Jays president asks board to remove Lake Shore Boulevard closures

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Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro has written an open letter to city council asking that frequent closures on Lake Shore Boulevard be lifted.

The city has been regularly closing part of the roadway to automobile traffic since the summer of 2020 as part of its ActiveTO program.

The closures, which are also taking place along several other roads, were initially introduced as a way to give people more space for recreational activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But they proved so popular that the city opted to keep the program in place, even as the risk posed by the pandemic diminished and public health advice shifted to place less emphasis on physical distancing at the outside.

In a letter sent to the city clerk’s office earlier this week, Shapiro said he recognizes that “ActiveTO has played a crucial role in encouraging people to get out and move again, at a time when options for entertainment were limited”.

But he said the closure of Lakeshore Boulevard West this spring has “significantly affected” Jays fans’ ability to access Rogers Center and will likely only get worse as summer approaches when “baseball is a main attraction of the city”.

Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro at a news conference announcing the signing of Hyun-Jin Ryu to the team in Toronto on Dec. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

“Many of our fans travel to Rogers Center from outside the GTA and taking public transit is not an option. Out-of-town fans are often unaware of ActiveTO and don’t know how to allocate extra travel time. On the days that ActiveTO was in effect on Lake Shore, our local fans experienced significant transit delays because traffic is disrupted on all downtown roads,” he said.

“As a sports organization, we encourage people to get out and be active, but Toronto has many options and routes to use, unlike our fans.”

TORY PROMISED CHANGES

The city council is expected to discuss the fate of the ActiveTO program at a June 15 meeting.

Speaking to CP24 earlier this week, Mayor John Tory conceded ‘there is no doubt’ the closures have had ‘a greater negative impact on traffic’ so far in 2022 compared to years previous ones.

He said he would like the program to continue, but perhaps not in its current form.

“All I can say is that we are looking very carefully at all of these actual results, data and evidence, as opposed to stories. We will come up with something that takes all of these considerations into account,” he said.

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

City data, however, also showed a significant increase in the number of cyclists and pedestrians along ActiveTO routes when the closures are in effect. In the case of Lakeshore Boulevard West, the data indicates a more than three-fold increase in the number of pedestrians and cyclists when the roadway is closed to vehicular traffic.

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