John Street Cultural Corridor - Update

Downtown communities like ours face unique challenges and countless opportunities.  Every day, we look for ways to enhance our parks, support our neighbours, build new community facilities and, importantly, to create new public spaces.

Over the years, we've begun to shift our collective attitudes towards the very spaces at the heart of cities – our streets. Once seen as sites only for busy travel, our streets are being reimagined as public spaces in and of themselves. Places where our communities can gather, stop, celebrate, watch and learn…from our city, ourselves and each other.

Designing a new John Street

Almost 10 years ago – when many cities like New York and San Francisco were also beginning to reimagine their streets - Toronto embarked on a quest to transform a central downtown street into a destination for public life, truly recognizing it as a hub of civic and cultural importance. John Street has been officially recognized as a cultural corridor for many years, home to institutions like the Art Gallery of Ontario, CBC Broadcast Centre, the Princess of Wales and Royal Alexandra Theatres, and TIFF Bell Lightbox, to name a few. The project to redefine John as a public cultural space, while making it inviting for pedestrians to truly use and occupy the street, culminated in the John Street Cultural Corridor improvement project.

Through a lengthy public consultation and Environmental Assessment (EA) process during the last term of Council, the vision for John Street emerged. A pedestrian-focused design, John Street will see the elimination of 2 lanes of traffic, narrower lanes, greatly expanded sidewalks and removal of curbs, so there is no barrier between the road and pedestrian realm. These key design components, in addition to upgraded lighting provided by the local Business Improvement Area, new event spaces at intersections along the Corridor, and landscaping and pavement treatments, come together to create a slower, safer space for everyone. As a Cultural Corridor, the design envisions a street regularly closed for events, sustained periods throughout the seasons, cultural events and more, creating the feeling of a new public plaza space along John.

 

Final design of the John Street Cultural Corridor

With a focus on creating a new pedestrian corridor, the overall design of John Street seeks to slow down all road users, including cars and bicycles, to make the street safer for all. Picture some of the unique streets in our very own Kensington Market – Baldwin Street and Kensington Avenue come to mind. These streets are narrower, and by design move much slower than countless other corridors that function to move people at a faster pace through the area. The new design for John Street, with expanded sidewalks, curb elimination and pedestrians as the focus, seeks to slow down the pace of the street itself.

Expanding safe cycling infrastructure

Safe and accessible cycling infrastructure has been a critical priority of mine since the beginning of this term – and, it continues to be. During the Environmental Assessment process in the last term of Council, options for a cycling facility on John Street were indeed considered. The preferred option however, emerged as a pedestrian-focused corridor with corresponding improvements.

However, the concerns regarding North-South cycling facilities remained – and, rightfully so. To address the gap, the Richmond-Adelaide EA recommended cycle tracks on Simcoe Street. We've installed these, and have extended them south to Queen's Quay, enhancing the separation south of Front Street at the same time. We're also working to install a traffic light at Richmond and Simcoe, to create a safe crossing for cyclists travelling in both directions.

Just last year, we also installed brand new separated bike lanes on Peter Street, to connect with the heavily used Richmond-Adelaide cycle tracks. Over the past two years, we've been working hard to address safety at the jogged intersection at Queen and Soho, to provide a safe connection between the new Peter St. lanes, and the Soho-Phoebe-Beverley route. We're happy to announce the design for a two-stage southbound crossing, and that it will be installed next year. We're working hard with City staff to finalize the northbound solution at the same intersection, and will continue to communicate updates as we finish this work.

Dedicated two-stage southbound cyclist crossing at Queen and Soho

A safe and connected cycling grid is critical. It is also equally important that these facilities are always open and undisrupted, to ensure predictability and regular safety for cyclists. I've been pushing hard against bike lane closures for any reason - construction, film events and countless other priorities. My office has a policy of refusing requests for bike lane closures, unless there is a safe detour provided simultaneously. As a critical component of the design on John focuses on regular closures for events and public occupation, installing a cycling facility that would be regularly closed would reduce cyclists' safety and convenience - not a preferred solution. We worked hard together to address gaps in the grid, and this work continues to progress in planning and installation.

Different streets have different priorities. We have to make thoughtful choices about our priorities for each street, and how they support the vibrancy of Toronto, the liveability of our neighbourhoods, and sustainable modes of transportation.

Designing safe streets for all road users is a critical priority, and as we continue to reimagine all our streets, it must be for our entire city. We are building a network of safe cycling streets on Richmond, Adelaide, Simcoe, Peter, and more. Planning is underway to transform King Street into a corridor that works well for public transit. And, with construction starting next year, John Street is poised to become a safe and vibrant space for pedestrians and a new cultural corridor for the entire city.

For more information on the John Street Cultural Corridor, visit the project website or contact my office any time.