When the City of Toronto starts construction to revamp streets and other public places, it is ostensibly for the greater benefit of residents, whether it be for better functionality, necessary infrastructure improvements, enjoyment and/or simply aesthetic improvement.
If an underused eyesore of a property is turned into a beautiful park or a car-centric thoroughfare transformed to include more pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure, residents are generally on board.
But when changes disrupt the vibe of a neighbourhood or prioritize the “wrong” things — such as vehicular traffic or private interests — plans are understandably not often met with such open arms.
This appears to be the case with a new proposal for historic Kensington Market, one of a number of areas the city is making upgrades to as part of its Vision Zero campaign to reduce fatalities on the road.
I know this area extremely well…It should be Only Pedestrian & cyclists (with speed limits). Deliveries 🚚 can be made after 9pm -9am…#Topoli #KensingtonMarket @blogTO @CBCToronto @CBCPolitics @CP24 @TheTorontoSun
— DarylChristoff (@DarylChristoff1) August 30, 2022
As noted on the Kensington Safe Streets page of the city’s website, “state-of-good-repair work, including sewer and watermain replacements, road resurfacing, and road reconstruction are scheduled in Kensington Market in 2022 and 2023,” which will open the floor for some other additions to the neighbourhood as well.
While redevelopment is needed due to aging roadways and pipes, the city is taking the opportunity to make public realm improvements that include changes to intersections, curbs, sidewalks and more, but unfortunately, some feel that the suggested alterations still show too much preference to cars rather than other road users.
A city study showed that residents’ top things they want to see in the neighbourhood are larger sidewalks and more space for pedestrians, added greenery, and more space for patio dining.
But, though things like narrow footpaths and a current lack of bike parking have been addressed in the blueprints for the makeover, it seems that things like on-street parking for cars are still of top concern to city planners.
Renderings show parking lanes in the neighbourhood sidestreets being maintained despite the fact that, as Toronto political expert and columnist Matt Elliott notes on Twitter, “survey results suggesting a lot of people don’t think there should be an emphasis on maintaining on-street parking.”
These proposed new street designs for Kensington Market sure seem to put a lot of emphasis on maintaining on-street parking, despite survey results suggesting a lot of people don’t think there should be an emphasis on maintaining on-street parking. https://t.co/mFB6KRbn70 (PDF) pic.twitter.com/JXkq2ngyyq
— Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) August 30, 2022
Many point out that this is something local business owners have a vested interest in, as they need space for daily deliveries from trucks, and also don’t want to deter customers who drive.
But, others note that there are alternative modes and hours for deliveries, and that there are multiple designated parking lots in the neighbourhood for drivers, including a Green P garage on St. Andrew Street.
Some online even call it “embarrassing” that at least parts of the area isn’t fully pedestrianized at this point, especially give the success of things like Pedestrian Sundays, the monthly event when Kensington is entirely closed off to cars and crowds can freely take over.
I understand the need for delivery trucks (and that there are other ways to make deliveries cc: @DeliveredByBike), but I’m always confused when I see personal vehicles driving through Kensington. There’s no advantage. It makes the area less enjoyable for everyone – drivers too
— Dave Edwards (@DaveLikesBikes) August 31, 2022
While people are coming up with all sorts of suggestions of their own — such as fully pedestrianizing some streets but leaving others open for cars and delivery trucks, or permitting vehicles only during certain windows — it remains to be seen if the city is open to taking its plans back to the drawing board.
The document, at this point, is only providing “recommendations” for things like intersection design enhancements (raised intersections and crosswalks) and options for on-street loading (designated areas that will be used as street parking during non-loading times) rather than anything being set in stone.