recommended for construction as part of the EA process does not “lock-in” the future operations of any block. Operations can be adjusted based on the future needs of downtown Yonge Street.

Flexible Operational Approach

While the design of the street recommended through the YongeTOmorrow EA process would be consistent for the entire stretch, the study also evaluated various traffic operational strategies and proposes a flexible approach that would change the way the street functions from day to night.

Daytime Operations

During the day, from College Street to Queen Street, Yonge Street would be a place focused on the movement and experience of people walking, cycling, and connecting to transit, rather than way to get through the downtown core by driving. Driving circulation during the daytime would provide vehicle access to support parking garages, loading, deliveries, ride hail, tour buses, Wheel-Trans and municipal services while maintaining a pedestrian-focused streetscape.

The one-way driving blocks provide daytime access for those visiting or servicing a local property by car or truck, while keeping traffic volumes low to support a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. This extends the character of pedestrian priority blocks while accommodating local driving access.

Nighttime Operations

Overnight (i.e. from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.), all blocks would have two-way driving access open to support TTC night bus service, deliveries and general traffic.

This operational recommendation is subject to further consultation and refinement throughout the detailed design process. Prior to construction completion, a report would be brought forward to Infrastructure and Environment Committee recommending bylaw and traffic operational amendments necessary to implement an operational approach. As with all operational initiatives, the street would continue to be monitored and further adjustments could continue to be made as needed to maintain effective street operations.

More Information

IE19.11 (Infrastructure and Environment Committee – January 11, 2021)

IE19.11 (City Council – February 2 & 3, 2021)

Key Issues

Over the past nine months, COVID-19 has changed how many Torontonians use and prioritize space on city streets. Under the direction of Council, lane closures and other changes to city streets have been installed as part of the ActiveTO, CaféTO and CurbTO programs to support social distancing.

The City is monitoring these temporary installations to identify challenges and opportunities in the short and long term. The yongeTOmorrow study has also asked stakeholders how their use of the street and priorities have changed in 2020 and has considered that feedback.

The yongeTOmorrow study continues to evaluate concepts by considering the needs of people using the street today and many years from now in a post-pandemic future. Yonge Street is not only a retail and economic hub but it also supports a significant residential community. The needs of local residents and businesses are important to consider during recovery. Both short and long term yongeTOmorrow supports:

  • more space for people walking and cycling
  • more space for outdoor cafés, vending and retail
  • improving equity and experience for all who use City streets
  • more public space for residents in the core with less access to parks and private outdoor space
  • creating a flexible and resilient street that can adapt to the City’s needs now and in the future
Older woman walking in a curb lane used for CurbTO.
Shared Space signs on pylons for ActiveTO.
Curb lane being used as a patio for CafeTO.

Pedestrians make up the majority of people using Yonge Street. On some sections of Yonge Street, the pedestrian infrastructure does not meet the City’s guidelines for accessibility or pedestrian clearways and there is overcrowding. With populations in the area expected to double by 2041, the infrastructure will be critically deficient and may risk pedestrian safety.

The Recommended Design Concept supports providing better transportation choices and experiences for all who use city streets and provides more public space for downtown residents.

The City is committed to building a transportation system that considers the needs of all groups regardless of race, class or ability, and acknowledges that not everyone starts out with the same opportunities and mobility choices.

Investing in Public Realm Enhancement

YongeTOmorrow is an opportunity for significant public realm enhancement and for downtown Yonge Street to become a premier urban destination for tourists and City residents. This type of investment may further catalyze significant economic and cultural investment in the Yonge corridor and may provide an opportunity for increased economic growth for the city.

Global Case Studies

Studies from across the UK, USA and Toronto indicate that people walking and cycling visit more often and spend more per month on retail streets than those driving. Case studies also show that reducing driving lanes to improve the walking and cycling experience attracts more visitors to retail streets.

Data shows that investment in improvements for people walking, cycling and taking transit is good for the economic health of a neighbourhood. Studies of Times Square in New York City also found that reducing vehicle lanes and investing in the pedestrian experience increased the number of visitors, the value of commercial properties and advertising revenues, and also decreased commercial property vacancies.

Large, empty roadway
Broadway, New York, after it was closed to vehicular traffic.
Lively streetscape, with people sitting on chairs under umbrellas.
Broadway, New York, after it was closed to vehicular traffic.

Funding to Accelerate Vision Zero Strategy

In June 2018, City Council authorized funding to achieve a higher level of road safety along the City’s designated cultural corridors, including Yonge Street between Queens Quay and Davenport Road.

Safety Reviews

As a result, an In-Service Road Safety Review (ISSR) and a Road Safety Audit (RSA) are being completed for the Yonge Street Cultural Corridor in coordination with yongeTOmorrow. The ISSR has identified existing areas for improvement and mitigative countermeasures that were considered to prioritize the safety of vulnerable road users by adding protected space for walking and cycling and reducing the number of driving lanes, driving speeds, car and truck volumes, corner radii and crossing distances.

Accessible Design Considerations & Features

The following design considerations and features have been included to maintain and enhance accessibility on Yonge Street:

  • Limiting the continuous length of pedestrian priority zones to a maximum of 100 m total length (from the centre of a pedestrian priority zone the maximum distance to driving a street with driving access is 50 m).
  • Mountable curbs to provide greater crossing opportunities in pedestrian priority zones for people using mobility aids.
  • 4.0 m wide pedestrian-only clearways separated from the roadway by a 2.7 m-wide furnishing zone and 0.6 m-wide cane detectable tactile paving strip in a contrasting colour.
  • Yellow tactile indicators to delineate transit stops waiting and boarding areas.
  • Non-tumbled and bevel free pavers designed to be smoother under wheel and foot in pedestrian clearways.
  • Tumbled pavers in roadway areas to provide an increased audible warning of moving vehicles.
  • All unit paving laid on a concrete base to prevent shifting and heaving.
  • Consistent light colour unit paving in pedestrian clearways with contrasting dark colour unit paving within the roadway to improve street legibility for people with low vision.

Wheel-Trans Service Considerations

City and TTC staff worked closely to ensure accessibility was a key consideration in the design and that access for para-transit customers would be maintained. TTC staff initially had concerns with the ability of Alternative 4 to support Wheel-Trans operations. The introduction of local access blocks in Design Concepts addressed these concerns.

Many existing buildings and future developments fronting the Pedestrian Priority Zones have major entrance points from other streets or portions of Yonge Street with driving access (Atrium on Bay, Eaton Centre and 10 Dundas). During the next phase of design, there will be continued discussion with Wheel-Trans staff to determine if additional accommodations are required to support effective Wheel-Trans service and accessible drop-offs.

Cycling Network Plan

The Cycling Network Plan identifies Yonge Street as a major corridor that presents opportunities to create City-wide connections.

Feasibility of Cycling Infrastructure on Yonge Street

The yongeTOmorrow EA has evaluated the appropriateness and feasibility of cycling infrastructure on Yonge Street by reviewing technical constraints, stakeholder feedback and guiding policy, and does not recommend cycling infrastructure on Yonge Street between Gerrard Street and Queen Street where there is a 20 m right-of-way, very high pedestrian volumes and a high concentration of tourism and events. As a result, University Avenue, Bay Street and Church Street were evaluated for cycling infrastructure as part of the yongeTOmorrow EA process.

Added Considerations from Stakeholder Feedback

Feedback from Round Two of Consultation indicated that more consideration for cycling was desired. As a result, more consideration for cycling was added to the recommended design concept by providing a protected bike lane (cycle track) on Yonge Street between College Street and Gerrard Street where:

  • the transportation right-of-way is six metres wider
  • connections can be made to the existing cycling infrastructure on Gerrard Street which provides connectivity east-west and to existing cycling infrastructure on Sherbourne Street, some segments of Bay Street, and to the proposed (and currently temporary) cycling infrastructure on University Avenue
  • there are fewer tourism and entertainment uses
  • vehicle volumes are anticipated to be higher than the other blocks to the south due to the connectivity Gerrard Street provides to alternate vehicle routes
Recommended network connection.
Recommended network connection.

Cycling Infrastructure Recommendations

The Recommended Design Concept would encourage two-way cycling that yields to pedestrians along the full length of Yonge Street, between College Street and Queen Street, including within the pedestrian priority zones and blocks with one way driving access.

On blocks that would be one-way for motor vehicles, one lane would be shared by people driving and cycling in the same direction. The lane in the opposing direction would function in a similar way to a contra-flow bike lane as motor vehicles would not have access to it. People cycling will benefit from reduced vehicle volumes and speeds.

Because of the high pedestrian volumes, frequent events and tourism sites sharing the limited space on Yonge Street south of Gerrard Street, a separated, high-volume cycling facility is recommended on University Avenue.

Circulation on One-Way Driving Access blocks.
Circulation on One-Way Driving Access blocks.

Reducing Driving Access

The Recommended Design Concept proposes to reduce driving access on Yonge Street from current conditions. A multi-modal transportation model has been developed based on existing conditions and the City’s 2031 planning horizon to assess the impact of the proposed changes to the Study Area.

Traffic Modelling

Modelling was completed for weekday morning peak hour, weekday afternoon peak hour and weekend peak hour. Afternoon peak hour represents the highest traffic volumes and represents the most conservative predicted travel times.

Northbound/Southbound Travel Time Impacts

The traffic simulation model estimates how long (in minutes) to drive north or south between College Street and Queen Street during the afternoon rush hour.


North driving travel times in minutes during afternoon rush hour:

Route 2016 (Existing) 2031 (Do Nothing) 2031 (Recommended Design Concept 4D) +/- (sec)
Bay Street 04:50 06:10 06:50 +40
Church Street 04:00 04:30 06:00 +90
University Avenue 02:10 02:10 02:20 +10
Jarvis Street 03:50 05:40 07:00 +80

South driving travel times in minutes during afternoon rush hour:

Route 2016 (Existing) 2031 (Do Nothing) 2031 (Recommended Design Concept 4D) +/- (sec)
Bay Street 04:40 05:00 05:50 +50
Church Street 04:20 06:00 04:30 -90
University Avenue 03:20 03:50 05:00 +70
Jarvis Street 03:30 04:40 04:30 -10

Eastbound/Westbound Travel Time Impacts

The traffic simulation model estimates how long (in minutes) it would take streetcars to travel east or west between University Avenue and Jarvis Street in the afternoon rush hour.

The highest increase is seen on Dundas Street at 40 seconds in the westbound direction. College/Carlton Street (-160 seconds eastbound) and Queen Street (-60 seconds westbound) would see reductions in travel time:


East driving travel times in minutes during afternoon rush hour:

Route 2016 (Existing) 2031 (Do Nothing) 2031 (Recommended Design Concept 4D) +/- (sec)
Queen Street 05:40 07:40 07:50 +10
Dundas Street 05:50 10:10 09:00 -70
College Street 05:10 07:10 07:10 +0

West driving travel times in minutes during afternoon rush hour:

Route 2016 (Existing) 2031 (Do Nothing) 2031 (Recommended Design Concept 4D) +/- (sec)
Queen Street 06:10 08:50 10:50 +120
Dundas Street 04:50 07:20 07:10 -10
College Street 04:50 07:30 06:40 -50

TTC Subway Station Upgrades

The highest impacts are seen in the northbound direction on Jarvis Street (90 seconds), followed by Church Street (80 seconds) and in the southbound direction on University Avenue (70 seconds).

Input from the TTC

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) staff have been involved in the review of design alternatives and traffic modelling to assist in identifying issues and solutions to mitigate impacts of the Recommended Design Concept.

Based on input from TTC staff, all design concepts accommodate the operation of two-way bus service when the subway is not in operation. This is both overnight (1 a.m. to 6 a.m.) and during daytime shutdowns when shuttle buses are required.

Traffic Modelling

The 97B bus that currently uses Yonge Street during the day would be discontinued or re-routed. No changes are recommended to other daytime bus services or the 320 night bus. Subway replacement shuttle buses, streetcar routes, and subway services would also be unchanged.

The impacts to surface transit travel times across the neighbourhood have also been estimated using the Aimsun traffic model.

Northbound/Southbound Travel Time Impacts

The traffic simulation model estimates how long (in minutes) it would take buses to travel north or south between College/Carlton Street and Queen Street during afternoon rush hour. The highest increases for bus service are seen on Bay Street with an increase in the southbound direction of up to 40 seconds:


North bus travel times in minutes during afternoon rush hour:

Route 2016 (Existing) 2031 (Do Nothing) 2031 (Recommended Design Concept 4D) +/- (sec)
5A (Avenue) 05:40 05:40 06:10 +30
6A (Bay) 17:30 18:30 18:30 +0
6B (Bay) 15:20 16:00 16:10 +10

South bus travel times in minutes during afternoon rush hour:

Route 2016 (Existing) 2031 (Do Nothing) 2031 (Recommended Design Concept 4D) +/- (sec)
5A (Avenue) 04:50 04:50 04:50 +0
6A (Bay) 15:50 16:00 16:40 +40
6B (Bay) 15:20 15:40 16:10 +30

Eastbound/Westbound Travel Time Impacts

The traffic simulation model estimates how long (in minutes) it would take streetcars to travel east or west between University Avenue and Jarvis Street in the afternoon rush hour.

The highest increase is seen on Dundas Street at 40 seconds in the westbound direction. College/Carlton Street (-160 seconds eastbound) and Queen Street (-60 seconds westbound) would see reductions in travel time:


East streetcar travel times in minutes during afternoon rush hour:

Route 2016 (Existing) 2031 (Do Nothing) 2031 (Recommended Design Concept 4D) +/- (sec)
501/502 (Queen) 10:20 09:20 09:40 +20
505 (Dundas) 10:20 13:20 11:40 +10
506 (College) 08:20 13:10 10:30 -160

West streetcar travel times in minutes during afternoon rush hour:

Route 2016 (Existing) 2031 (Do Nothing) 2031 (Recommended Design Concept 4D) +/- (sec)
501/502 (Queen) 10:10 14:10 13:10 -60
505 (Dundas) 09:50 10:10 10:50 +40
506 (College) 08:00 12:40 12:50 +10

TTC Subway Station Upgrades

Dundas Station

The need for a second subway exit at Dundas Station has been raised by many stakeholders. Currently, the TTC, City Planning, Ryerson University and developers are investigating opportunities for a second exit at Dundas Station. This process, along with improvements to other TTC subway infrastructure are separate from the yongeTOmorrow EA.

College Station

The City continues to coordinate with TTC on capital improvements planned for stations within the focus area, including the College Station renovations to improve subway platform access from the concourse level.

Concerns about Economic Impacts & Goods Movement and Customer Access

Stakeholders from the business community have raised concerns about the economic impacts of reduced driving access on Yonge Street. Concerns were focused on goods movement and customer access.

Added Considerations from Site Observations & Stakeholder Feedback

Staff carried out numerous site walks, site observations and over 60 individual interviews to understand property conditions as part of Round Two of Consultation. As a result, increased driving access was incorporated into the proposed design concept by providing one-way driving access from Elm Street to Edward Street.

Other Design Considerations

In addition, the following design considerations and recommendations have been included to support goods movement and customer access on Yonge Street:

  • Daytime driving access maintained to all parking garages, loading docks, driveways and rear lanes.
  • Overnight driving access maintained on all sections of Yonge Street for goods movement.
  • Provision of dedicated curbside activity areas on Yonge Street, Elm Street, Edward Street and Dundas Square for commercial and passenger loading. These zones have been located based on field observations, GIS ride hail data, interviews and the location of adjacent tourism and entertainment sites.
  • Limiting the length of pedestrian priority zones to 100 m to provide convenient access for ride hail and delivery services.
  • Provision of right turn egress from Eaton Centre parking garage at Yonge Street and Shuter Street to reduce rush hour queues to exit the garage.

Local Stakeholder Concerns

The Recommended Design Concept 4D maintains existing access to and from all off-street parking facilities. Increased delay accessing or exiting is a concern for local stakeholders.

Eaton Centre

The Eaton Centre garage, accessed from the Yonge Street and Shuter Street intersection, and the associated traffic operations of Shuter Street and Victoria Street are of utmost concern for Cadillac Fairview. They have expressed significant concern that additional traffic restrictions in this area may have a major impact on the operations of the garage.

To mitigate these concerns, Recommended Design Concept 4D recommends permitting a westbound right turn out of the garage at the Yonge Street and Shuter Street intersection.

20 Dundas Square (beneath Yonge-Dundas Square)

The Toronto Parking Authority has expressed concerns about access to and from Carpark 34 located at 20 Dundas Square (beneath Yonge-Dundas Square) which is accessed using Dundas Square from Yonge Street.

No modifications are proposed to the existing operation of Dundas Square as part of yongeTOmorrow.


To manage driving access a combination of design cues (such as materiality and roadway width) along with signage and automated gates are recommended.

Automated Gates & Mountable Curbs

Automated gates are proposed on each end of the pedestrian priority zones. The gates would be closed during the day (i.e. from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.) and open overnight (i.e. from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.) to allow overnight bus service along with access for general traffic.

Example of automated gate. Den Haag, Netherlands.
Example of an automated gate on the Haag, Netherlands.

The Recommended Design Concept and details, such as access gates and curbs, have been proposed in consultation with Fire, Police and Paramedic Services to ensure access would be maintained for emergency services.

Emergency service vehicles would be permitted to enter pedestrian priority zones as required. The gates would be partial roadway width – wide enough to visually discourage drivers, while still allowing emergency vehicles to pass.

Mountable curbs would provide additional space for vehicles to pull off the roadway and make way for emergency service vehicles to pass.

Example of roll curb. Carden Street, Guelph, Ontario
Example of a mountable curb in Guelph, Ontario.

It is recommended that enhanced operations strategies be considered during the detailed design process to support public realm activations, beautification, waste collection, cleaning, and bylaw enforcement, in collaboration with the local BIA.

Following construction, an interim education strategy would also be needed to support the operational changes on Yonge Street. The street would be monitored post-implementation for any necessary operational or programming adjustments.

The visibility and impacts of homelessness, drug use, and other social challenges in the downtown core have been raised repeatedly during the consultation process for the YongeTOmorrow EA. Transportation Services has engaged Shelter Support and Housing, Toronto Police Services, and Toronto Public Health among others to advise how physical changes to Yonge Street may influence and impact street activity and vulnerable members of the community.

This study will does not recommend changes to social policy, social services or operational practices unrelated to road operations. These types of changes will require further study and action by relevant divisions as part of an initiative separate from the yongeTOmorrow EA.

Typical Utilities Cross Section
Typical cross section illustrating Recommended Design Concept in relation to existing utilities.

The diagram above shows the typical layout of existing utilities and the subway tunnel in relation to the Recommended Design Concept.

The watermains must be replaced and it is recommended that both the watermains and hydro conduits be relocated away from the proposed street tree planting areas.

Streetlighting and storm-sewer catch-basins would also need to be relocated along the new curb edge.

It is also recommended that general street lighting and pedestrian-scale lighting be combined on the same pole to reduce the number of elements within the streetscape.

Example of coordinated lighting. Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario
Example of coordinated lighting on Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario.

Completion of EA Study

Subject to Council approval, the Environmental Study Report will be finalized and submitted to the Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP) and will be subject to a 30-day public review period.

Detailed Design

Subject to approval of the EA, the next phase of the project will develop the detailed design of the Preferred Design Concept along with construction phasing and schedules.

The next phase will also provide an opportunity to continue consultation with the community on the flexible operational strategy and considers post-pandemic recovery needs.

Prior to construction completion, a report will be brought forward for City Council for approval of necessary bylaw amendments to enact the implement an operations strategy developed in consultation with stakeholders that is appropriate to the future near-term needs of downtown Yonge Street.

As part of the detailed design process, the City will also need to establish plans for operations, maintenance and public realm programming.

Recommended Timing

Due to the condition of the existing watermain, it is recommended that detailed design take place from 2021 to 2022 and construction from 2023 to 2025.

Timing is contingent upon funding approval and coordination with other capital works in the downtown core.