Complete Streets Guidelines

Complete Streets Guidelines for Toronto

Making Complete Streets a reality in Toronto takes collaboration...

Complete streets are streets that are designed to be safe for all users, such as people who walk, bicycle, take transit or drive, and people of varying ages and levels of ability. They also consider other uses like sidewalk cafés, street furniture, street trees, utilities, and stormwater management.

While not every type of use of user may be accommodated on every street, the goal is to build a city with a well-functioning street network that supports and sustains our quality of life in Toronto. Complete streets will ensure that social, economic and environmental priorities are integrated in street planning and design.

The Complete Streets Guidelines will help Toronto's communities by:

  • ensuring safe and accessible streets for people of all ages and abilities,
  • giving people a range of transportation choices,
  • creating healthy and livable neighbourhoods,
  • creating vibrant and attractive public spaces,
  • supporting economic prosperity, and
  • improving environmental sustainability.

About the Guidelines Project

ExpandThe Guidelines Project

The City of Toronto is developing Complete Streets Guidelines to provide a holistic approach for how we design our city streets. This builds on many of the City's existing policies, guidelines and recent successful street design and construction projects.

More than 700 jurisdictions in Canada and the United States are adopting a complete streets approach. Other leading cities – like New York, Chicago and Boston – have complete streets guidelines. We're learning from other cities and developing what will work best in Toronto.

There is no single way in which to make a street 'complete'. It depends on many factors depending on the character and context of each particular street. The Complete Streets Guidelines will help prioritize the many demands placed upon our streets. They will be applied when streets are constructed, reconstructed, or otherwise improved.

The Complete Streets Guidelines project will proceed in three phases:

1. Initiate project and scan existing policies and documents 2014
2. Develop the Complete Streets Guidelines 2014-2016
3. Implement the Guidelines and train all relevant stakeholders
2016 and beyond

ExpandComplete Streets in the City's Official Plan

The Vision for complete streets comes from Toronto's Official Plan, which was adopted by City Council in August 2014, after in-depth public and stakeholder consultation.

City streets are important public open spaces which connect people and places and support the development of sustainable, economically vibrant and complete communities. New and existing City streets will incorporate a 'complete streets' approach and be designed to perform their diverse roles by:

 A) balancing the needs and priorities of the various users and uses within the right-of-way, including provision for:

i. the safe and efficient movement of pedestrians of all ages and abilities, cyclists, transit vehicles and users, goods and services vehicles, emergency vehicles, and motorists across the network; and

ii. space for other street elements, such as utilities and services, trees and landscaping, green infrastructure, snow and stormwater management, wayfinding, boulevard cafés, marketing and vending, and street furniture;

B) improving the quality and convenience of active transportation options within all communities by giving full consideration to the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit users;

C) reflecting differences in local context and character;

D) providing building access and address, as well as amenities such as view corridors, sky view, and sunlight; and

E) serving community destinations and public gathering places.

Section 3.1.1

The 'complete streets' approach recognizes that there is no single way in which to make a street 'complete'. It depends on numerous factors whose relative importance varies according to the character and context of each particular street. While it may not be viable or appropriate to accommodate every type of user or use on every streets, the overall objective is to create a well-functioning street network that is planned and designed to provide safe access and efficient operation for all street activities and functions. Guidelines for applying the 'complete streets' approach will be developed to assist in resolving and balancing the competing demands placed upon the use of street rights-of-way and applied when streets are constructed, reconstructed, or otherwise improved.

ExpandComplete Streets Goals

The City's complete streets vision for our approach to street design is: Streets for peopleplacemaking and prosperity.




A family walking on the sidewalk. The man is using a white cane. The women is pushing a stroller with baby. There are planter and bollards and excellent clearway for walking.

Improve Safety & Accessibility

Streets should be safe and accessible for people of all ages, genders and abilities, especially the most vulnerable — children, older adults, and people with disabilities.

Cross section of wide one-way street which includes driving lanes, a cycle track, and a bus-only lane.parking and Give People Choices & Connected Networks

Streets should be designed to create connected networks for a variety of travel modes and give people choices for how they move around the city, whether on foot, bicycle, on transit, or in a motor vehicle.

Cyclists on a two-way cycle track on a one-way street.Promote Healthy & Active Living

Streets should help promote healthy and active lifestyles by making streets more comfortable and inviting for people to walk and bicycle and be physically active.





Small grocery storefronts

Respect Local Context

Streets should respond to the local area context, current and future land uses, and the relationships with adjacent buildings. There is no one-size-fits-all design approach. Streets should fit comfortably within the built and natural environment and reflect local identity and priorities.


Expanded side walk space with planters, benches and umbrellas.

Create Vibrant & Attractive Public Spaces

Streets should strive to be vibrant and attractive public spaces where people want to spend time engaging in social, civic, and recreational activities. Streets should be beautiful, attractive and inviting spaces that encourage investment, and promote a sense of civic pride.

Wide sidewalks with large planting areas and permeable brick pavers.Improve Environmental Sustainability

Streets should improve the city's environmental sustainability by enhancing the tree canopy and landscaping, reducing urban heat island effects, reducing stormwater runoff, reducing energy consumption, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.




Busy downtown pedestrian crossing in front of street carSupport Economic Vitality

Streets should support the city's economic vitality by helping move people and goods efficiently and by supporting local neighbourhood shopping areas. The quality and vitality of a street influences and reflects the quality and vitality of economic activity along it.

Crowd at street eventEnhance Social Equity

Streets should be developed to remove barriers so people of all incomes, races, ages, genders and abilities can safely use and benefit from Toronto's streets. Toronto's streets should be inclusive for everyone and help provide people with opportunities to thrive.

Muskoka chairs on street part of pilot sidewalk expansion demonstration.Be Flexible & Cost Effective

Streets should be flexible and able to adapt to the city‘s changing needs and priorities over time. The design of complete streets should consider economic, social, and environmental benefits and costs, as well as construction, operations, and maintenance.

ExpandWho is Involved?

Lots of people and organizations are involved in the process for developing the Complete Streets Guidelines including City Divisions such as Transportation Services and City Planning, and Agencies, such as the TTC and Toronto Hydro.

Technical consultants have been hired to help write the Guidelines, based on advice and input from internal and external stakeholders including industry experts, advocacy groups and the public. Two stages of engagement and outreach are planned for 2015:

  1. Summer 2015: Guidelines' principles
  2. Late 2015: Guidelines' design

The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) comprises senior-level staff made up of all the divisions and agencies that use, impact, or have interest in streets and streets design. This committee is responsible for providing subject matter expertise and advice, communicating project goals and progress within their respective divisions/agencies.More than 25 divisions, agencies and organizations are represented on the TAC.

A Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) was established to provide advice and feedback to the Project Team at key points in the development of the Complete Streets Guidelines. The stakeholders include representatives of a broad range of organizations that impact Toronto’s streets and vice versa and/or are involved in planning, design, construction, and management of Toronto’s streets.

ExpandToronto's Streets

Streets are essential to Toronto's physical, social and environmental infrastructure. Toronto has about 5600 km of streets, roughly the total distance from Toronto to Whitehorse. Almost one quarter of Toronto's total land area is covered by streets.

Most people think about a street only as a way to travel. Ensuring our streets are designed to function well for all modes of travel will help people choose the mode that best suits their needs for a particular trip, and together will combine into efficient transportation networks keeping all modes of traffic moving and reducing congestion.

Streets are also about more than simply travelling from one place to another. On many streets, the sidewalk is where you can find street trees and landscaping, places to rest and socialize, public art and market space like store displays and outdoor cafes and patios.

The street's travel lanes, together with the sidewalk and in some cases public spaces on private land next to the street make up the public realm. A vibrant and animated public realm contributes to quality of life, economic prosperity and property value.

Streets also form a vital part of Toronto's water infrastructure. When it rains, street trees, landscaping and other 'green infrastructure' help absorb stormwater so it doesn't have to be treated at our wastewater treatment plants, and when large storms occur the streets themselves are designed to act like streams, guiding stormwater away from buildings that could flood.

When it snows, streets need to be cleared quickly to ensure safe passage by motor vehicles, pedestrians and bikes. In addition, most streets must also accommodate snow storage. Snow clearing and storage together significantly impact how streets are designed.

The Queensway features a dedicated transit corridor, bike lanes and lanes for motor vehicles.

The Queensway south of High Park features traffic lanes, a dedicated transit right-of-way and bicycle lanes. Copyright 2014 by Flickr user AshtonPal. Terms of Use.

Complete Streets