The campaign to close parts of campus began over 10 years ago and this week the final hurdle was cleared in the fight to keep traffic off of a section of Gould Street. Charles Vanegas takes a look at the temporary end to this long-fought battle
Students will continue to cross Gould Street without fear of traffic, now that the city has approved its closure on a more permanent basis.
After being approved by the Toronto and East York Community Council on Jan. 10, the motion was brought to the Toronto City Council on Monday. Council voted to keep Gould — from O’Keefe Lane to Bond Street — as well as a portion of Victoria Street closed for the next five years.
Vanessa Kwok, a second-year theatre production student, said she’s happy to hear the news, but wishes traffic could be eliminated elsewhere on campus. “I’m excited, because if it can happen here, maybe it can happen [on Gerrard Street],” said Kwok. “We jaywalk all the time, and its kind of nice [on Gould] to not have to worry about traffic or getting hit by cars.” Razi Udden, a second-year chemical engineering student, agrees with Kwok. “You see people running across Church Street all the time trying to get to the Engineering building, it’s not safe,” he said.
“I’ve actually seen a few accidents happen because people were trying to get to class.” Travis Komarnisky, a third-year fashion student, said he’s mostly apathetic to the street closures but does see the benefit. “Its nice to walk on the street,” he said. “I think it gives [the campus] unity. It’s not just a city road, its a real part of our campus.”
Ryerson will continue to be responsible for the maintenance of the streets that were deemed a pedestrian zone for the 12-month trial that ran from Fall 2010 to Fall 2011. The city decided to then extend the closure until the city made its decision.
“Knowing that Gould Street will be programmed and maintained by Ryerson University — I know it’s going to be an exceptional public space,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, Ward 27 councillor.
The motion to close the street was not opposed by Mayor Rob Ford, despite popular opinion that he was against the closure due to his previous statements about “roads [being] for cars.”
“This is what the community wants,” said Wong-Tam. “It enhances the pedestrian experience, it provides a safer environment to walk freely, and it also gives them the ability to animate the street with programming and vendors.”
Ryerson president Shedon Levy describes the changes that would help make the decision permanent.
“To get a permanent closure there is question of texturing the road, to make it look different,” said Levy. “But we always need emergency vehicles to get through so you can’t invest in things that are going to get destroyed.”
This option is under consideration, as is the question of street furniture.
“You can already begin to see it,” he said.
Levy referred to aspects of the Master Plan in which the sidewalks of Gould Street would be much wider, and the landscaping being done around Image Arts building would continue down to Yonge Street, but clarifies it must be taken one step at a time.
“It is very difficult [to close the other half of Gould Street] because Bond street would have no use,” said Levy.
People would drive up the street, and have to stop and turn around if there was no access to Gould, he explained. “We’re happy with as much as we have,” said Levy.