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.

“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

The City of Toronto has developed Design Options for Tree Planting in Hard Surfaces. This is a suite of drawings for sidewalks with integrated tree planting. These designs integrate technologies that support tree growth and survivability, storm water management, and facilitate subsurface access and maintenance activities.

The Design Options cover the majority of sidewalk situations and can be combined and adapted, much like a kit of parts. For a sidewalk with cast-in-place or poured panels, refer to the T-CIP series. For a sidewalk with pre-cast concrete panels, refer to the T-PCP series.

Consultants should identify and refine the Options that best suit their project in order to submit site-specific drawings. Installing open, large tree planting areas are a best practice because this provides the best growing conditions for trees in sidewalks.

Each series is organised by three (3) different tree planting area conditions:

  • Raised, open tree pit surrounded by concrete/stone/metal surround
  • At grade, open tree pit surrounded by a low metal fence
  • At grade, covered tree pit using a grate

Each tree planting area condition is described by various drawings including: a key plan, an assembly plan, a soil cell layout plan, and various sections.

The Design Options note details and specifications that are not included here. This is because the City is in the process of developing these as standards. Once complete, they will be available online. In the interim, please contact the City Planner assigned to your development application for additional information. For Capital Projects, please contact the Engineering and Construction Services’ Project Manager.

T-CIP Series

T-CIP 1.0

T-CIP 2.0

T-CIP 3.0

T-CIP 4.0

T-CIP 5.0

T-CIP 6.0

T-PCP Series

T-PCP 1.0

T-PCP 2.0

T-PCP 3.0

T-PCP 4.0

T-PCP 5.0

T-PCP 6.0

While we aim to provide fully accessible content, there is no text alternative available for some of the content on this site. If you require alternate formats or need assistance understanding our maps, drawings, or any other content, please contact us at streetscapemanual@toronto.ca.