The plan called ActiveTO is still under development, but has accompanied a change in message from city officials who have started to encourage people to move around while keeping their distance rather than staying at home as much as possible.
“We will need more road space to walk, we will need quieter streets, we will need more bicycle infrastructure,” said Mayor John Tory at a press conference.
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“Toronto transportation and public health are working together on a plan to provide more space for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users to allow for greater physical distance.”
Tory said the city plans to close 50 kilometers of roads except local traffic soon. Although he did not provide details of the streets that would be affected or how the new measures would be applied, he said that some closings would likely include main roads near hot spots such as large parks that attract crowds.
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Tory also said that Toronto would speed up plans to connect its bicycle network, including installing new infrastructure near public transit routes.
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“We know we need a safety valve for our transit system because some people may be hesitant to board the (Toronto Transit Commission) for health reasons,” he said. .
The mayor’s announcement came hours after Ontario Premier Doug Ford eased restrictions on certain businesses closed during the peak of the pandemic. Garden centers, nurseries and hardware stores will be allowed to resume operations by the end of the week, and other non-essential retailers have been allowed to begin offering curbside pickup starting Monday.
TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said the transit service has no immediate plans to increase service levels despite the expected increase in ridership caused by provincial and municipal announcements. The public transit agency maintained its service levels between 70 and 80% of its regular capacity throughout the epidemic, even though ridership fell by at least 80% and that approximately 1,200 employees had to be temporarily laid off.
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“We will continue to monitor traffic and respond in real time,” said Green.
Toronto’s interim plan has been approved by the city’s top public health official.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, a medical officer of health in Toronto, said it is important to get people moving.
“The World Health Organization has urged wherever possible to consider walking or cycling while traveling during the COVID-19 epidemic,” she said.
“These active modes of transportation not only provide physical distance, but can significantly reduce our risk of chronic disease and improve our mental health.”
Tory said more details on the ActiveTO plan would be announced in the coming days.
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