The City of Toronto will be reconstructing Bay Street between Bloor St. and Davenport Rd this year. One of the key benefits to pedestrians will be widening Bay Street’s busy sidewalks. The City of Toronto has consulted with the community and local stakeholders including residents’ associations and the Bloor-Yorkville Business Improvement Area. One of the top priorities identified by the community was an improved pedestrian realm, particularly wider, safer and more pleasant sidewalks. Two city-owned lay-bys, where the roadway cuts into the sidewalk, will be removed on the west side of Bay – a TTC bus bay at Cumberland, in front of the west side entrance to Bay subway station, and at the southwest corner of Bay and Yorkville Avenue.
Since the consultations concluded, only one local interest has spoken out against the planned improvements. Pusateri’s uses the Bay/Yorkville lay-by for valet parking service for its customers. The Bay Street improvement project proposes to remove the lay-by because it cuts into sidewalk space. The constriction of pedestrian access is a critical concern: the lay-by is located just north of a busy entrance to the Bay subway station and the ‘scramble’ intersection at Bloor St. A patio installed by Pusateri’s during the warmer months further constricts pedestrian flow.
Pusateri’s uses this city owned lay-by, which was installed ten years ago at the store’s request, for its exclusive use. At the time, Pusateri’s paid $75,000 to cover the costs of the lay-by’s installation, with the support of then-Ward 27 councillor Kyle Rae. Signage installed by the store declares this public space as for the sole use of its valet and detailing service, to the exclusion of all other users. Valet staff stationed in front of the store have shooed away other lay-by users. This sets a troubling precedent for the privatization of public space.
Pusateri’s hired prominent city hall lobbyists, Sussex Strategy Group, to pressure city council to maintain their lay-by, even though it had not been involved in the local consultations when the street reconstruction project was planned last year. Public Works chair and Ford loyalist Denzil Minnan-Wong supports Pusateri’s in calling for the retention of the lay-by.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who now represents Ward 27, notes that during the consultations the local BIA and local resident’s associations supported the plan.
It is Pusateri’s claim that a Bay Street lay-by is indispensable for a gourmet food store’s survival. There are alternatives that would continue to accommodate Pusateri’s customers without disrupting pedestrian traffic, which Councillor Wong-Tam has been advocating. These include the relocation of the valet service to the building’s own driveway off Yorkville Avenue; or directing motorist customers to the Green P parking facility, located just across the street from Pusatieri’s on Yorkville Ave.
The vote on the removal of the Bay Street lay-by takes place at the next council meeting this Thursday, March 21. Councillor Wong-Tam’s office notes that Pusateri’s, or their representatives, has not yet submitted any proposals for review to Transportation Services in advance of this vote. Given the aggressive lobbying on this local matter and Councillor Minnan-Wong’s support, this item may be quite contentious.
Here is a link to the agenda item. You can submit written comments to the agenda item, which will be entered into the record.
Walk Toronto, the new pedestrian advocacy group, has joined the local residents’ association (ABC) in support of the planned road improvements. In addition to a petition, it urges concerned residents to contact their local councillor (and copy the city clerk and Councillor Wong-Tam) to express their support for an improved pedestrian realm. You can sign Walk Toronto’s petition here.