Cross-posted from Spacing Toronto
There’s some good news to share about Walk Toronto’s first campaign!
In March, I wrote in Spacing about the planned reconstruction of Bay Street between Bloor St. and Davenport Rd., which amongst other things, would widen Bay Street’s busy sidewalks, a project championed by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. Two city-owned lay-bys, where the roadway cuts into the sidewalk, were planned to removed on the west side of Bay – a TTC bus bay at Cumberland, in front of the entrance to Bay subway station, and at the southwest corner of Bay and Yorkville Avenue.
Pusateri’s, a local high-end grocery store, took exception to these plans, even though local consultations had already concluded and construction scheduled to start this month. The store claims that the lay-by is vital to their business; it currently treats it as its exclusive domain for its valet and detailing service.
Pusateri’s went as far as hiring prominent lobbyists Sussex Strategy Group and transportation engineers at LEA Consulting in a bid to maintain the lay-by in front of their store, rather than move the valet service to a nearby laneway as suggested by proponents such as Councillor Wong-Tam. The item was to be brought to council for the April session of City Council, but was delayed to allow LEA and Transportation Services to develop possible alternative solutions to the lay-by removal or the status quo.
Walk Toronto joined Councillor Wong-Tam, the Bloor-Yorkville Business Improvement Area, and local residents’ associations to remove the lay-by and complete the Bay Street project in its entirety.
In the back-and-forth discussion since March, LEA, on behalf of Pusateri’s, recommended the retention of the lay-by. However, it would be built with the new granite sidewalk surface and removable bollards to separate the three-car layby from the narrow pedestrian area – an alternative in which, in the consultant’s words, “the full boulevard/sidewalk can be used by pedestrians when vehicles are not present and when Pusateri’s is closed.” For their part, Transportation Services staff recommended a shorter, two-car lay-by – a “compromise” – that would have mitigated the effect of the pinch-point between Pusateri’s seasonal patio and the lay-by curb. This was added to the agenda of last week’s Council meeting as an urgent item as the city in the process of tendering the construction contract.
Last week’s four-day council meeting was most notable for its frustrating and irresponsible ‘debate’ on funding transit expansion, but by late Friday afternoon, and with nearly half the councillors gone home, the Bay Street item was finally up for debate. In the end, the staff report was received, and councillors voted 19-8 in favour of Councillor Wong-Tam’s amended motion that will eliminate the lay-by in favour of the original plans.
A small, but significant, win for pedestrians. A big thank you to Councillor Wong-Tam for standing firm and supporting this important pedestrian issue.