Green Streets are roads or streets that incorporate 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.


Green Streets is launching its new pilot GreenForceTO. The pilot will create local green jobs in landscaping and property maintenance, build employment skills, and aim to develop career pathways for the GreenForceTO team. This important work will help support Toronto’s green infrastructure which allows for a better, more diverse urban ecosystem and environment, and improved well-being for residents.

Green infrastructure sites are all around us and include spaces such as plant beds and tree trenches in sidewalks, as well as medians and traffic islands in the roadway. When the plants and insects that use these spaces thrive, the city becomes more natural and inviting. The City of Toronto has partnered with two local Employment Social Enterprises, RAINscapeTO and Building Up, to hire and train individuals from local Neighbourhood Improvement Areas or those experiencing barriers to employment for the maintenance of bio-swales, pollinator gardens and other green spaces that are critical to increase the neighbourhoods’ climate resilience and biodiversity.

Over two dozen sites have been identified for maintenance as part of this pilot. Many are located in the Weston-Mount Dennis and Rockcliffe-Smythe neighbourhoods, which are identified as Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and subject to flooding events.

This program supports the City’s Resilience Strategy, Wet Weather Flow Master Plan, Toronto Green Standards, Pollinator Protection Strategy, Biodiversity Strategy and other City policies and strategies.

For more information on the project and to be involved, please contact René Fan at

“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.

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.

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.

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

Design Options for Tree Planting in Hard Surfaces illustrate how hard surface environments can be designed to achieve the higher soil volumes necessary for tree growth and survivability, storm water management, and facilitate utility subsurface access and maintenance activities.

Many of the Design Options include the installation of soil cells. The City is conducting a soil cell evaluation that will inform the development of a city standard soil cell specification. Until this is available, general specification 32 88 88 Soil Cells can be used to help identify performance criteria that should be incorporated when choosing a soil cell product for installation in the right-of-way.