Toronto city hall gets back to business, here are 5 big issues coming up

Toronto's "nightmarish traffic" is top of mind for Mayor John Tory as city hall whirs back to life this fall, and several city council decisions could make a difference to your commute.

From commute-altering pilot projects to inevitable budget debates, here’s what to look for this fall

Keep an eye on city hall this autumn, because some decisions could dramatically change your commute. (John Rieti/CBC)

Toronto's "nightmarish traffic" is top of mind for Mayor John Tory as city hall whirs back to life this fall, and several city council decisions could make a difference to your commute.

Here are five of the biggest issues coming up at city hall, starting with a dramatic change to downtown traffic.

The King Street Pilot Project

The aim of the King Street pilot project: helping commuters who rely on the King streetcar. (David Donnelly/CBC)

City council approved the bold plan to prioritize streetcar service on King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets in July, but this fall, commuters will finally get a chance to see it in action.

For the some 65,000 people who ride the King streetcar every day, the plan aims to speed up travel.

You are going to see a renewed effort from me to relieve nightmarish traffic.- Mayor John Tory

Motorists, however, will only be able to take King one block at a time, and will have fewer parking options on the major downtown street.

All but four councillors voted to go ahead with the pilot, with several calling King Street "broken" the way it is now, but the plan did lose one of its biggest boosters when chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat resigned.

The big question: will it work?

Meanwhile, Mayor John Tory told reporters he'll be looking at other options to unclog the roads throughout the city this fall, including stepping up traffic enforcement.

"You are going to see a renewed effort from me to relieve nightmarish traffic," he said.

Tory also said the city will be looking at technological improvements that might be able to help.

Bloor Street bike lanes

Cyclists love them, but that likely won't stop some councillors from voting against making the pilot project permanent. (John Rieti/CBC)

Expect to hear a lot of bike bells ringing out in support of keeping the Bloor Street bike lane, but also some critics coming forward with calls to kill it.

The lanes opened in August of 2016, and the city's been diligently measuring them every since with everything from surveys to ridership counts to traffic analyses.

Local Coun. Joe Cressy previously said he hopes they'll stay.

"This is working and it's making the streets safer and faster for the most number of people," he said.

However, expect some suburban councillors to try and kill the lanes.

Social housing

Social housing units like this one in a Bleecker Street highrise need repairs before tenants can move in. (John Rieti/CBC)

Ontario recently announced new money to help repair Toronto's crumbling social housing buildings, which was welcomed by the city.

Toronto Community Housing (TCH) also announced it has hired a new CEO.

The big question now, is whether or not the city can keep more units from closing.

After the announcement, Coun. Ana Bailao tweeted that the province's move would serve as a "foundation" for the two governments to build from. But with TCH  facing a multi-billion repair backlog there's a clear need for more investment.

The budget

Expect some tense debates over this year's budget. (John Rieti/CBC)

Speaking of investments…

City council voted to start its months-long budget process by asking staff to freeze spending — something that not all councillors are on board with.

That could prove difficult, because the city is trying to push ahead with ambitious plans to deal with major issues like climate change, child care and the overdose crisis. It also has a $3.35 billion (and likely climbing) subway link to Scarborough to pay for, among other transit projects.

With Tory pushing to keep property tax increases at the rate of inflation, the city will be in for some tense debates about how to pay for what it wants.

You can also expect some debate around new taxes the city hopes to start collecting, including one on hotels and short-term accommodations like Airbnb. Staff have also been asked to consider a vacant homes tax, however some have already suggested that won't work.

The election

Doug Ford says he's getting back into politics, but won't say at what level until Friday. Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, left, has already said he'd support Ford over Mayor John Tory. (CBC)

Will Doug Ford run for mayor? He won't say until Friday night at his family's annual Ford Fest.

While that's up in the air, what's certain is that with a municipal election just over a year away, there will be even more politics than usual at city hall.

Council seats, meanwhile, may also be up for grabs as the ward map is set to change, unless an Ontario Municipal Board appeal filed by two councillors, Giorgio Mammoliti and Justin Di Ciano, is successful in reversing the council-approved riding changes.

Tory, meanwhile, told reporters he'll also be keeping in contact with Queen's Park (where an election is also looming) and Ottawa.

"We'll continue to work on forging, and maintaining and in some cases restoring good partnerships with the other governments," he told reporters.

"They are essential to the wellbeing of this city."

About the Author

John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.


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