Vaughan’s crisis is congestion. The solution may be simpler than you think, but hard to believe.
You hear it from the car drivers, politicians, ratepayers associations and businesses. Driving through Maple is calamitous 7:30 to 9am and 3:30 to 6:30pm. Travelers have been given a vent around Maple with Teston’s access from Hwy 400, Keele and McNaughton. But how does that help businesses on Major Mackenzie? Eight lanes of Rutherford east of Hwy 400 create confusion for the uninitiated. Where do I get off? How do I get to the curb lane? Keele and Jane Streets are dense with traffic day-long while Dufferin Street awaits infill of housing before it will also be intolerable. But herein lies an opportunity.
Councillor Carella is holding the sword to lead the charge to make the rail crossing of Hwy 7 near Islington Avenue wider for cars beneath. But this is not the rail company’s mistake. It is the error of near sighted planning of suburban street patterns that are not permeable to the traffic that oversize lots generate. There are alternatives to easy fixes as the Councillor is touting.
Drivers use the hypotenuse that is Islington Avenue through Kleinburg to avoid jamming on Hwy 27′s two traffic signals. With earlier planning of streets and smart signals at the intersections in advance of subdivisions, density of street traffic could have been paused a few years. But that solution has passed.
The long term cure is allowing planning for lands developed over 40 years ago to redevelop to higher density and mixed use, prior to allowing single family lots to be developed on the edges. Mississauga suffered the last decade of Hazel’s reign because of just that – too many single family housing units strewn to the edges of Mississauga’s developable land. And without opportunity for employment nearby, cars jammed the streets leading to the already congested 400-series highways. But there is a short-term fix at minimal cost that can be funded by subdivision planning in process. Learn from Mississauga’s traffic and financial debacles. Typically, employment lands frame the highways. Residential lands extend away from employment lands. Inefficiently, traffic crosses the employment lands from residential communities. But as congestion dictates unrecoverable time on the road, people change their housing desires. They want to be closer to work. They avoid congestion by the move or by their time of use. The latter has implications on their employment agreements with their employers. So, moving closer makes more sense. Yet, how does one get from that closer housing to place of work? Streets are for cars in Vaughan. Sidewalks are too narrow for comfort, if they exist at all.
Now for the simple solution. Address the alternative short-trip facilities: transit; cycling; and pedestrian routes. Do this before opportunities disappear as happened in Toronto. Broad boulevards required by dictatorial engineers of the past remain on regional roads and the major street grid of Vaughan. Having cycled east to west along Rutherford Road, there is ample space to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. Street Diet is a term used to reduce 2 lane widths by 0.6m each to create a 1.2m wide cycle lane. Emergency vehicles are not affected, as the pavement width does not change..only the line painting! Calculation: 1000 vehicles per hour through an intersection – If 1% of drivers change to cycling or walking, we lose 10 vehicles (through every intersection they pass). Translated, that could be one signal transition less for your trip to work….. Each signal. How many signals do you pass on your way to work? A typical 1/2 hour trip to work could be reduced by 5 minutes. This buys you one half a work week of time each year. All this for the cost of paint on existing roads.
Parts of Islington Avenue south of Major Mackenzie have a 2.5m wide asphalt multi-use trail. This is an excellent example of providing access for students to Emily Carr High School…. except that it ends before it gets to the school! This trail is cheaper than installing the City’s 1.5m wide concrete sidewalk but accommodates both cycling and walking! More of these safe and comfortable trails would encourage children to ride – in other words, mom/dad are not diverting to the school, too. Calculation: Estimate that each trip is 4km extra for mom/dad. Each school has 1500 students. If 20% get rides to school, then there are 300 trips of 4km or 1200km per day. Reduce that by encouragement through better cycling routes to reduce trips to school by 25% and 300km are saved. At 60 cents per kilometre, then direct cost savings are $180 per day. In one school year, $36,000 of direct costs are saved. That would buy 300m of trails in one year. In the four years of high school, 1.2km of trails are afforded. In the 30 year life cycle of one high school building, over 8km of trails could be built for no real cost. Fifteen high schools in Vaughan translate into 120km of cycling trails FOR FREE.