Green Streets is a new approach to increase the functionality of our streets to help manage stormwater (rain and melted snow), improve air quality, increase bio-diversity and enhance and beautify our public realm.

When stormwater flows along streets and other hard surfaces it picks up dirt, oil, grease and other pollutants. Green Street projects provide a place for stormwater to soak into the ground providing water for plants and trees to grow. At the same time, plants and soil act as natural filters cleaning the water before it makes its way into local waterways.

Green Streets turn stormwater from waste to resource, creating attractive streetscapes and a healthier environment.

A Green Street is a road or street that incorporates green infrastructure, which includes natural and human-made elements such as trees, green walls, and low impact development (LID) stormwater infrastructure that provide ecological and hydrological functions and processes.

Toronto has approximately 5,600 km of streets – almost ¼ of Toronto’s total land area is covered by streets. Historically, streets have formed an impermeable paved layer on top of green space, which prevent natural hydrological cycles and increase the volumes of runoff entering our stormwater infrastructure. Additionally, when stormwater flows along streets and other hard surfaces it picks up dirt, oil, grease and other pollutants.

“Traditional” streets are designed to direct stormwater into storm sewer systems (gutters, drains, pipes) that discharge directly into surface waters, rivers, and streams. “Green” streets are designed to capture rainwater at its source, where it falls, providing water for plants and trees to grow and at the same time acting as a natural filter to clean the water before it makes its way into local waterways.

  • Enhance the extent and health of the urban forest.
  • Mitigate the urban heat island effect.
  • Manage stormwater runoff to help mitigate flooding and enhance water quality.
  • Reduce stormwater run-off within the right-of-way by promoting infiltration of water into the ground to sustain groundwater systems and maintain inflow patterns and evapotranspiration though plants and trees.
  • Enhance air quality.
  • Conserve energy.

Green Streets contribute to building climate change resilience and an improved quality of life in the city. They also support the Official Plan policies and the environmental objectives of the Toronto Green Standard, the Wet Weather Flow Master Plan and other City strategic initiatives including Complete Streets Guidelines, and ResilientTO.

A number of green infrastructure demonstration projects have been completed at various sites in the City and a number more are in planning stages.

  • The Queensway Sustainable Sidewalk – The first application of the use of a tree planting technology (Soil Cells) to treat and improve stormwater road run-off while supporting the growth of healthy trees;
  • South Station Street – An urban and sub-urban bio-swale was constructed on opposite sides of the road to provide a visual demonstration of context sensitive Green Streets design; and,
  • Fairford Parkette – A welcoming public destination for the local community with the functionality of a bio-retention facility to absorb and clean water to demonstrate that form and function can co-exist.

Toronto’s Green Streets Technical Guidelines provide guidance, standards and selection tools for the planning, design, integration and maintenance of a range of green infrastructure options appropriate for the City’s street types and conditions.

The Guidelines are meant to be a tool for City staff, developers, and consultants with the key objectives of providing an understanding of sustainable stormwater planning and practices; informing the selection of appropriate green infrastructure options to be integrated as part of street retrofit/rehabilitation or new/reconstruction projects; and, ensuring that green street designs are attractive, functional and appropriate to their urban context.

Green Street Technical Guidelines (86 MB)
Appendices (40 MB)
Green Infrastructure Selection Tool
Vegetation Selection Tool