Toronto’s ActiveTO program that closes roadways such as Lakeshore Boulevard on weekends is due for a an overhaul given the impact it has on traffic that’s largely back to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor John Tory says.

Tory told CP24 said that he’s received complaints about ActiveTO, specifically the closure of Lakeshore Boulevard West, and its impact on traffic during recent weekends.

“I have the traffic data, there’s no question that it had a bigger adverse impact on traffic during that time,” he said. “All I can say is we are very carefully examining all of those results, data, and actual real evidence as opposed to stories.”

“We will be coming out with something that takes into account all of those considerations.”

Toronto brought out street closures, known as the ActiveTO program, in 2020 to give people more space to get outside on roadways in a safe manner when COVID-19 was raging and many other activities were not allowed to operate.

Tory said he wanted the program to continue after the pandemic because of its value getting people outdoors.

“We like the idea that some of our streets and public realm facilities could be used by people on an ongoing basis so we continued the program in a way to sort of examine the results.”

A CP24 viewer who lives along the section of Lakeshore closed for ActiveTO said he questioned the value of recent ActiveTO closures given the relatively small amount of people taking advantage and the heavy traffic he observed on the Queensway.

Data collected by the City of Toronto in 2021 suggested travel times on the Gardiner Expressway and the Queensway double or even triple on ActiveTO days versus “conditions with no ActiveTO closure and provincial lockdown measures in place.”

He said the program will not be eliminated entirely, but instead will demonstrate a “balance” between easing traffic flow and letting people continue to use streets car-free at times.

A staff report on ActiveTO has previously been requested and will likely inform any changes made to the program.

“We have to have a balance in the program and have a city that can from time-to-time close roads for big events and just for people to have the joy of being outside,” he said. “But we also have to be mindful that people have to get around, business has to carry on, neighbourhoods have to be kept safe and people should be able to come and go from their own houses.”

Matti Siemiatycki, director of the infrastructure institute at the University of Toronto’s School of Cities, says it’s vital that ActiveTO remain in place to give people options to move about outdoors that don’t involve cars.

“As the city comes out of the pandemic we are at risk of a car-based recovery, a recovery where people only see the car as their main opportunity and alternative, we have to provide other alternatives.”

He said that the closures along Lakeshore Boulevard West, blamed by some motorists for slowdowns on the Gardiner Expressway, is “very unsafe” for pedestrians and cyclists.

“There have been some really major and tragic accidents along that strip, so to provide people with alternatives to move around especially when the weather is nice, when people want to get out, I think this program is very important and it should continue.”