On Wed Jul 26th we held a public info session about the Sheppard Complete Street Project. The purpose was to give residents an opportunity to learn about the project and ask questions or provide feedback.
Approximately 60 people showed up to ask questions, or provide feedback supporting or rejecting the project. The residents who showed up were respectful and very passionate about their thoughts regarding this project.
It was interesting to see a pretty even split between those who supported the project in its current form and those who had ideas on how to amend the project and improve the impact. Many people expressed support for the bike lanes coming to Sheppard while others were concerned about the increase in traffic congestion as a result of this project and the removal of a left turn lane at some intersections. Transportation Services made it clear that the left turn lane at all traffic lights will remain, including the one at Sheppard and Willowdale. They stated that most plazas' access remains unchanged, except for the one at Willowdale and Sheppard with Tim Hortons. Efforts are being made to simplify this one and focus on improving the sidewalk. Several people were concerned about the impact on accessing Tim. Hortons. We were advised that this can be an ongoing discussion as changes are implemented.
Here are my key takeaways:
I am unhappy this decision was made based on one consultation that happened during pandemic lockdowns. Many were unaware of these changes until my newsletter. I often say, the journey is just as important as the destination. I do not think there was a meaningful journey for our community to participate in this upcoming change.
I am disappointed we will be losing 12 trees without any plan to replace them nor any vision for the public realm and how a tree canopy could cover the bike lanes and sidewalk. I will be reaching out to planning to see how we can include a public realm plan that would require developers to match an overall vision for the street.
The voice of young people in support of these bike lanes should be considered. Many of them do not have driver’s licenses, and rely on biking as their primary mode of transportation. Their generation has grown up with the added burden of climate anxiety. We should consider the future we are building is one they will inherit.
Change is difficult. As a mom who often drives my family around, I am concerned about traffic and gridlock. Biking and transit are often not realistic options for our family activities. However, I am willing to give this plan a chance knowing we are also asking developers to put retail on the ground floor along Sheppard. If Sheppard East can become a walkable and bikeable community for all to access different amenities, this would greatly benefit all nearby residents. Especially since some of the upcoming condos will have parking ratios as low as .2. Many of our future residents will not be drivers.
Our journey does not end at the end of construction. We were promised by staff that when the plan is implemented, community feedback could result in further improvements or adjustments being made. We need to keep in contact - both during construction and after implementation because no one knows our street as well as we do. As they transformation unfolds, we can give feedback on traffic management during construction as well as new ideas and issues that arise after implementation.
Residents who could not come to the info session provided their comments via email and my office is currently putting them together to present to staff, including any questions that have been sent.
Click Here to find out more about this project.