Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Monday, September 14, 2020 5:35PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 14, 2020 5:43PM EDT
A number of city programs borne out of a need to provide more space for residents to physically distance outside amid the COVID-19 pandemic will soon come to an end but Mayor John Tory is already laying the groundwork for their return in 2021.
The city launched a number of new initiatives this summer as it worked quickly to create additional space for people, including the Active TO program wherein several major arteries were regularly closed to vehicles on weekends and the Café TO program which fast-tracked the creation of 760 new restaurant and bar patios, some of them in curb lanes.
While some of those initiatives will soon come to an end with the last Active TO closures of the season scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 26, it appears that there is an appetite for their return next spring.
In an open letter sent to City Manager Chris Murray on Monday, Tory credited the programs with taking an “incredibly difficult situation” and providing ways “to help residents and businesses cope.”
He said that as he looks ahead to 2021 it has become “increasingly clear” that the fight against COVID-19 will continue and with that “the need to continue to encourage physical distancing and accessible outdoor activity.”
For that reason, Tory said that he is asking city staff to lead an expedited review of all of the programs with the aim of reporting back to city council by January with “lessons learned” and modifications that could possibly be made in 2021.
“Given the success of these programs and the undeniable benefit they had in many Toronto neighbourhoods I wanted to ensure we moved quickly to take the lessons learned from our experience this summer and establish best practices and program guidelines for 2021,” he writes.
In his letter, Tory said that the Café TO program created 9,000 metres of new patio space, helping provide a boost to some struggling restaurants in the process.
He also singled out the Cycle TO program, which involved the installation of 40 kilometres of new bike lanes and the Curb TO program, which led to more than 200 pedestrian zones near busy bottlenecks.
“I am proud and thoroughly impressed with the amazing speed that these complex programs were implemented by our city staff,” he said.