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Yonge and Dundas ready to scramble

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click on photo for larger version * photo by Sam Javanrouh

If you’ve been to Yonge and Dundas in the last few days you may have noticed that a new set of street light signals have been installed that face out into the middle of the intersection. Once the hoods are lifted in late August, these signals will be directing pedestrians across Toronto’s first “scramble” intersection.

We posted about the approval of this type of intersection back in October. Yonge and Bloor and Bay and Bloor are also supposed to be receiving similar treatment.

Below is the famous Tokyo scramble intersection at Shibuya.




  1. My biggest fear is that they’re going to use this to extend the amount of time cars get to drive through before pedestrians can cross.

  2. Great!

    I remember as a child in Saskatoon Sask, they had scramble x-walks downtown for years, but they took them out when I was a teen.


  3. About time. Can’t wait for the “chaos.”

  4. I worry that it will delay the streetcars though. This is not a problem at Yonge & Bloor for instance.

  5. I wonder if this will mean that cars can make right hand turns at Yonge/Dundas. Currently, no turns are allowed at all due to pedestrians crossing on a green.
    Any ways, can’t wait to try the “free-for-all” cross walk.

  6. It’ll probably come out as a net positive for the streetcars because they won’t get stuck behind left turning traffic waiting for pedestrians.

    Also, I hope this will make Toronto’s most nightmarish pedestrian intersection a little more bearable.

  7. I worry above the stragglers or elderly who take a long time to cross a roadway. Will they start to cross at the beginning of their cycle, or only start to cross if they finally notice that they have the green and start to cross when the countdown starts.

  8. @Adam: there are no turns at Yonge & Dundas (left or right) GMD

  9. I’ve been through the scrambles in Tokyo, and they work very well there. Of course, people don’t really jaywalk in Tokyo either, so waiting for the light there is standard practice. Not so here. Could get pretty interesting!

  10. @GMD

    I strongly recommend you stand at the corner of Yonge/Dundas or Yonge/Queen for 3 or 4 light cycles and see the number of motorists who make illegal turns.

    It works out to about one every light cycle.
    What’s worse is that most of these vehicles have Ontario plates!

    The same thing happens at Yonge/Bloor at rush-hour.

    If motorists can’t respect the road rules as they are now, heaven help those at the “scramble” interesction.

  11. I contacted my city councillor about the idea of getting a scramble crosswalk installed at Yonge and Eglinton, which can be insanely busy at rush hour. They forwarded my suggestion to the Transportation Services Dept., who actually replied to my e-mail. (I was surprised too!)

    The note from Transportation Services said that in 2003 Council approved the scramble crosswalks for the Dundas intersections against the recommendation of planning staff, who don’t like the idea of putting them at intersections with a lot of TTC activity (the Dundas car in that case). The note went on to point out that this holds even more true at Yonge and Eglinton, where 5-6 bus routes pass through the intersection on the way to Eglinton Station.

    So it seems that Council and Transportation Services don’t see eye-to-eye on the idea of scramble crosswalks, at least at some intersections.

  12. 2003?! They were approved in 2003?! And still they’re not in operation?? Weren’t they supposed to be working years ago? The freaking, crosshatch crosswalk paint is worn off at Yonge & Bloor it’s so old. And I’ve yet to see any “scramble” crossing happening there.

    Sh*t takes sooo effing long to happen here.

  13. People in Tokyo are far more polite than Torontonians. They would never bump into another human under any circumstance, no matter how crowded the scramble or street. The Japanese have a very high regard for personal space and mutual respect for others, much different than the mentality adhered to in Toronto. In Tokyo people walk and cycle effortlessly on sidewalks 1/2 the width of those found in downtown Toronto – without creating conflict.

    I can’t imagine a scramble working as seamlessly in Toronto, where self-promotion takes precedence. On too many occasions to count I’ve witnessed people jumping over others to get on the subway, trampling elderly people in large crowds and so forth. Hopefully an education piece will accompany the new infrastructure.

  14. @ hunter

    “The freaking, crosshatch crosswalk paint is worn off at Yonge & Bloor it’s so old. And I’ve yet to see any “scramble” crossing happening there.”

    I think the cross hatching is unrelated the the pedestrian scramble. It was painted in the downtown intersections as part of the “no stopping in the intersection” crackdown a few years ago – there are signs at those intersections reflecting that.

  15. J.S. has it — the cross-hatching was for anti-gridlocking enforcement (you get stuck in the middle of the intersection on a red light, you get fined). I asked the Transportation Services guy about getting that put in at Yonge and Eg too, and he said they don’t really “do” that anymore.

  16. They don’t make any sense at this intersection as automobiles can not turn left or right. The whole idea of a scramble is to remove the pedestrain/automobile conflict. The scramble for Bay/Dundas and Yonge/Dundas was added onto the city council motion at the last minute.

    Scrambles do make sense at Bay/Bloor, Yonge/Bloor and Bay/Dundas and it will be interested to see it works.

  17. Still, FIVE years from approval to implementation is pretty sad.

    It will be good to have them at last and it does make sense at Yonge & Dundas. It’s so crowded that you almost get pushed off the small corners and into the street while waiting for a light as it is.

  18. i don’t know about the tokyo comments. i found the exact opposite with respect to personal space and bumping up against each other. ever tried the subway at rush hour? the same thing happens on sidewalks there when the volume passes a certain tipping point, and nobody seems to care much. similarly, japanese tour groups at the cn tower will just keep piling into the elevator until you make them stop, regardless of how crowded it is. i will agree that there is little conflict in this, as there’s a stronger group mentality.

    as for the scrambles here, i think it will be a huge plus for pedestrians, because they will own the whole intersection while the scramble’s in effect. the great thing is that people *can* go wherever they want, and the vehicular traffic has to take that into account.

  19. This is pretty cool.

    Now only if they could make some sort of woonerf system or something on Yonge at least the length of the square – across from H&M and the entrance to the escalators/Sears – because I tend to jaywalk around there all the time, and so do a lot of people.

  20. The Pedestrian Scrambles were approved by Council last October. Not 2003.

    From what I’ve read about this in the Globe this morning, it sounds like pedestrians will not be able to cross when cars are moving… is that right? Even east-west when cars and moving east-west.

  21. We’ve had them in Calgary for a few months at a couple of test locations.

    The big advantage (as I see it) is that cars wanting to turn don’t have to wait for pedestrians, and pedestrians don’t have to deal with cars nudging through crosswalks trying to turn. The ability to cross diagonally is secondary to the complete separation of pedestrian and vehicle crossings.

    I don’t see the huge advantage if you do it at an intersection where vehicles can’t turn anyway.

  22. I do not under stand Hunter’s assertion that a scramble would mean less chance that you would crowded into the street. Wouldn’t that depend on how long the pedestrain cycle is versus the two auto cycles?
    Unless they are allowing cars to turn right or allowing pedestrains to cross, as they do now, during the auto cycles this thing makes no sense at Yonge/Dundas.
    I also don’t understand hunter’s 5 years comment. This was approved at Council in Oct 07; isn’t that like 10 months?

  23. It makes sense at Yonge & Dundas because the number of pedestrians needing to cross both streets in succession is so high you get massive pileups on the street corners. With scramble crossing you can just cross diagonally in one go.

    Of course, the key will be to see how long the phases are. Hopefully Transportation won’t use it as an opportunity to make pedestrians wait longer, as this will defeat the purpose of improving ped flow at the intersection.

  24. I was going by Jordan’s comment above: “The note from Transportation Services said that in 2003 Council approved the scramble crosswalks….”, glesco. Plus it seems like it’s been about that long since the idea was introduced at city hall for Toronto intersections.

  25. In Quebec City, where pedestrian scrambles are quite common, it seems like many pedestrians would cross with the car phase, when the pedestrian signal is red. This is dangerous because motorists would tend to turn right without watching for pedestrians. This is something that needs to be considered, particularly since pedestrians aren’t used to the new scrambles.

  26. I had lunch in Shibuya last week, and after 12 years in Japan, I still marvel at the sight every time. The key at Yonge & Dundas will be to allow right turns all 4 ways, and re-jig the timing of the lights to benefit both the pedestrians and the drivers. There is no reason to prohibit right turns with a scramble.

  27. I lived in Pasadena, California a couple of years ago, where they have the same thing at a couple of the busier intersections. It really does make a difference (for the better) as far as traffic flow and walking around town…As long as pedestrians remember to the fact that they don’t automatically get to go when the light changes (only when all walk signs say go). That could be an interesting learning curve…those signs better be big. 😉

    No streetcar tracks in Pasadena, though – I do wonder if that will have much impact on the results.

  28. As a pedestrian, TTC user and a driver in the area – I think this will be a nightmare for everyone.

    How about fixing the potholes, streetcar tracks and sidewalks first.

  29. Hi Toronto,
    We have a few scrambles in Boston (Tremont and Charles downtown for example, a very busy intersection) and even though we are notorious for both jaywalking and running red lights, the scrambles work pretty well, especially at rush hour – the cars just can’t contemplate plowing into so much humanity. Hope it works out for you!
    What will bikes do? presumably they go with the pedestrians?
    Love the photo from Daily Dose of Imagery, by the way ( the reason I know about the plan in Toronto).

  30. the idea of a scramble intersection is an asinine mistake.

    First of all, Toronto’s population and pedestrian traffic density do not even come close to warranting such an ill concieved intersection.

    Secondly citing Shibuya as a model example of a scramble intersection is a joke. As I live in Japan and have been to Shabuya countless times, I can atest for the living hell that Shibuya is (just watch the video and ask yourself “Do I really want to be pushing and shoving my way through a crowd of competing people, like a bunch of uncivilized jerks, everytime I cross the street?). I can tell you, Shibuya intersection is one of the most uncomfortable places to have to walk, or drive, in any major city in the world. And as for the “Japanese people are far more polite” theory posted by one commentator. I can tell you thats completely mistaken. Shibuya is filled with pushing and shoving and all kinds of infuriatingly uncivilized behaviour–it is a living hell that no one in their right mind wants to live in.

    Why the beautiful city of Toronto is trying to emulate these far less attractive Cement Jungles is beyond my reasoning. I thought Toronto was better than this, but in recent years it appears this isnt so. Purhaps due to the national brain drain problem, or poor school funding of the past. Don’t forget parks are supposted to be filled with grass and trees, we dont have to mutilate everything with ugly cement, this is something that has been forgotten where I live now, where peoples underlying nature is for the most part denied, and their psychological health is ignored.

  31. I’m a Torontonian living in Japan right now, just outside of Tokyo. I LOVE SCRAMBLE CROSSWALKS. They have them everywhere, and they are wonderful. Shibuya is one of my favourite places, and I have never been shoved across that intersection…have some faith in the goodness of people.

  32. it’s worth a try… plus a great op for photography.
    this is chump change in scale compared to Shibuya.

    i’ve been to the Shibuya xwalk myself and I didn’t
    find it uncomfortable at all.

    mind you, the Japanese behaviour is better than Canadians–
    that is, they will apologize at the slightest of accidental brushing.

    it may not work in TO or in any big metropolis in
    Canada / North America because of our egocentric tendencies.
    you bump into the wrong person and before you know it,
    someone’s lying in a pool of blood. too many people with bad
    attitude for the stupidest reason. we live in a great country people…
    let’s behave accordingly!

    I concur with the last post from Jill.

  33. GREAT!

    Now how about some much needed roundabouts? Time to get progressive and creative about our traffic problems, Toronto.

  34. Quote:
    “mind you, the Japanese behaviour is better than Canadians–
    that is, they will apologize at the slightest of accidental brushing.”
    Are you sure you were in Japan? 本当に日本にいましたかな?間違いませんか?
    Because over the many years that I have been living here, I have been collided into, pushed, and shoved, and 99% of the time not even a quiet “Sumimasen” meaning excuse me, has been said. the behaviour on the streets and on the mass trasit systemns is horrendious, just everyone ignores it and keeps moving, because it no longer suprises them, and everyone is too afraid to complain– mind you if i had grown up in a educational system with horrendious institutionalized social “ijime”, meaning bullying–from teachers and classmates, family and friends, id be scared too. . 日本にこはんざつがある場所にずっと失礼行動があると皆は全全然「すみません」言いません。 Mind you even if they said sorry or excuse me, it still doesnt make the rude behaviour appropriate by any means.

  35. Scramble intersection, a great way to hold up traffic. Perth and Brisbane in Australia use this system in their downtown areas, cars then only travel 2/3 of the time, and it causes traffic back ups even with only minimal traffic.

    Not a good idea for busy cities trying to reduce road congestion.

  36. Oh, and please don’t go crazy with round abouts!

    2 lane versions invariably cause problems, and then there is the “indicate to turn off or not” question as well.

    If Toronto were to add something to improve traffic, consider “hook turns” where street cars operate. It’s essentially a left turn from the right after the lights change. Melbourne implemented this many years ago to avoid street cars being held up by turning traffic!

  37. i’ve seen a pedestrian get totally taken out by a car in front of the former GAP store @ yonge/dundas. it was heart wrenching to watch. thankfully they survived.

  38. I’ve been in scramble intersections in both Tokyo and Miami Beach, and find that, on the balance, they simply make life a little easier for pedestrians at the expense of motorists.

    They won’t necessarily make people more polite or rude than they already are, crossing the street the conventional way. Indeed, if you find them rude you may appreciate the opportunity afforded by the scramble to spend less time at the intersection if you need to make a diagonal cross.

    If anything, the allowance of diagonal crosses may reduce the rudeness by allowing for faster passage through the intersection and reducing frustration.

    Personally I think that Bay and Queen needs one of these more than Bay and Bloor, especially given the odd geography of Queen/Bay.

  39. What about cyclists; are we left behind again. Too awkward to cross with pedestrians, too dangerous to cross with cars.

  40. @John … I understand your concerns, but cyclists are vehicles. Stay with the cars, observe the rules of the road, and you’ll be fine.