Pedestrianizing Fleet Street - Road Safety at Fleet, Bathurst, and Lake Shore

I am pleased to be able to let you know that this Monday, November 25, 2019, the westbound lane of Fleet Street between Bathurst Street and Iannuzzi Street will finally be permanently pedestrianized. The lane will be closed to vehicles and remain open for pedestrians and cyclists.

With the strong support of the local community, I have been working hard for years to make the Fleet-Bathurst-Lake Shore intersection safer. Most recently, I moved a motion at City Council in October of this year to expedite and prioritize the implementation of improvements here.

Permanently closing this 200-metre portion of westbound Fleet Street is a critical "Vision Zero" street safety measure. It will shorten crossing distances for pedestrians, reduce the risk of collisions by making vehicle turns much less complex, and reduce transit delays for the 509 and 511 streetcars.

This initial step will be followed by monitoring, installation of beautification features in the spring, and a technical review of the larger intersection for further safety improvements. High-level long-term plans to completely rebuild and reconfigure the intersection were approved as part of the Waterfront Transit Network Plan in 2018.

For more information, please see https://www.toronto.ca/services-payments/streets-parking-transportation/fleet-street/ or contact my office by calling 416 392 4044 or emailing councillor_cressy@toronto.ca.

What to expect this weekend

Work will take place overnight starting late Sunday evening and finishing before the morning commute on Monday. Noise and light impacts on neighbours should be relatively modest, while concrete barriers are dropped in place, signage is installed, and new lines and markings are painted on the roadway. No heavy construction work is required.

Traffic changes in effect Monday

Starting on Monday morning (November 25), westbound Fleet Street will be closed to vehicles from Bathurst Street to Iannuzzi Street. Only a small number of vehicles will be affected because this block of Fleet Street has only been accessible from southbound Bathurst, and it has no on-street parking or local property access. Drivers travelling southbound on Bathurst Street headed to the Fort York neighbourhood will still have complete access to all blocks and properties, including the rest of westbound Fleet Street, via either Fort York Boulevard or Bruyeres Mews.

In addition, right turns from southbound Bathurst Street to westbound Lake Shore Boulevard will now be prohibited. Due to the tight corner around the pedestrian island and streetcar platform, these turning movements contribute to the high number of close calls and frequent damage to the hand rails of the pedestrian island. Southbound drivers will continue to be able to go straight or turn left at the intersection. Drivers heading to Lake Shore Boulevard westbound can turn at Fort York Boulevard instead.

There will be no change to TTC streetcar service on the 511 Bathurst or 509 Harbourfront routes. TTC will adjust the 307 Bathurst overnight bus to maintain local service. Southbound buses will operate via Bathurst, Fort York, Iannuzzi, to rejoin the regular routing on Fleet Street. A new bus stop will be placed southbound on Iannuzzi Street near Fleet Street. Northbound routing will remain unchanged.

Why these changes are needed urgently

The massive five-arm intersection of Bathurst, Lake Shore, and Fleet doesn't work well for anyone. It is a danger and a barrier for pedestrians, it is confusing for drivers and has a high rate of vehicle collisions, and it delays two streetcar lines. This intersection should tie together the three adjacent neighbourhoods – Bathurst Quay, Fort York, and CityPlace – but instead it separates them from one another.

Going back to at least as far as 2004, before the Fort York and CityPlace neighbourhoods were constructed, the City of Toronto has made plans for reconfiguring this intersection. Concern about this intersection was one of the most common themes I heard from community members throughout the consultations for the Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood Plan in 2014 and 2015. On several occasions in recent years, I have supported staff reports and City Council directions that have re-affirmed the intention and necessity of fixing this intersection.

As the local community knows all too well, the long history of efforts to make this intersection safer have been punctuated by too many near-misses, non-fatal collisions, and at least two serious injuries that have been reported since 2015.

We can – and we must – make short term improvements without waiting to pour concrete or undertake major construction work. Planning and investing in our infrastructure to promote the safety of all road users is critical. No number of injuries or deaths on our streets is acceptable.

Closing this small block of westbound Fleet Street is the fastest way to make a significant difference for safety. Pedestrianizing the block of westbound Fleet Street will shorten the crossing distance and time for pedestrians, making it faster, safer, and more comfortable to make this crossing. In addition, it will make the intersection much less complex for drivers so there are fewer opportunities for confusion and errors. Reduced driver confusion should mean fewer collisions. And the simplification of the intersection will also reduce the delays experienced by streetcar riders.

I brought a motion to Community Council in May 2019 requesting that City staff report back on what it would finally take to see meaningful action on safety improvements here. Transportation Services reported to City Council in July 2019 with a recommendation to authorize the permanent closure of westbound Fleet Street, between Bathurst Street and Iannuzzi Street, as the first and most expeditious way to start implementing improvements. City Council approved this work and the City staff report anticipated implementation before the end of summer.

Due to lack of apparent progress on implementation, I brought yet another motion to City Council in October 2019 and City Council directed that these safety improvements must be made a priority and expedited. Finally, these initial changes for safety will now be made over this coming Sunday night.

Next steps

Following the closure of this block of Fleet Street, the City of Toronto will closely monitor how the intersection is working and make further tweaks as needed. Preparations are underway for to implement public realm beautification in the spring, which could include improvements such as public art, seating, and landscaping.

Long-term plans to completely rebuild and reconfigure the intersection were approved as part of the Waterfront Transit Network Plan in 2018. The changes will include widening sidewalks and shifting the location of the streetcar tracks within the roadway to speed up transit service. This will be a major undertaking that must be coordinated with other large infrastructure projects like waterman replacement and road reconstruction.

City of Toronto staff are studying how to quickly and effectively construct additional safety improvements well in advance of a full reconfiguration. Of particular attention and urgency is the need to physically protect pedestrians waiting at the streetcar stop to cross Lake Shore Boulevard on the west side, where too often vehicles are mounting the curb and knocking down the hand rails where pedestrians could be standing.