Toronto city council will vote on Transform Yonge project

Mayor Tory favours new proposal that keeps all six lanes of traffic flowing


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Councillor John Filion said he wasn’t surprised by the alternate Yonge Street proposal

A streetscaping plan for a North York section of Yonge headed to City Council for a final vote after two years of environmental assessments and community consultation, but not without a last-ditch political effort to derail the plans. 

During a Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting to discuss the city planning-preferred Transform Yonge design option to decrease the number of lanes on a stretch of Yonge between Sheppard and Finch in favour of bike lanes and wider sidewalks, a new motion was introduced by councillor David Shiner. His motion involved keeping six lanes of traffic on Yonge but moving the cycling lanes to nearby Beecroft Avenue, which would increase the cost of the project by around $9 million. 

“I believe this is a safer, more viable option that provides for both of the things that we want: a great pedestrian way and a great and safe cycle way,” said Shiner when he presented his motion. 

Councillor John Filion, who has led the project from the beginning, said he had little idea a new motion was being introduced. After the meeting, Filion told Post City he “kind of expected something like that” would happen. “It’s behind-the-scenes-politics,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the merits of the plans. The merits of the plans speak for themselves.” 

Opponents of the Transform Yonge option include Mayor John Tory and Coun. Shiner. 

“I’ve spoken to councillors who don’t support Transform Yonge because they just don’t,” said Filion. “And I’ve spoken to other councillors who do support it and just won’t vote for it because the mayor’s not in favour of it.

This project comes at a time when Mayor Tory has been involved in a number of road safety measures and is an advocate of the city’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plan. A City of Toronto staff report identified the section of Yonge between Sheppard and Steeles as a “priority safety concern.” Between January 2010 and December 2017, there were 78 collisions involving pedestrians and five involving cyclists. Of these, eight resulted in serious injuries or fatalities. 

One of the objectives of the project is to improve road safety by reducing car traffic and making a safe space for cyclists. Shiner’s last-minute motion to keep the six lanes on Yonge got the majority vote in PWIC by three to one. The motion was deferred to city council for a vote on March 27, and Filion believed the vote would be close. 

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Jessica Wei is an associate editor for Post City. She has lived and worked as a journalist in Montreal, Hong Kong and, now, Toronto. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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