Students take advantage of the vehicle-free Gould Street — while it lasts. Photo: Mohamed Omar

The unknown fate of Gould Street

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The year-long closure is coming to an end and the decision to allow cars back in or let students roam free lies in the hands of community council. Christina Dun reports

Theatre students have performed on it, flash mobs have danced on it, and countless carnival prizes have been won on it. Every student has walked across it on their way to class, and every pigeon has landed on it.

More than 40 activities and events took place on Gould Street last year, thanks to the pilot project that created a traffic-free zone in the heart of campus.

With the one-year trial period coming to an end, the future of this pedestrian-friendly is in the hands of the Toronto and East York Community Council.

Meeting to vote on Sept. 12, its members will decide whether the street will remain blocked off to vehicles.

According to the meeting’s agenda, the recommendation from Transportation Services is to extend the contract “from Oct. 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012 on the same terms and conditions generally as set out in the existing agreement.”

And with Gould Street being a central area of Ryerson’s campus, many find it hard to imagine the streets full of cars, as it was before the initial closure back in September 2010.

Thea Lape, a fourth year early childhood education student, has seen a major improvement to the campus atmosphere.

“Our campus doesn’t really feel like a campus when there are cars passing through it,” says Lape. “[We’re] well within the city, so I really like how they closed it off because it’s just nicer and a lot more relaxing.”

One of the main goals of Ryerson’s Master Plan, which was announced by President Sheldon Levy in 2006, is to put people first through “pedestrianization of the urban environment.”

With the success and positive feedback from students and the community, there is hope Gould will remain closed for at least another year and eventually become a permanent pedestrian zone.

“Even just closing off one little street, it makes me want to stay on campus a little bit longer than usual,” says Lape. “So it’s not just like going to class and going straight home.”

The project is also supported by Ward 27’s City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

“I know that Ryerson has ambitious plans to upgrade the street quality,” says Wong-Tam, “and it is setting a wonderful example of street beautification.”

Wong-Tam, who worked closely with groups throughout the city to plan the project, “hopes the vote will be able to approve the closure permanently.”

One of those groups includes the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU).

“Since the pilot project started, we have been working most closely with the Ryerson administration and the City of Toronto on hosting events and showcasing the potential of a permanently closed Gould street,” says Sean Carson, RSU vice-president operations.

The RSU started the campaign eight years ago and will continue to put pressure on the city to keep it going.

“Even after the decision from City Council, the Ryerson Students’ Union will continue to fight for our number one goal: a fully closed Gould Street from Victoria to Church that provides a safe and pedestrian-friendly campus space for our members,” says Carson.


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