In October, I wrote a post about how, on narrow sidewalks, the new transit shelters being installed by the city as part of the new street furniture program were leaving very narrow passages for pedestrians to get by in some locations where sidewalks were relatively narrow.
At the Toronto Pedestrian Committee meeting yesterday, City staffer Kyp Perikleous, who manages the street furniture program, explained the process and considerations that go into placing the new shelters and other street furniture.
Although his office is placing something like 50 or more new pieces of street furniture a week in the city, each one goes through a extensive process of planning and vetting, both by city staff and IBI, an engineering consultancy retained by Astral (the company that won the street furniture contract).
The City is supposed to use its new “Vibrant Streets” guidelines to ensure that all sidewalks have a wide and straight “clearway” so that pedestrians can walk easily along the sidewalk without having to dodge obstacles.
However, he added that, while the city ideally seeks 2 metres or more of sidewalk clearway, the minimum required by the guidelines is only 1.525 metres, and they will go down to that if they feel it is necessary. He gave the example of a stop on Queen Street where they know that over 300 transit users a day get on at that stop, and therefore installed a full-sized enclosed shelter even though it left barely the minimum clearway (they have received several complaints about this narrow sidewalk).
Committee member Roger Brook pointedly asked if they had measured the number of pedestrians walking by at that location. City staff did not have that number.
Another issue is the amount of space between the edge of the shelter and the road itself (when the shelter is placed on the road side of the sidewalk). The city requires any street furniture to be at least 0.6 metres from the edge of the curb. This requirement is in place because buses and other vehicles turning into the curb lane in order to stop will overhang the curb as they turn in, and also to allow space for wide truck rear-view mirrors. When asked why some of the new shelters were set in more deeply, along the lines of 0.9 metres, Perikleous promised to review any locations where this might cause a problem. He noted that the increased setback could be due to the need to avoid buried utilities.
The good news is that the city and Astral are actively working on coming up with a full, enclosed shelter design that does not take up as much space. It’s certainly possible to do so, as the older enclosed shelter designs were thinner than the new one. A new, more streamlined design should resolve the problem and enable both enclosed shelters and sufficient sidewalk clearway to coexist on narrower sidewalks.
In a similar vein, we also asked about the new benches, which seem to sit disconcertingly deep in the sidewalk. Again, the problem is that the back edge of the bench back, which curves outwards, has to be 0.6 meters from the curb, which sends the sitting part of the bench even deeper into the sidewalk. We recommended that they work on a new bench design without a back, for narrower sidewalks.