A $6.35 million plan to beautify and narrow Jarvis Street by removing its reversible centre lane for traffic has ignited a war of words between mostly car-less downtowners and commuters in Rosedale and areas north of Bloor Street who use it as a speedy route to the office.
Residents living on or near Jarvis say the proposal, in the works for several years, would make the once grand street safer for people who don’t drive to work.
The city’s works committee backed the plan yesterday 5 to 1, with the proviso the redesigned road include bicycle lanes. The plan still needs approval from city council and, following an impact study, the province’s environment minister.
The project would remove Jarvis’ fifth lane in the centre, which uses green and red arrows to accommodate both morning and evening rush-hour traffic. The Jarvis improvement plan would also see both sidewalks buffered by an avenue of trees.
“We want to be able to walk on the streets of our neighbourhood and feel safe,” said Glen Simour of the Garden District Residents Association. “Many consider Jarvis Street to be a freeway, and it’s not. It’s a downtown city street.”
Residents north of Bloor turned out to argue otherwise, in bright yellow “Don’t jam Jarvis” shirts. They say Transportation Services’ estimate narrowing the street would add about two minutes to the 6- to 8-minute driving time along this stretch is too low.
“Jarvis is not a local street. In order to make a decision like this it’s important to understand its broader role,” said Ellen Greenwood of Moore Park Residents Association. She pleaded with councillors, adding forcing cars to idle longer would increase their carbon dioxide emissions by 3.5 per cent.
Cycling advocates favour reducing cars on Jarvis, but would prefer separate bike lanes rather than simply wider curb lanes.
That just encourages motorists to go faster, said Yvonne Bambrick of the Toronto Cyclist’s Union.
Coun. Chin Lee (Ward 41, Scarborough-Rouge River) pleaded for a trial period.
“There is no hurry to do this — and if you get it wrong, it’s going to cost $5 or $6 million,” he said.