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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered


  1. “Miller stops short on left-hand turn ban, but says streetcar delays must end”

    We’ll use pixie dust instead. Sigh.

  2. It doesn’t need to be a ban, it can just be a slow switchin to no left turns at most intersections on King, Queen, Dundas, Bathurst, etc.

    Do it slowly, the drivers will be less likely to notice (and complain)

  3. Melbourne has a solition to the left-turn problem, except for them it is a right-turn problem. There are hooked turns on some intersections, and others where you can only turn left if you are not blocking a tram. If a tram approaches you must cancel your turn and go straight.

  4. “If a tram approaches you must cancel your turn and go straight.”

    Now ask yourself, how many self-centred Toronto drivers are going to obey a law like that?

  5. Ha Mark, very funny indeed. But isn’t “pixie dust” what Miller uses for every problem?

    I gave up using streetcars two years ago. I am on bike, in subway, or rarely on a bus. I don’t see paying for transit that is slower than I can walk, once I factor in the wait, the delays, the short-turns and the mysterious gaps in service.

    The real-world streetcar solution is no left-turns and signal-priority; the better solution is to remove on-street arterial-road parking; the best is to make arterial roads one-way, and put the streetcar in the curb lane.

    Think I’d better snort some pixie dust.

  6. “the best is to make arterial roads one-way, and put the streetcar in the curb lane.”

    Honestly, I think in the core of the city that could work. Just like how Richmond and Adelaide pretty much compliment each other’s one way nature.

  7. aiden’s comment: “the best is to make arterial roads one-way, and put the streetcar in the curb lane.”
    Could not agree more, especially with respect to the chaos along King and Queen. You could end up with dedicated streetcar lines both east and west that would provide speedier, more reliable service. Why do we have a civic administration that has substantially increased the density along these routes without apparently giving much consideration to beefing up the transit capacity needed to handle all the extra people moving into the area? It’s not like the current mess should have come as a surprise to anyone.

  8. I’m certainly no traffic expert, but the one-way system in NYC, combined with their timed lights that let you whip down the avenues most times of the day, seems like a good idea for Toronto. Would any experts care to share their thoughts? Would it be feasible to implement? At minimum, shouldn’t Yonge be northbound-only and Bay be southbound-only?

  9. My experience with one-way is Montreal. I lived there five years, and drove delivery for one of them. People don’t think about the huge advantages: without oncoming traffic a left or right doesn’t slow traffic much, no one tries to pull a U-turn, or expect to make a left onto the road across several lanes of traffic (Toronto pet-peeve!).

    Drivers just have to learn to plan their routes better, but when they don’t, its their own problem. The only real issue is designing the road with enough lights that people don’t try to use them at freeway speed.

  10. That melbourne idea sounds awesome.. As for getting people to comply, I’m sure it could be accomplished with modified lights and sensors, so that not respecting the rule would mean running a red.

    As an added bonus, it would put a stop to people zipping around the streetcar, only to get in it’s way to make a left turn, as seems to happen at King & Jameson constantly.

    I actually sounds like a great compromise, you still get to make a left, you just have to make sure to get behind the streetcar.

  11. Realistically traffic isn’t going to improve on downtown streetcar routes until taxis are banished (for instance from King to Wellington and Adelaide) and ticketing for improper stops becomes towing. There is an issue with deliveries/couriers but it has to be confined to the side streets.

    Richmond/Adelaide doesn’t seem to work for streetcars – Steve Munro’s blog has some reasons for this.

    As for left turns – I wonder has any traffic modelling and gas consumption figures been done on the difference between:

    1. Approach junction, stop to turn left, wait – also everybody who wants to go straight waits too.
    2. No left turn, everybody goes straight or right. Anybody who wants to turn left has to take the next right/right/right.

    Since the same volume of traffic should proceed through the junction area in less time the red/green cycle could be reduced (with the minimum being safe pedestrian crossing time). It wouldn’t work at all intersections or even all directions but some one-way loops could be looked at in the downtown in directions where there is a convenient “loop”. I’m thinking a scenario such as:

    going northbound on Spadina to turn west on King, you instead right turn onto Oxley and then Charlotte, like this.

    Like I said, can’t be done everywhere but if it can’t be proved worse (by someone other than Toronto’s ultra-conservative Roads Department) then it’s worth trying to fit with Kevin B’s “creeping prohibition” thinking.

  12. From Hamish’s Globe article about Bloor St.:
    “Kyle Rae, the local city councillor, said the project was about turning the street from a thoroughfare into a destination with wide sidewalks for pedestrians: “It has been seen as a traffic corridor for most of its life, and what we are doing now is turning it into a place.”

    This was word-for-word EXACTLY the same statement Rae made about Jarvis St. at the information session a few months ago. Either the Globe reporter screwed up, or Kyle Rae needs to get out of his “Destination” ideology rut. Who does this guy think he is, Teddy Ruxpin?! Bloor Street IS a bloody destination, and has been for “most of its life” and Rae would be an idiot for claiming otherwise. Jarvis on the other hand is definitely more of a thoroughfare.

    But saying that Jarvis and Bloor have ANYTHING in common, never mind that they have the same problem, namely they “aren’t destinations,” which warrants the same “solution” (street narrowing, sidewalk expansion & no bike lanes) is beyond ridiculous.

  13. Oh, and the anti-bike lanes arguments that the city puts forward in the Globe article don’t make any more sense in the Bloor St. context than they did in the Jarvis St. context.

    Daniel Egan doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Good think he’s the city’s manager of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure… Ugh.

  14. One-way streets and synchronized lights kill communities dead. This has moved from smelly-granola-ism postulate to bedrock urbanist planning principle in the last couple of decades. There’s simply no debate left in this one. (Unless, say, you’re writing a letter to the editor of the Sun.)

    With every improvement to the vehicular throughput of the street comes a disproportionately greater reduction in the desirability of the public space for pedestrians and even car-based shoppers trying to get their bearings and park. Exhibit A: Hamilton.

  15. Aidan: As also someone who is not from ’round here, I’ve never understood why Toronto keeps its streetcars if it’s not serious about operating them properly. Mixed traffic, short stop spacing, far side stops, front door boarding … for God’s sake. My personal opinion is that they are unfixable. And yet people love them.

  16. Tom, Just curious as to your thoughts as to why it works so well in New York City? I would hardly say that Broadway is a “dead community” – nor, for that mater, 8th or 9th Avenue.

  17. Tom, “One-way streets and synchronized lights kill communities dead… There’s simply no debate left in this one.” I guess you’ve never lived on the Plateau in Montreal.

    I think it depends on what you mean by one-way streets and synchronised lights. The lights I am talking about would be synchronised to transit, not to private vehicle throughput. And the one-way streets would have to have concrete measures to limit speed to a practical maximum of 40km/h, and the default on the synchronised lights would have to account for that. You’d also have to put lights at more intersections to slow traffic down to 40km/h, and more lights also means more safe places for pedestrians and cyclists to cross.

    The point of a redesign to serve the public-good would be transit, pedestrian and bicycle throughput, and all lights would have to serve that purpose. That isn’t what you are referring to.

  18. About hook turns in Melbourne.. Another poster mentioned them. To elaborate, how it would work here is this:

    If you wish to turn left at an intersection, you get into the right lane and pull into the intersection, stopping once you’re inside it. You wait until the light turns, and once through traffic clears you proceed on the green light (green for the cross-street) in the direction that you wanted to go; you just become the frontmost car in the lane of cross-street traffic.

    It seems nutty and dangerous, but it seems to work for Melbourne and its definitely the easiest way to fix the left turn problem — all it takes is a few signs and some public education. You don’t even need to change the traffic lights!

  19. I’m originally from Sault Ste. Marie, and the the original downtown streets (Queen St. and Gore St.) have never fully recovered from being converted to one-way & syncronized. The problem is there have never been any measures put in place to slow down the traffic. (It’s still 50 km/h). As for the synchronized lights, it’s become urban folklore to try to hit all the green lights in a row on Queen Street. Therefore traffic treats these streets as throughfares rather than desirable destinations.

  20. The one way streets in downtown Ottawa are like Richmond and Adelaide. The two way streets are the ones with more character.