One of the best things that the many painstaking months of lockdown brought us was the innovation of curbside patios that have become an enduring norm in cities like Toronto, where the streets now feel absolutely alive with all sorts of bustling new outdoor dining spaces.
Taking up sidewalks, parking lanes, and private property space not previously allocated to patios, the CafeTO program was a boon for restaurants, bars and cafes that were struggling to operate under orders that only permitted outdoor dining at points.
Many got creative with their space, making it an extension of the indoors that customers so dearly missed, especially during the colder months.
And, it was an absolute hit — but we didn’t really know to what financial extent, until recently.
A new comparison by The Globe & Mail shows that while residents spent a whopping $181 million at curbside patios during summer 2021 alone (13 weeks from June 30 to September 22), only about $3.7 million would have been earned from the parking fees associated with the spaces those patios took up during the same time period.
That’s a staggering 49 times more revenue, all of it going into the pockets of local businesses.
And, anyone who’s sat on or even just walked by these patios over the last few summers will be able to say that they enrich the vibe of the city and enable more people to enjoy it — and the outdoors — in a new way.
It’s not the only way that public space usually designated for cars has been transforming in the city, either, with parking lots turning into pop-up parks, lush green spaces taking up former parking lanes on major roadways and entire thoroughfares shutting down on certain weekends for bikes and pedestrians to take over.
There is also the famed King Street Transit Priority Corridor, which, though it has looked better, designates curb lanes to transitgoers and pedestrians, and prohibits left-turning and straight-through car traffic on a stretch of King.
Though many of these initiatives are temporary, some of them — like the King Street “pilot” and CafeTO — have been made permanent due to demand, making the city question its traditional car-centricity that is inherent by design.