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December 01, 2019

Changes Coming to the Streets of Downtown Mississauga

MISSISSAUGA is a city in transition with consistent and steady growth since its creation in 1974. Over the past 30 years, the downtown core has transformed from a suburban community to an urban centre. Through rapid growth and strategic investments, the downtown has become the civic, economic and cultural heart of the city. Today, the downtown is an active, vibrant and pedestrian-friendly place with residential and retail uses enlivening its streets. New cycling infrastructure is coming to Living Arts Drive as well as an LRT line within the downtown to further support the transformation. In light of these changes, we have been re-evaluating our priorities and balancing pedestrian, cyclist and transit users against vehicular movement within the downtown. This pilot, led by the Urban Design Section of the Planning and Building Department, used Tactical Urbanism to implement a complete street in response to these growing demands. Tactical Urbanism is a collection of low-cost, temporary changes to the built environment, with the intent of turning some of the installations into permanent changes, as an approach to address urban challenges. Cities around the world are using flexible and short-term projects to advance long-term goals related to street safety, public space, and more.

A Complete Street is a street that is designed to be safe for everyone: pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and drivers. The roadways are designed and operated so that the entire street network is compatible for all road users offering a wide range of benefits; they are cost effective, sustainable and most importantly, safe. By demonstrating a tactical urbanism pilot, the City of Mississauga was able to gauge the public’s reaction towards a complete street.

Image provided by City of Mississauga: The left image shows what the roadway was before, and on the right is during the Tactical Urbanism Pilot.
Image provided by the City of Mississauga: The left image shows children playing in the sandboxes and on the right is one of our managers enjoying the protected cycle lane.

The site selected for the pilot was on Living Arts Drive between Princess Royal Drive and City Centre Drive, adjacent to City Hall. A main reason this particular site was selected is because Living Arts Drive will have a permanent cycle lane installed in the future and we wanted to demonstrate a protected cycle lane to help encourage those who wouldn’t necessarily cycle. The Urban Design Team, in collaboration with other City divisions, designed a plan featuring protected bike lanes, vibrant crosswalks and shortened pedestrian crossing times by reducing the road lanes from four to two. In order to enhance the aesthetics of this urban area, picnic tables, additional street trees and planters were added. A bio-swale mock-up was incorporated to address sustainable storm water management. Murals were added to animate the wall of Jubilee Gardens, along with a life-size checkerboard and sandboxes for all to enjoy. Our colleagues in Culture commissioned public art banners and an artist-designed pedestrian shelter, made in part from recycled material, to further animate the space.

Image provided by Dan Bergeron, Artist: Shade Structure located by transit stop.

The purpose of the pilot was to test out a new road layout, simulating a complete street, to initiate a conversation about balancing all modes of transportation, and to provide enhancements to the downtown core. Vehicular traffic was maintained with reduced lanes and on-street parking was reorganized, placing it away from the curb to further protect the bicycle lane as well as to support MiWay Transit stop locations. Some on-street parking spaces were transformed to provide seating areas. All of these modifications within the right-of-way were vetted from both a road safety and a risk management perspective by City staff. The transformation on Living Arts Drive was completed over a twelve hour period on June 7, 2019.

Initially conceived as a one-week pilot, due to an overwhelmingly positive response from local business owners and residents, the project was extended to nearly the entirety of June 2019. As the City Councillor of Ward 4, representing the area of Living Arts Drive, I could not be more pleased with how our City came together to support and execute this Tactical Urbanism Pilot.

– Councillor Kovac, Ward 4

During this pilot project, a survey was conducted with business owners and residents who experienced the Tactical Urbanism Project and 65% of users supported this urban restructuring. The survey was called the Downtown Experience and it was released as part of the Downtown Strategy, a separate project underway in the Planning Strategies Division of the Planning and Building Department. The survey included specific questions regarding the pilot. A few examples of these questions were, “What did you like about the pilot?” and, “In the future, what else would you like to see on the sidewalks and streets in the downtown?” We had over a 100 people visit the pilot and the graph below represents the data from this survey. Along with the survey, we conducted tours for senior management and staff at the City of Mississauga, Mississauga Cycling Group, and organizations such as NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) and MUDR (Municipal Urban Designers Roundtable), to showcase this transformation.

Through these organized tours, our peers within the industry commended the City of Mississauga for demonstrating a complete street in the downtown and expressed interest in seeing features from this pilot become permanent.

Image Provided by City of Mississauga: City of Mississauga’s Mayor Crombie and the general public

This Tactical Urbanism Pilot was a deliverable of The Downtown Core Public Realm Strategy Project which is underway and is anticipated to be completed by 2021. This strategy will develop a comprehensive vision, detailed design, and maintenance protocols for the boulevards in the downtown. Related initiatives include the recently completed Transportation Master Plan (TMP) from the Transportation and Works Department that provided support to foster an increase in multi-modal travel for this pilot. To help implement the TMP, the City is developing Complete Streets Guidelines, a New Road Classification System, a Pedestrian Strategy and updating its Engineering Design Standards. There is also a broader Downtown Strategy in progress that is looking at a range of issues relating to the Downtown, including transportation issues.

Image Provided by City of Mississauga: On the left we have Development and Design staff painting the cycle lanes and on the right we have other City staff members enjoying lunch outside in the designated “relax zone” of our pilot on picnic tables.

Lessons Learned

  • There is a high demand for public gathering spaces within the downtown core, whether it is tables and seating to support restaurants, or simply a cluster of loungers to relax and enjoy the surroundings.
  • Having an enhanced and beautiful public realm requires an associated maintenance protocol. Throughout this pilot project, the Planning and Building Department was supported by the Community Services Department to provide temporary planting and watering so the plant material installed remained beautiful for the duration of the pilot.
  • The City of Mississauga introduced a Climate Change Action Plan that by 2050 the City will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. Knowing this plan, it was important to demonstrate a protected bike lane with plant material to help encourage cyclists to use green infrastructure within the pilot. The protected cycle lanes were well received by the cycling community and public, providing feedback that protected cycle lanes were preferred over a painted line.
  • Effective communication between internal and external stakeholders allowed for the successful implementation of this unique pilot for residents and businesses to enjoy. Having this open dialogue between stakeholders was paramount to the success of this pilot.

Post by Sharon Mittmann, RPP, Sue Ann Laking, Jacqueline Viscardi

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