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Economic Benefits of Pedestrianisation for Toronto

The Economic Development Committee recommends that:

(1)the report (March 8, 1999) from the Pedestrianisation Working Group be adopted; and

(2)the Commissioner of Economic Development, Culture and Tourism be requested to meet with the Co-Chairs of the Pedestrianisation Working Group to discuss the coordination of the Working Group's work plan.

The Economic Development Committee submits the following report (March 8, 1999) from Councillor Pitfield, Chair, Pedestrianisation Working Group:


This report examines the economic benefits of pedestrianisation for Toronto, at the request of the Economic Development Committee. It was written under the guidance of the Pedestrianisation Working Group, assembled as recommended by the Economic Development Committee.

Financial Implications:



It is recommended:

(1)that the Economic Development Committee endorse the Pedestrianisation Working Group and request the Group to continue its work and develop a Pedestrianisation Policy, based on this report, by May 1999;

(2)(a)that the Pedestrianisation Working Group develop a Pedestrianisation Policy for commercial and residential city streets of Toronto;

(b)that this work be done in consultation with: Urban Planning and Development, Works and Emergency Services, Economic Development, Culture and Tourism, Toronto Police Service, TTC, ratepayers' associations, TABIA, Business Associations, historical societies, cycling groups, Green Tourism Association, and other stakeholders; and

(c)that the Pedestrianisation Policy form part of the Official Plan, and draw from the work of the Environmental Task Force, Garrison Creek Plan, the Green Economy Group, and Moving the Economy Action Plan for Sustainable Transportation.


On November 16, 1998, one of the Co-chairs of the Pedestrian Committee (PC) made a presentation on the economic benefits of pedestrianisation to the Economic Development Committee (EDC). Three recommendations were adopted by EDC and later endorsed by City Council:

(1)that EDC work with the Pedestrian Committee, local BIAs, and other business groups to ensure the safety and enjoyment of pedestrians by developing retail and pedestrian friendly streets throughout the City of Toronto;

(2)that EDC immediately establish a small working group with the PC to accomplish this with the help of appropriate staff;

(3)(a)that EDC requests its staff, in conjunction with PC staff, to prepare a report on the importance of pedestrianisation to the economic development of Toronto before March 1999. This report should draw upon the Moving the Economy Conference (its Action Plan and International Inventory of Success Stories) and the work of the Green Tourism Association; and

(b)that this report form the basis of a vigorous City Council policy as a tool for Toronto's economic growth so that Councillors may help Toronto become a world leader in this field.

The Pedestrianisation Working Group was assembled and met four times. Joan Doiron chaired the meetings. Group members included Councillor Pitfield, and representatives from the Pedestrian Committee, Works and Emergency Services, Economic Development Department, Moving the Economy Action Plan, Skills Development Programme for Sustainable Transportation (SDPST), Green Tourism Association, TABIA, and Kensington Market Action Committee. Also in the Group was Mr. Tom Prokai, Master of Landscape Architecture student whose thesis is on Toronto streetscapes. The report was written under the guidance of the Working Group.

Comments and Discussion:

Pedestrianisation is a concerted effort to make city streets walkable, i.e., designed for the safety and comfort of pedestrians (see Appendix 1 for definitions). For example, widening of sidewalks, improvements to intersections, streetscaping, traffic calming, and narrowing of road allowances enhance walkability. Pedestrianisation projects can be tailored to any retail or residential neighbourhood and implemented gradually or all at once. A good example of pedestrianisation is a pedestrian mall, created by closing a commercial street to car traffic, permanently or over certain hours each day.

This report highlights the economic benefits of pedestrianisation (see Appendix 2 for detailed analysis). Because the economic impact of improvements to pedestrian facilities in Toronto is poorly documented, research from all around the world is presented here, with these justifications:

-Toronto is the city with the largest proportion of immigrants, many of whom came from countries where walking is a prevalent transport mode (Urban Planning and Development Services 19981);

-use of public or non-motorised transport in Toronto is roughly half that in European cities, but nearly double the rate for American urban centres (1996 Transp. Tomorrow, Newman 1998); and

-Toronto has a substantial, and rising, downtown resident population (Tor. Econ. Devel. Off. 1999). This is more indicative of European cities than American centres.

European pedestrian malls have enjoyed great success. However, many American malls, in their current form are not economically viable, especially those frequented only during office lunch hours. Failures of American pedestrian malls are traceable mostly to:

-lack of complete commitment by all stakeholders;

-poor planning of retail and transportation;

-poor walkability outside the mall; and

-lack of residential neighbourhoods near the mall.

1 References are listed in Appendix 3.

Sources: USDT Fed. Hway Admin. (1989), Beatley & Manning (1997), Zuckermann W (1991).

Merchants' opposition to pedestrianisation often stems from common misconceptions.

-Car drivers are seen as having greater buying power than pedestrians. In reality, households that who do not own cars save money - about $ 7000 per year in southern Ontario (Pollution Probe 1992) - and may have more money to spend than households with cars.

-There is a theory that car traffic is good for retail. However, in Leicester, UK, the greater the level of car traffic, the greater the number of vacant shops (Newby et al. 1992).

-Merchants and planners, most of them car users, tend to vastly overestimate car use while underestimating pedestrian numbers (Hall & Hass-Klau 1985).

-The distance people are willing to walk is greater than merchants think, even for car-borne shoppers (Hall & Hass-Klau 1985, Newby et al. 1991).

-The perceived importance of street parking in front of shops can be exaggerated. Car drivers interviewed in Leicester mention parking close to the shops as unimportant (Newby et al. 1991).

Opposition usually drops once merchants realize the benefits of pedestrianisation.

-Pedestrian traffic tends to increase dramatically after a pedestrian friendly area is created (TEST 1989). Shoppers are drawn to pedestrian malls by the pleasant shopping experience, safety, improved air quality and low noise levels (Newby, et al. 1991, Forest 1981).

-In the early 1960s, Munich City Council decided to redesign the old city primarily for pedestrians. Before the redesign, an estimated 70,000 people visited the area each day. Nowadays, 400,000 people go there daily. Munich's walking areas are connected with transit stops and train stations to encourage walking and leaving the car at home (Zuckermann 1991).

Greater pedestrian traffic usually leads to increased sales.

-World-wide, far more pedestrianisation schemes have had a positive effect on retail turnover (49%) than a negative on (2%); other projects have had a neutral effect (TEST 1989).

-The town of Hasselt (Belgium) made its streets friendly to pedestrians and introduced free transit for residents. This improved business, thereby increasing municipal revenue and allowing the city to reduce it business taxation rates (CNN 1998).

Pedestrianisation and reduction of car traffic can improve shop occupation rates and rents.

-In France, shop occupancy increases after pedestrianisation, as do property values and shop rents, because of increased competition for storefronts (Forest 1982). This can be followed by the displacement of weaker businesses by stronger ones, notably chain stores and luxury goods stores (Forest 1982).

Office rental rates benefit from pedestrian friendly surroundings.

-In Dallas, Texas, office buildings with landscaping and good pedestrian amenities tend to have higher occupancy rates than others (Goldsteen 1989).

-In Toronto, the underground PATH network is very popular among local workers (Goodman 1984). Buildings connected to the PATH charge twice the annual rent per square foot and have lower vacancy rates than comparable buildings that are not on the PATH (Campbell 1999). Similar pedestrianisation efforts are needed at ground level.

Improvements to pedestrian safety can lead to significant savings.

-In 1996, collisions killed 31 pedestrians and injured an estimated 1700 others in Toronto (OMOT 1996, Tor. Data Ctr and Safety Bur. 1998). The ensuing health care cost was at least $30M (Couture 1999).

-When streetscaping measures improved pedestrian safety in a number of Toronto streets, accident rates went down and pedestrian traffic increased, as did local business (Rosenblatt Naderi 1998).

-In Montréal, improvements to 12 dangerous intersections, made at a cost of $ 115,010, reduced collisions by 27% and casualties by 53% (Couture 1997). The project saved $1.6M in costs to society, i.e., each dollar invested by the city translated into a saving of $14.20. These savings will recur each year but the cost of the improvements will not be repeated.

Around the world, cities where people mostly walk, cycle or use public transit, have greater wealth (gross regional product per capita) than cities with heavy car use (Newman 1998).

-Newman (1998) attributes the negative impact of heavy car use on city wealth to: (1) greater road expenditure, (2) greater percentage of wealth spent on commuting, (3) reduced transit cost recovery, (4) increased transportation deaths, and (5) increased pollution from vehicle emissions.

There are creative ways to fund improvement to pedestrian amenities.

-The system of signs for tourists in the City of London (UK) links more than 300 places of significance. New plates have recently replaced the old ones, which were auctioned or sold to the public. This raised 120,000, over a third of the total cost of the project (Hines 1998).


Toronto is now at a turning point, with all the plans being rewritten and transportation being a key issue for economic growth and urban planning. This is a good time to improve Toronto's economic growth by developing and implementing a Pedestrianisation Policy. This Policy can lead the way by decreasing the cost of car congestion in Toronto. The Policy should form an integral part of the new Official Plan and the imminent report of the Toronto Environmental Task Force.

The Policy should be a city-wide document and reflect the diversity of Toronto's neighbourhoods. The Policy should guide all aspects of pedestrianisation projects: visioning, consultation process, consensus building, planning, funding, implementation, maintenance, and post-implementation monitoring. It should also recommend suitable indicators of pedestrianisation success for Toronto (e.g., retail sales, property values, pedestrian traffic), and identify ways to record such data when projects take place. A list of potential focal points for pedestrianisation in Toronto should also be drafted.

The Policy should be developed by the Pedestrianisation Working Group, in consultation with: Urban Planning and Development Services, Works and Emergency Services, Economic Development, Culture and Tourism, police, TTC, ratepayers' associations, TABIA, Business Associations, historical societies, cycling groups, Green Tourism Association, and other stakeholders.

The Policy should draw from existing planning guidelines, and the work of Green Economy Group, Garrison Creek Plan, and Moving the Economy Action Plan for Sustainable Transportation.

Contact Names:

Joan Doiron, Co-chair of Toronto Pedestrian Committee

Rhona Swarbrick, Co-chair of Toronto Pedestrian Committee


Lucie Maillette, Ph.D., Coordinator, Skills Development Programme for Sustainable Development

Tom Prokai, BA (Economics) and Master of Landscape Architecture student at the University of Guelph


Appendix 1. Pedestrianisation

What is Pedestrianisation?

In this report, pedestrianisation is defined as a concerted effort to make a city walkable. This definition provides a broader platform for urban planning, than defining pedestrianisation solely as the removal of vehicular traffic from some city streets, a definition used by others (Hall and Hass-Klau 1985).

Pedestrianisation is a tool for street development. Its premise is very simple: if you make the streets more walkable, pedestrians will use them more, street-level business will improve, and so will the overall quality of life. The definitions below explain the terminology used in the report.


Pedestrians are persons moving by foot from place to place, or at a walking pace (e.g., users of mobility devices, children on bicycles) (Toronto Pedestrian Committee 1998).


Walkability is a quality of place. Walkable streets have the characteristics listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Characteristics of walkable streets

Pedestrian friendly sidewalks and intersections
Good links to other modes, especially public transit and cycling
Continuous pedestrian network between destinations - no barriers
Full range of useful, active destinations within walking distances (housing, shops, services, employment, recreation, parks, etc.)
Human scale design with store fronts at street level, close to the sidewalk
Pedestrian facilities well integrated into the overall streetscape
Protection from the sun and wind
Freedom from excessive noise, air pollution, dirt or traffic grime
Good amenities (benches, drinking fountains, signage, litter containers, etc.)
Social and diverse culture, with many opportunities for people to interact

Sources: Applied Science Associates (1989), Polk County Planning Division (1991), Bradshaw (1993), LWRD Urban Parks Institute (1999), Feet on the Streets (1998)

Why pedestrianise?

Pedestrianisation promotes economic growth (see detailed analysis in Appendix 2).

Walkable streets promote face-to-face interactions essential to the excitement of urban life (Beatley and Manning 1997, Engwicht 1993). They encourage social interactions by providing a public forum (Gehl J 1987). In addition, people take pride and assume ownership of walkable city centres that are interactive and lively.

Walkable streets invite walking, an excellent way to stay fit and healthy (Health Canada 1998). Increasing the percentage of trips made on foot in Toronto by making its streets more walkable would help the city meet its target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20% early in the next century.

Pedestrianisation improves air quality and reduces noise levels.

-After a traffic ban in Cologne, Germany, concentrations of carbon monoxide dropped from 8 ppm to 1 ppm, in Gothenburg (Sweden), they dropped from 35 ppm to less than 5 ppm (Brambilla and Longo 1977).

-Copenhagen (Denmark) experienced noise reduction by 10 to 15 decibels at street level (note: a 6-decibel cut is equivalent to a 50% drop in perceived noise) (Brambilla and Longo 1977).

A broad-based international movement to make streets and roads better for pedestrians is pushing governments and local authorities to act:

-Oregon, Florida, and other American states have implemented policies to provide safe, attractive and convenient pedestrian facilities (Technical Services Branch 1993, Oregon Department of Transportation, Florida Department of Transportation 1992).

-The United Kingdom is developing a National Walking Strategy, to be linked to the National Cycling Strategy and the Road Traffic Reduction Act (Department of Transport 1998, Traffic Reduction Act 1998). Together, these measures are aimed at increasing the number of trips made by foot and bicycle, while reducing car use, in order to improve public health and safety, and environmental sustainability.

What are the tools of pedestrianisation?

Pedestrianisation projects typically combine a number of tools that enhance walkability, like the ones listed below (Applied Science Associates Inc. 1989, Bradshaw 1993, LWRD Urban Parks Institute 1999, Polk County Planning Division 1991):

-Wide and level sidewalks with adequate lighting, good visibility, and no obstacles (newspaper boxes, shop displays, parked cars).

-Planting strips between the curb and the sidewalk act as a barrier between people and cars and add to the enjoyment of the street. This also allows curb cuts to be placed away from the sidewalk which then remains level. In addition, mature trees provide welcome shade in the summer time.

-Streetscaping enhances the appearance of the street. In Toronto, streetscape improvements (planters, decorative lighting, raised central medians, etc.) have also significantly reduced mid-block collisions between pedestrians and vehicles (Rosenblatt Naderi and Brafman Bahar 1997).

-Narrow entrances for driveways reduce the speed of cars driving across the path of pedestrians on the sidewalk.

-Good signage clearly indicates the way to popular destinations. For example, the system of signs for tourists in the City of London (UK) links more than 300 places of significance. New plates have recently replaced the old ones, which were auctioned or sold to the public. This raised 120,000, over a third of the total cost of the project (Hines 1998).

-Pedestrian friendly intersections are narrow and easy for pedestrians to cross safely and conveniently. Signals provide sufficient time for crossing to elderly or disabled pedestrians.

-Traffic calming devices slow down car traffic, increase pedestrian safety and reduce noise. In 1994, the City of Toronto adopted a Traffic Calming Policy.

-Traffic Demand Management (Table 2) reduces car traffic.

Table 2. Traffic Demand Management (TDM)

instruments and their effect on the demand for automobile trips.

TDM instrument Determinant of demand affected Expected strength of effect on auto trips
Promote HOV use Tastes Weak
Coordinate carpools Waiting times Weak
Decrease fares or HOV costs Transit fare Moderate
Improve access to transit Walking time Moderate
Improve transit service Waiting and riding time Moderate
Provide HOV parking riding time Moderate
Guarantee a ride home Waiting time Moderate
Increase parking fees auto trip cost Strong

Source: Moore and Thorsne 1994.

-Elimination of traffic lanes results in more uniform traffic flow and fewer collisions, without increasing overall trip times (Burden and Lagerwey 1998). St. George Street in Toronto was converted from four lanes to two in 1997 but still carries the same capacity as before.

-Well organized, affordable, and convenient public transit.

-Safe and convenient network of bicycle lanes and cycling facilities.

-Roadside construction sites do not sacrifice pedestrian right-of-ways for the benefit of car traffic. The City of London (UK) pioneered in 1987 the Considerate Contractor Scheme which encourages contractors working adjacent to the City's streets to carry out their operations in a safe and considerate manner, with due regard to passing pedestrians and road users (The City's Engineer Department 1995).

How are pedestrianisation tools combined in projects?

-Pedestrianisation projects typically involve combining landscaping, traffic reduction measures, sidewalk improvements, and other pedestrianisation tools to suit local needs. For example:

-Dutch residential yards or woonerfs (living-courts) are residential neighbourhoods in which vehicles move at a walking pace as a result of traffic calming devices and landscaping. Children's safety was greatly increased by the creation of woonerfs (Wiedenhoeft 1981).

-Temporary street closings are inexpensive measures and increase pedestrian safety (USDT Federal Highway Administration 1989). Many festivals in Toronto rely on temporary street closings for their success. In New York City, play streets are closed to traffic during specified hours to permit a supervised program, and have increased child safety (Institute of Transportation Engineers 1994).

-Continuous or exclusive pedestrian malls allow only emergency vehicles and small cleaning vehicles. Truck deliveries and pick-ups are relegated to off-hours, rear alleyways or back streets.

-Interrupted pedestrian malls allow vehicles on cross streets but not within the mall.

-Transitways allow operation of transit vehicles, and emergency service vehicles on a narrow right-of-way within mall space.

No single combination of pedestrianisation tools works well everywhere. Each scheme has to suit the circumstances of the local community, and can be implemented in stages. A number of faltering American pedestrian malls have been reopened to limited car traffic with some success. Nonetheless, many cities around the world have closed off streets to vehicles with great prosperity.

What makes the success of a pedestrianisation scheme?

Pedestrianisation success for a city comes from a number of factors, including:

-design on a human scale, with welcoming ground level frontage of buildings;

-network of continuously linked walkways, fully accessible to people with disabilities;

-residences in the downtown so it is possible to walk to work;

-several streets turned over completely to pedestrians;

-transit centres to facilitate the use of buses and / or light rail to the suburbs;

-good cycling networks;

-pedestrian friendly intersections;

-no cars backing out of parking spots in the path of pedestrians;

-central business district where vehicle traffic is restricted to specific spaces or times;

-residential neighbourhood stores with safe pedestrian access;

-safe walking route to schools, located away from arterial roads;

-pedestrian access to public buildings independent from vehicle access.

Source: Florida Department of Transportation State Safety Office (1993)

Successful pedestrian malls have these attributes:

-narrow street right-of-way;

-concentrated shopping and commercial land uses within walking distances;

-traffic generators, often large department stores, at opposite ends of the mall;

-good pedestrian amenities (benches, street maps, displays, activity programs);

-outdoor activities like parades, street fairs, and other similar public events to encourage pedestrian activity and establish an area identity;

-nearby concentration of residential or office uses;

-continuity of uses along the length of the mall;

-diversity of sights and sounds;

-presence of people on the sidewalk;

-open space areas;

-activities that extend beyond normal office hours. Mixed-use zoning promotes a balanced use of the area's resources over extended periods of time;

-good accessibility by public transit, bicycle and by private automobile. The great success of German pedestrian malls is linked to excellent public transit systems built during post-war reconstruction (Hall and Hass-Klau 1985);

-agreement of commercial interests and local residents, from the start, is essential for the success of the project. Merchants often oppose pedestrianisation schemes until they hear of the economic benefit. Another factor is the perceived importance of car drivers as customers which can be over-estimated by merchants (Hall and Haas-Klau 1985);

-historical interest adds to the interest of the area. For example, the historical district of Québec City, restored with great success, has become a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, and a favourite destination among tourists. Its pedestrian-only areas are linked to a large urban park by a boardwalk that offers spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River.

Sources: USDT Federal Highway Administration (1989), Halifax Development and Planning Department (1991).

Finally, inner cities should not be regarded only as shopping centres; they are far more complex than that. Their great attraction comes from the mix of activities that they offer. Pedestrianisation efforts should nurture this diversity.

Why do merchants oppose pedestrianisation?

Understandably, local merchants fear for their trade when plans are announced to re-design the street where their business is located. Some of their fears are based on common misconceptions.

-Car drivers are seen as having greater buying power than pedestrians. In reality, households that do not own cars save money - about $ 7000 per year in Southern Ontario (Pollution Probe 1992). Car-less households may have more money to spend than those with cars.

-People are often willing to walk longer distances than previously thought (Hall and Hass-Klau 1985). Less than 400 m is considered a walking distance in the US (USDT Federal Highway administration 1989). However, in Essen, pedestrians walked on average 1,200 m., Dusseldorf 1,550 m. Car users walked shorter distances than pedestrians in Essen ( 724 m for car users, 1,625 m for pedestrians) and Dusseldorf (1,050 m. for car users, 2,475 m. for pedestrians.

-There is a theory that car traffic is good for retail. However, in Leicester, UK, the higher the level of car traffic, the more shops are likely to be vacant (Newby et al. 1992).

-The perceived importance of street parking in front of shops can be exaggerated. Car drivers interviewed in Leicester mention parking close to the shops as unimportant and readily walk some distance to where they want to shop (Newby et al. 1991). The interviews also revealed that they almost never notice a store window while driving and then decide to stop; instead, they look at store windows while walking (Newby et al. 1991).

Merchants tend to endorse pedestrianisation once they realise its benefits.

-In Essen, traders held up the pedestrianisation of Kettwigerstrasse for two years fearing loss of trade. Following closure, trade increased by 15-30%, and 72% of traders came round to supporting the scheme (OECD 1978).

Why have some pedestrian malls failed?

European pedestrian malls were planned to conserve the urban fabric and improve downtown residential conditions (Robertson 1993). They are very successful economically and socially.

Many US cities have also developed pedestrian malls in downtown areas, to try and revitalise them (more than 200 such malls have been created) (Beatley and Manning 1997) after their citizens left for the suburbs. Many American malls, in their current form are not economically viable, especially those frequented only during office lunch hours.

Failures of pedestrian malls are traceable mostly to:

-lack of complete commitment by all interests affected by the mall development;

-poor transportation planning;

-poor walkability outside the pedestrian mall;

-inadequate financing;

-poor retail planning;

-catering only to tourists or carriage trade while ignoring the needs of local residents (e.g., no corner stores, no grocery stores, no affordable hairdresser in the mall);

-lack of residential neighbourhoods near the mall; and

-lack of true city mix of people and businesses in the mall.

Sources: USDT Federal Highway Administration (1989), Zuckermann W (1991).

If the mall is being implemented to reverse downtown decay, the timing of the project is essential to its success. If the project is implemented too late, when major shopping facilities have already left, then the remaining facilities may be unable to reverse the trend (e.g. Riverside, CA and Kalamazoo, MI).

What are good examples of pedestrianisation?

Hundreds of large urban centres, small towns, and villages around the world have pedestrianised their streets to enhance economic development. The following examples illustrate concerted efforts to make cities more walkable.

In the early 1960s, Munich City Council decided to revitalise the central district by making the streets easier to walk around in. The old city was redesigned primarily for pedestrians. Before the redesign, an estimated 70,000 people visited the area each day. Nowadays, 400,000 people go there daily. Munich's walking areas are connected with transit stops and train stations to encourage walking and leaving the car at home (Zuckermann 1991).

The city of Bordeaux (France) instituted in 1988-1989 a policy to restrict car traffic in most of the old city's road network. The idea is not to ban cars totally but to make it difficult for them to gain access to the area. This is accomplished by a combination of street modifications, speed limits, traffic light controls, and parking policy; residents are urged, for instance, to share their nighttime places with daytime shoppers. The project's aim is not a one-time modification but an ongoing program, coordinated by a team consisting of an economist, an architect, an urban planner, a landscapist, a transportation specialist, a traffic safety expert, and a psychologist to make sure the program sits well with the local people (Zuckermann 1991).

Under the strong leadership of its mayor, the town of Hasselt (Belgium) made its streets friendly to pedestrians and introduced free transit for residents. This improved business, thereby increasing municipal revenue and allowing the city to reduce it business taxation rates. Business people in Hasselt are delighted: they get more revenue and pay less taxes, thanks to the visitors who come to Hasselt because it is free of congestion (CNN 1998).


Appendix 2. Economic Benefits Of Pedestrianisation

Scope of the Review

Most literature on the economic benefits of pedestrianisation refers to European cities where pedestrianisation schemes enjoy great popularity. Despite cultural, logistic, and physical differences, European examples are useful as a basis for further research and analysis of a pedestrianisation model for Toronto for several reasons:

-Toronto has a very diverse, multicultural population and should not necessarily be regarded as a typical North American city. It is the city with the largest proportion of immigrants in the world (Urban Planning and Development Services 1998). Many come from countries where walking, cycling, and public transit are well established ways of getting around, compared to car-dominated American cities.

-Research by Newman (1998) indicates that Canadians use less energy per capita on private passenger vehicles (Figure 1). The proportion of Canadian workers using public or non-motorised transport is roughly half of their European counterparts, but approximately twice the rate of United States workers (Figure 2). Toronto residents make 22% of all trips using public transit and 8% by walking and cycling (1996 Transportation Tomorrow Survey).

Figure 1

Private Passenger Energy Consumption

Per Capita 1990

Figure 2

Proportion of Workers Using Public or

Non-Motorised Transport 1990

-Unlike almost all large North American cities, Toronto has a substantial downtown resident population. This is more indicative of European cities with healthy downtown cores sustained by a large residential population than American urban centres, depleted by the movement of citizens to the suburbs. In addition, Toronto's population is increasing, especially in the downtown core, in contrast to a number of other cities in the region (Table 3). This trend should continue, based on the increasing numbers of residential building issued by the City between 1996 and 1998 (Toronto Economic Development Office 1999).

Table 3. Changes in population levels of selected American and Canadian cities.




Population change

Range used for calculation









- 8.3 %





- 7.4 %





- 5.6 %





- 14.6 %


New York








- 1.0 %







Former City





Central Area1





1 Toronto's Central Area is bounded by Bathurst, the Don River, Rosedale Ravine Road, Yonge, CPR line and Lake Ontario

Sources: Canadian Urban Institute (1990), Statistics Canada (1999), Kids Count Data Online (1997), Toronto Urban Development Services (1997)

Though conclusions can not be made, the data indicate that a model of pedestrianisation for the City of Toronto must draw upon research internationally.

Economic Review

Using correlation analysis, Newman (1998) examined the relationship between car use and gross regional product per capita (GRPP). His results show that, after the level of car use has risen in a city, the initial extra mobility appears to have "negative consequences on the city's economic performance". Newman identifies several parameters that help to explain the negative impact:

(1)increase in road expenditure;

(2)greater percentage of GRP spent on commuting;

(3)reduction in transit cost recovery;

(4)increase in transportation deaths; and

(5)increase in transportation emissions (pollution).

Newman (1998) concludes that good pedestrianisation schemes are dependent upon good public transit systems, and vice versa.

Numerous economic reasons justify improving outdoor spaces. According to Goldsteen and Elliot (1994), aside from aesthetic, physical, social, and psychological reasons, the redevelopment or change in outdoor spaces can "create new jobs, stabilise business cycles and unstable economies, increase wages through competition of new employers, increase tourism, increase retail sales, increase tax revenues; (and) create higher property values for owners". Goldsteen and Elliot (1994) associate property values and adjacent outdoor surroundings and conclude: "Buildings that have well landscaped surroundings have higher demand, therefore higher value."

Goldsteen (1989) determined that the land use and aesthetic character of a development area play a larger role in rental rates than developers first thought. His study focused on office buildings and their immediate neighbourhoods in two major office concentrations in Dallas, Texas. The research team recorded vacancy rates and measured thirty architectural and urban design variables. Their results show that outdoor pedestrian amenities are the most strongly correlated to higher occupancy rates (Table 4).

Table 4. Selected variables affecting office occupancy rates in Dallas, Texas

Variable: Area Feature (AF) or Building Feature (BF)

Degree of Correlation with Occupancy

Non-office Land Uses (AF)

Number of facilities in the sub-district that are not office buildings, e.g., museums, theatres, civic centres, convention centres, hotels, major stores, banks, plazas, public squares, parks, entertainment complexes, recreational facilities and health facilities


Pedestrian Amenities (AF)

Number and character of pedestrian amenities, e.g., lighted sidewalks, covered sidewalks, pedestrian malls, street furniture, conversational seating, covered transit stops


Landscape Amenities / Project Open Space (BF)

Percent of the site that is landscaped


Public Amenities (BF)

Presence of public amenities, e.g., flag plaza, outdoor sculpture, fountains, clocks, courtyards


Source: Goldsteen (1989)

Brambilla and Longo (1977) suggest that retail vacancy rates are the first sign of a pedestrianised area's success or failure. Once a pedestrian development is announced, vacancy rates are likely to drop. For example, downtown Ponoma (California) and Knoxville (Tennessee) had 25% vacancy rates before pedestrianisation, and within one year of development, the vacancies dropped to 0%.

Land values generally increase after the implementation of pedestrian areas. (Brambilla and Longo, 1977). Due to increases in land values, property tax assessments increase, as do rents. Even though rent increases appear to conflict with small business owners, increased sales have been shown to offset these increases.

The direct economic impact of pedestrianisation can best be analysed by looking at urban retail areas. Robertson (1993) sees pedestrians as "indispensable" to the vitality of urban life. He feels that an urban area that encourages pedestrians will see pedestrian levels rise.

Overall, retail turnover increases in pedestrianised European areas:

(1)pedestrian flows increase by at least 50%;

(2)pedestrians are freed from the stress of driving and therefore are in a better shopping mood; and

(3)walkers are more likely to comparison shop (Robertson, 1993).

Hall and Hass-Klau (1985) identify pedestrian counts as the most obvious indicator of pedestrianisation success. The biggest pedestrianised areas show the largest increases in pedestrian traffic (Figure 3), based on Monheim 1980). Monheim (1980) states that there is a direct positive relationship between retail turnover and the number of pedestrians. Hall and Hass-Klau (1985) agree with Monheim (1980) and conclude that the majority of pedestrianised areas in Europe have resulted in positive changes in retail turnover.

Figure 3

Research by TEST (1989) is one of the few comprehensive analyses on the economic effects of pedestrianisation. TEST researchers attempted to prove the hypothesis that a good physical environment is a good economic environment.

TEST (1989) research agrees with several known concepts:

-pedestrianisation benefits a majority of retailers;

-the number of pedestrians tends to double after a pedestrian friendly area is created; and

-the physical environment for pedestrians radically improves after pedestrianisation.

TEST researchers concluded that:

-traffic restraint has contributed to economic improvements; and

-the most effective variable to gauge this is retail turnover. Retailers in the pedestrianised area experienced a notable increase in sales.

Retail shop owners find a direct link between their improved sales and the physical improvements to the designated area, but TEST researchers are careful to point out that, given macro economic factors, it is probable that pedestrianisation plans "contribute" to the economic revitalisation of the subject area.

The most notable findings of TEST's analysis are summarised below:

-public transportation usage increased in every case study city, vice-versa, car usage stabilised or decreased. In Vienna for example, after a thorough pedestrianisation plan was implemented, the city saw a 34% increase in rail transit users and a 53% increase in bus passengers;

-in London, after a decrease in public transit fares called 'Fares Fair', the city saw a decrease of 6% in rush hour car travellers, a 13% increase in bus use and a 7% increase in subway use;

-rental rates of commercial stores are a strong indicator of market demand for an area. TEST research indicates that store owners realize the economic benefits of a pedestrianised area, as shown by increases in rental rates as high as 625% after pedestrianisation. In York, UK, the boom in retail sales led to rent increases of up to 400% (Chartered Surveyor Weekly 1987); and

-a survey of cities around the world, concerning their pedestrianisation schemes, revealed environmental improvement closely related to the removal of traffic (OECD 1978). The survey also showed that 49% of all the pedestrian areas developed experienced an upward trend in retail turnover, while only 2% experienced a decrease (Table 5).

Table 5. Effects on trade of 18 pedestrianisation schemes
Atchison, Kansas 18% increase
Cologne, Germany 25-35% increase
Copenhagen, Denmark 25-40% increase
Durham, North Carolina 20% reduction - retailers asked for buses to be reintroduced into the city centre
Dusseldorf, Germany 36-40% increase
Essen, Germany 25-35% increase after initial decline
Gothenburg, Sweden A range from 20% reduction to 10% increase
Hamburg, Germany 70% of shopkeepers noted an increase in sales
Hereford, UK 10-15% increase, one case where increase was 25-50%
Kalamazoo, Michigan 15% increase
Carnaby Street, London, UK 81% of shopkeepers agreed that pedestrianisation had been a good idea
Minneapolis, Minnesota 14% increase
Munich, Germany About a 40% increase
Norwich, UK Of 32 shops in London Street, 30 showed an effect on trade within 6 months, 28 of these increased their trade
Ponoma, California 16% increase
Rouen, France 10-15% increase
Vienna, Austria 20% increases noted by 60% of merchants
Watford, UK 72% of retailers said pedestrianisation had expanded trade

Source: TEST (1989)

Copenhagen's success with its pedestrianisation scheme was obvious (Thomson 1977). Retail turnover and store rentals had risen, and high levels of vacant properties were replaced by prosperous specialty shops.

Forest (1982) examined pedestrianised areas in five French cities; Metz, La Rochelle, Rouen, Grenoble and Strasbourg. His findings are summarised below:

-there was increased demand for storefronts;

-rental rates of retail stores increased, which led to the displacement of weaker business by stronger ones, notably, chain stores, and luxury good stores;

-sales of goods increased 10 - 20% per year; and

-49% of local merchants reported and increase in the number of customers and income, 33% did not notice a difference, and 17% saw a reduction in business.

Newby, Spencer-Wort and Wiggins (1991) studied the economic impact of pedestrianisation in Leicester, UK. They conducted a number of interviews with local shop owners and shoppers. These are some of they key findings:

-statistical analysis revealed a significant positive relationship between vehicular traffic levels and vacancy rates - correlation coefficient of 0.76, with only a 5% chance that this result was coincidental. In other words, the greater the car traffic, the greater the likelihood of finding vacant shops;

-bus riders were the largest group of shoppers who came to the City centre, hence the limited importance of car-borne shoppers;

-City centre shops gained little benefit, if any, from parking spaces located close to them because car-borne drivers were prepared to walk over some distance to where they wanted to shop;

-surveying shoppers revealed that the quality of shopping and of the shopping environment was more important to them than the ability to drive past shops. Walking past shops by chance was also a strong factor in trade generation; and

-88% of total respondents preferred some level of traffic restriction, either a wholly pedestrianised shopping environment, or one in which traffic is restricted. Only 10% of car users preferred the unrestricted traffic option.

The authors of the Leicester study concluded that the theory that car traffic is good for business was refuted and that pedestrianisation is more than environmentally beneficial and popular with the public. It makes a vital contribution to the well being of Leicester City Centre (Newby et al. 1991).

Cost of Pedestrian Collisions

Urban congestion is such that pedestrians are often victims of collisions. Intersections are particularly dangerous to senior pedestrians who rarely have enough time to cross safely (US Department of Transportation 1987). Young children darting into the street are also at risk. The price of fear is the restriction of children under 6 on vehicular streets in Australia (Gehl 1987). Hardly any children are allowed to roam freely on the sidewalks of trafficked areas, while on pedestrian areas, almost no children are constrained to walk hand in hand with their parents (Gehl 1987).

In Canada, 43% of pedestrian collisions occur at intersections, 21% where traffic signals exist: auto-dominant arterial streets represent the most serious hazard to pedestrians (Atkinson 1984). In the US, about 6,000 pedestrians are killed each year in collisions with motorised traffic, and about 110,000 are injured (Dickinson 1996). The cost to American society is about US $312,000 per pedestrian-motorist crash. In Florida alone, the cost of pedestrian collisions and injuries in 1986 was US $ 278,738,688 (Florida Department of Transportation 1989).

In London (UK), collisions to pedestrians went down on High Street after pedestrianisation but went up in the whole study area because bus access to the street had deteriorated and people used their cars more than before to reach the area (London Transport 1980).

Since 1990, the city of Montréal has worked to improve pedestrian safety at signalled intersections, pedestrian crosswalks, and on sidewalks. Consequently in 1996, there was a 23.4% reduction in the number of pedestrian collisions, compared to 1986-1990 (Lavallée 1997). Among other measures, improvements to twelve dangerous intersections in Montréal, made at a cost of $ 115,010, reduced the annual number of collisions by 27% (from 407 down to 298) and number of injured persons by 53% (257 down to 122) (Couture 1997). Since the average material cost of a collision in Québec is $ 6,736 and health cost per injured person is $ 18,060, the project saved $1.6M in costs to society, i.e., each dollar invested by the city at those intersections translated into a saving of $14.20. These savings will recur each year but the cost of the improvements will not be repeated.

A survey by to the U.S. Department of Transportation (1994) suggests that proper pedestrian and cycling amenities would yield an increase in mass transit users of approximately 100%. Research by the U.S. Department of Transportation (1994) indicates that the number of commuters who drive alone would change their habits. Approximately 30% of these commuters would find an alternate method of transportation if proper pedestrian and cycling facilities existed. Pedestrian and cycling facilities are less expensive to build and maintain than roads for cars.


Toronto is unique and diverse in nature. Pedestrianisation projects for Toronto can draw upon international research but need to incorporate the unique features that make up its urban fabric.

Many Toronto households do not own a car, especially in the former City. In addition, a large portion of the general population - kids, the poor, the elderly, disabled - do not drive cars. They rely on walking, cycling or public transit to get around. Table 6 gives an idea of the number of pedestrians along busy Toronto streets.

Table 6. Weekday afternoon, peak hour pedestrian volumes along Bloor Street at majorintersections, February 1999

Bloor Street and

Intersection Side

Avenue Road

Bay Street

Yonge Street

Church Street





















Source: iTrans 1999

The market potential for pedestrianisation has yet to be tapped. A 1991 survey indicated 59% of the respondents would walk, or walk more, if there were safe secure designated paths or walkways (U.S. Department of Transportation, 1994). Figure 4 shows transportation habits and preferences of commuters if there were adequate facilities. Based on these survey results, and the research of Newman (1998), pedestrianisation in Toronto could at least double the proportion of workers using non-motorised transport.

Figure 4

As early as 1959, the Toronto Planning Board recognized that nobody becomes a shopper until he or she becomes a pedestrian and recommended pedestrian-only streets to lessen the conflicts between pedestrians and cars, as well as wider sidewalks, shade, shelters and seats (City of Toronto Planning Board 1959). Other reports have recommended improving the physical comfort of pedestrians and pedestrian access to public areas of the City (City of Toronto Planning and Development Department 1991, Metropolitan Toronto Planning Department 1991, Berridge Lewinberg Greenberg 1991). Provincial and international reports underline the importance of good pedestrian amenities to support public transit (IBI Group 1992, Morris 1996). The 1994 City of Toronto Official Plan includes provisions for the benefit of pedestrians.

In the past, calls to close Kensington Market (Appendix 4.1), and parts of Queen Street to car traffic did not materialise due to funding problems and lack of public or commercial support.

More recently, significant pedestrian improvements have been made to St. George Street, Yorkville and Queen Street West, and more projects are being considered, (City of Toronto Planning Board 1962, City of Toronto Planning and Development Department 1980, Cooly 1991, Hume 1998, Layton and Amer 1990). Plans are under review to redevelop Bloor Street in a more pedestrian friendly way (Appendix 4.2).

One of the busiest pedestrian-oriented commercial space in Toronto is the underground PATH network linking City Hall, Metro Hall, Union Station, and a number of large office towers in the financial district (Goodman 1984). The PATH has become very popular among workers in the core; it includes food and clothing, theatre, fitness clubs, and so on. Developers have promoted a "quality image" to attract a higher class of tenants and higher rent. However, PATH corridors are mostly deserted outside business hours. Buildings that are connected to the PATH charge twice the annual rent per square foot and have lower vacancy rates than comparable buildings that are not on the PATH (Campbell 1999).

Pedestrian Safety

Toronto, at 6.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, has less than half the traffic fatalities found in US cities, perhaps due to its good transit system which reduces the number of cars on the road (Newman 1998). Nonetheless, walking in Toronto can be dangerous (Table 7). Pedestrian fatalities account for about half of all collision fatalities in Toronto; by comparison, in 1996, pedestrian fatalities accounted for 15.5 % of total collision deaths in Ontario, and 12% in the USA (Ontario Ministry of Transportation 1998, Surface Transportation Policy Project 1998). In 1998, more than half (19) of pedestrians killed in Toronto were seniors. Heavy pedestrian fatalities seem to be an urban phenomenon.

Table 7. Toronto fatal collision statistics - figures before 1998 are for Metro Toronto.

Year Pedestrians fatalities Total fatalities % Pedestrians among collision fatalities




















Source: Toronto Data Centre and Safety Bureau (1998)

There is no recent information available on the number of pedestrians injured annually in Toronto. In 1996, there were 144 pedestrians killed and 5336 reported injured provincially, i.e. 37 pedestrians injured for each pedestrian fatality in Ontario (Ontario Ministry of Transportation 1996). If we multiply 1996 Toronto pedestrian fatalities (46) by 37, we get an estimated 1702 pedestrians injured in the city that year. If we multiply that number by $18,060 (average health cost per injured person in a collision in Québec, Couture 1999), we get a very crude estimate of $30M in health costs alone. This number is probably an underestimate because collision injuries to pedestrians tend to be more severe than injuries to vehicle drivers or passengers, as shown in Table 8. The total cost of pedestrian collisions is far greater because it includes items like: emergency services, police work, insurance costs, repairs to vehicles, repairs to municipal and private property, lost wages, long term disabilities, lost productivity, legal fees, and much human suffering.

Table 8. Category of involved person by severity of injury in fatal and personal injurycollisions in Ontario in 1996.

Category of involved person

None or minimal injury

Medical intervention needed



79.5 %

20.0 %

0.5 %


77.9 %

21.7 %

0.5 %


41.6 %

55.8 %

2.6 %


53.7 %

45.6 %

0.7 %

Source: Ontario Ministry of Transportation 1998, Swarbrick 1999

When recent streetscaping measures were implemented to enhance the appearance of a number of Toronto main streets, pedestrian safety also happened to improve (Rosenblatt Naderi 1998). Accident rates went down, pedestrian traffic increased, as did economic benefits to local businesses (Rosenblatt Naderi 1998). Therefore, pedestrianisation could improve pedestrian safety, result in significant savings for individuals and governments, and improve business in Toronto.


The research presented here has given proponents the tools needed to do an in depth analysis of the effects of pedestrianisation in the City of Toronto. Several indicators can be used to judge the success of pedestrian developments (Table 8).

Table 8. Possible success indicators of pedestrianisation for Toronto

Retail Sales / Turnover

A positive correlation has been shown.

Occupancy / Vacancy Rates

_A decline in vacancies has been statistically shown.

_Rental Rates

_Analysis has shown a positive correlation with pedestrianisation efforts.

_Tax Revenues

_Tax revenues from sales and property assessments are thought to have a direct positive correlation with pedestrian levels.

_Property Value

_Demand and supply theory indicates that property values will increase if retail stores are considered desirable because they are located in a pedestrianised area.

_Pedestrian Levels

_Some researchers feel this is the most obvious and straightforward measure. To be truly indicative however, this variable must be analysed against the aforementioned indicators.

North America's cities have grown up with the automobile. As a result, they have also grown outward, with people travelling increasingly long distances to everyday destinations such as work, school, and shopping. These greater distances have been made possible by and, in turn, have helped fuel the need for more automobiles and for more roadways. As a result, travel by foot has become a less desirable and often infeasible option. In many situations it has also become more dangerous. This does not have to be the case in the City of Toronto.


A copy of the following material attached to the foregoing report was forwarded to all Members of Council with the March 29, 1999 and April 6, 1999 agenda of the Economic Development Committee and a copy thereof is on file in the office of the City Clerk:

-Appendix 3. References;

-Appendix 4, 4.1. Sketch of Kensington Market Mall Project, Baldwin Street (City of Toronto Planning Board 1962); and

-Appendix 4.2. Photographs of Bloor Street Transformation (Project of Van Nostrand Dicastri Architects, Brown and Storey Architects, Corban and Goode Landscape Architects, Toronto 1998).


Joan Doiron, Co-Chair, Toronto Pedestrian Committee, Toronto, appeared before the Economic Development Committee in connection with the foregoing matter.


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