Remaking Spadina: A street, not an expressway

In Ward 20, many of our neighbourhoods have grown up around the infrastructure of previous eras. Our youngest neighbourhoods -- places like King-Spadina, CityPlace, and the Waterfront -- were once industrial area or transportation corridors. And older neighbourhoods like the Annex still bear scars from past battles over different visions for the future of downtown. There are too many locations where our streets are designed as highways to move as many cars and fast as possible, when instead we need urban streets that are safe for everyone and help to build a local sense of place.

Spadina is a perfect example. At the north end, residents of the Annex organized to fight and stop the Spadina Expressway from tearing through the neighbourhood a generation ago. And they won. But Spadina Road nonetheless encourages fast traffic with wide lanes and too few pedestrian crossings. To the south, below Front Street, the area used to be industrial and Spadina Avenue is practically a ramp to and from the Gardiner Expressway. Tens of thousands of new residents have moved into CityPlace and the Waterfront in recent years, but traffic is heavy and there are few safe crossings of Spadina for pedestrians.

In the south - towards a new Spadina Avenue

On Spadina Avenue, four key improvements are in the works. Just last week, City Council finally (after multiple attempts) approved the installation of a full set of pedestrian crossings at the intersections of Spadina and Front, and Spadina and Bremner. When these missing pedestrian crossings are installed, it will no longer be necessary to cross the intersection three times just to get to the opposite side. This will require new pedestrian crossing signals and painted markings, some curb modifications, and a full re-evaluation of the traffic signal phasing programs at both intersections. When Transportation Services finishes drafting their workplan for the coming year, we will know the timeline for installation.

In addition, detailed design of a signalized pedestrian crossing of Lake Shore Boulevard on the west side of Spadina is almost complete. Construction will start in a few weeks' time, subject to sorting out some final details with Enbridge to avoid a gas main that runs through the intersection. Once installed, you will be able to walk down the west side of Spadina Avenue all the way to the waterfront.

Transportation Services staff are in the middle of a pedestrian safety study of the east side of Spadina Avenue where it meets the off-ramp from the Gardiner. A physical reconfiguration of this ramp into a regular "T" intersection would be ideal, but if it is technically feasible it may still take time to fund and build, so we also need to have near-term options to make this crossing safer for everyone.

In the north - building a new Spadina Road

On Spadina Road, City Council has approved three important improvements, to increase safety and remake Spadina Road as a neighbourhood street. As the downtown continues to grow, increasing numbers of pedestrians use Spadina every day. This means that the already limited space is ever shrinking.

First, I worked with Transportation Services staff to narrow vehicle lanes on Spadina Rd between Bloor and Dupont, and the eventual expansion of sidewalks and public realm beautification along the stretch, once a capital program is realized. The first step is to reduce the vehicle lanes down to the City’s standard and paint buffers between the lanes and the sidewalk. Once a capital program is in place, the curbs will be moved to the buffered lines and built out, expanding pedestrian space and allowing for right-of-way improvements in the public realm. More space means more opportunities.

In addition, City Council approved two new Traffic Control Signals: one between Bloor and Lowther, across from Wigwamen Terrace, and another at Spadina Crescent and Russell St, to allow for safe navigation to the newly renovated 1 Spadina Crescent, the new John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design building. After feedback from neighbours and a review from City staff, it was noted that pedestrians were already attempting to cross at these locations, albeit unsafely. These two new Traffic Control Signals will allow pedestrians to safely reach their destinations.

Together, we can continue to reimagine corridors like Spadina, to truly rebuild our streets for people.