York Urbanist

Archive for the ‘Pedestrianization’ Category

Calculating Vaughan’s Cure for Congestion

June 9th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Recreation, Trails

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.

Hwy 7 rail overpassCouncillor 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.

IMG_00003295Drivers 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. car size bicycle parking 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.

cyclists and peds compared to carsParts 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.

Not to mention the reduced carbon footprint.   You are trafficwhat's the point of cycle lanes

June 4 – Walk and Ride – Vaughan’s Active Transportation

May 27th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Recreation, Trails

Become involved in COMMUNITY! A vortex of enthusiasm brought three groups together for a single event.

BUG logoVaughan Bicycle Users Group, BUG for short, expresses a common face of the community of bicycle riders. It is made up of recreation, racing and utilitarian cyclists. The goal is to advocate for those who want and need to travel further than walking can achieve. But Vaughan is lagging in the development of cycling facilities. The celebratory cycle lanes on Napa Valley and Peter Rupert are a compromise, but at least they have painted the lines.

BUG’s crowning 2014 achievement is being celebrated on June 4! Ride one of the first cycle lanes yet devised in Woodbridge!

Green Ribbon TreeTrees For Kleinburg may be self-evident by its name. But it is more than just trees. It is an environmental, event planning and business friendly group. A pilot project directed by this group is nearing completion in May 2015. This pilot project was a test of the mettle of volunteers and City staffers.  It took convincing a steadfast engineering department that a walking facility, such as their proposed sidewalk on Islington Avenue, could use trees to make the route a more comfortable. The City of Vaughan’s Vision speaks to that very need.

This crowning achievement is being celebrated on June 4! A stop on the Jane’s Walk will allow you to help plant a commemorative tree.

greenbelt_Logo_4C_OL[1]Greenbelt Foundation learned of Trees For Kleinburg from the City of Vaughan staff. Kleinburg is the perfect venue for a Jane’s Walk, where a village steeped in history can come to life through a guided walk. The Greenbelt Foundation promotes hiking in the villages and valleys that are contained and edge Ontario’s Greenbelt. The Greenbelt is up for review by the province and public meetings are being held this year to redefine or reconfirm its boundaries and mandate.

This banner year is being promoted on June 4 as a collaboration with BUG and Trees For Kleinburg.

Ride and Walk June 4 2015Get your walking or riding gear together and meet at 6:30pm at Sonoma Heights Park to start a journey whose destination is McMichael Gallery, but its ultimate goal is to raise awareness of the need for Active Transportation facilities in Vaughan. See what Vaughan has committed to by clicking the link to these new cycle facilities. Like the pilot project for Trees For Kleinburg, unofficial cycle lanes took two years to enact. If not for the actions of Councillor Alan Shefman getting a pedestrian and cycling task force, active transportation would not be an agenda item for Vaughan Council.

Go further, Vaughan! Involve Communities and encourage them with action, not two years of waiting for compromise solutions!

 

 

Editor’s Note: Choosing June 4 may have been folly, as it conflicts with the Mayor’s Gala. But will be an alternative event with no cost, but much benefit.

Kleinburg’s Peak Traffic

April 24th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Transportation issues, Uncategorized, Urban Design, Urban Places to Delight

Out for a walk in the morning.  We entered the serenity of the Humber Valley, like a typical jaunt for fitness.  Despite rapid pace our vistas included a wild turkey scrambling for cover and a coven of turkey vultures high in the spruce.  Little did we expect the parallels to Peak Traffic of urban Kleinburg that we encountered.

IMG_00003295 IMG_00003296

We emerged into the once quiet centre of Kleinburg.  It is only about a block in length.  This was an immense contrast to the idyllic Humber Valley trail.  Cars backed up on Islington Avenue. And as they did, non-vigilant vehicles scurried like that wild turkey, leaving a short-lived gap as it found an escape route off the main road.  Around the bend on Nashville Road, cars lurked at the intersection, waiting to pounce, like the vultures we saw, into the line that had formed on Islington.

Why this story?  Kleinburg Area Ratepayers Association have regularly on their agendas an incessant discussion of traffic. How can it be cured.  For the most part, the group has interim solutions – left turn restrictions upstream, parking solutions and studies offered by York Region.  With every new development, the talk turns to the traffic it will generate.

But Kleinburg has already reached Peak Traffic.  And, heretically I say, that is good.  Sure there is capacity at 10:30am and 1pm and 11pm, but no more commuter and school-generated traffic can be accommodated.  Although a traffic consultant will try to understand the commuter traffic, Kleinburg’s unique situation is exacerbated by helicopter parents. I love Brent Toderian’s repeated graphic that says: “There is too much for Billy to walk to school. So we drive him.” He goes on to explain that this is Induced Traffic.  When one strips away Induced Traffic, peak traffic in Kleinburg changes, but does not reduce.  If our doting mothers suddenly changed into parents concerned with healthy (walking/cycling children) living, traffic would be reduced at 8:30am and 3pm. At least for the short term. We can analyze it easily.  On a given PD day, the traffic is “lighter”. and the line-ups of cars shown in the picture above are lessened.  But lets say for instance, if every day was a PD day.  The phenomenon that would occur will revert to the cloister of cars once again.  The voids will be filled by those that used to take alternatives.

Unlike my article about resolving Vaughan’s traffic problems in http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/04/18/vaughan-traffic-congestion-a-perception/ , Kleinburg could not create a complete street in its core.  But what it could do is to create an Integrated street.  An integrated street is one in which the modes of transportation, vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, mix without signage explaining the concept.  The concept is that cyclists and pedestrians have the right-of-way. By doing that, vehicles are forced into slowing.  IMG_00000022 INTEGRATED-STREET-CORNERYes, there will be a speed sign at the entries to the village, but because the street and sidewalk fabric are all integrated, there is no restriction to any mode, nor parking.  HERESY, you say.  But it has worked in Europe and specialty villages of the USA.

Create a slower street and the Peak Traffic will be reduced, leaving only those vehicles whose drivers intend to use Kleinburg as a destination. Emergency vehicles are accommodated. Deliveries can occur. Cycling and walking is encouraged. Business will thrive.  It just takes a leap of faith.

Cycling and Pedestrian Task Force – Yes! In Vaughan

April 19th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Transportation issues, Urban Design

If you can’t get to work by bicycle, and in the absence of convenient transit options, you’re going to have to drive. That is Vaughan today.

It is the mindset of the past that has put Vaughan in 200th place among 201 Canadian municipalities for cycling to work (MoneySense, August 2014) and walking-friendly communities.Sidewalk zones But this week, Vaughan took a step towards changing the trend of pedestrian/cycling forgetfulness!

On April 14, 2015, Council approved at Committee of the Whole that a Cycling & Pedestrian Task Force would be established. Through the presentation efforts of Diana Lee, representing Vaughan Bicycle Users Group (BUG), the message was clear. She explained: “Vaughan BUG was created to support the growing number of residents who wanted to build on a stronger cycling community in Vaughan and are passionate about cycling whether for commuting, recreation or as part of their active lifestyle.” BUG proposed that they will engage the residents, businesses and stakeholder groups in Vaughan. The Task Force would be able to give the City staff and Council feedback on programs regarding pedestrians and cyclists. Most recently, BUG has organized cycling events, including a night ride during Earth Hour.

Faux cycle lanes on Peter Rupert and Napa Valley roads were considered a revelation. Although argued as an impediment to on-street parking, the city has finally acknowledged that there is a demand for safe active transportation. With those lines, parallel to and 1.2m from the curb, these lanes will help BUG promote cycling to the public.IMG_00003247

Vaughan is behind neighbours Brampton and Markham in establishing a full Advisory Committee. This Task Force, if successful, may lead to a subcommittee of Council which can review better how the City encourages active transportation in new developments. The suburban planning of the past disregards provision of short cut walks from home to retailers and safe cycling routes have been all but non-existent.peter rupert bike lane A 50-metre truncated bike lane on Keele Street north of McNaughton is testimony to the short-sighted and limited planning for cyclists.

Gains in pedestrian and cycling accessibility will allow the villages of Vaughan to become more connected. Let the Task Force begin!

To see more click “Pedestrianization” and “Transportation Issues” at the right side of this page. Or click http://yorkurbanist.com/category/urban-design/transportation-issues/

Vaughan Traffic Congestion – A Perception

April 18th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Transportation issues

Vaughan doesn’t need more traffic lanes! Congestion refers to drivers’ discomfort with anticipated trips. When a 10 minute trip is lasts 15 minutes, traffic’s perception is ‘congestion’. . Vaughan’s congestion can be handled with existing lanes. Following is a breakdown of Traffic Congestion into Trip Length, Frequency and Urgency.

Trip length is longer than it needs to be. There are two factors – suburbanization; and advent of helicopter parents. Each single family dwellings needs to be served by a street. The City adopted street standards of widths and intersections that took up large land space and further separated housing from destinations. The distances between units makes transit too costly to create. To get to destinations, workplace or retail stores or institutions, the only transportation alternative is a car. Our municipal transportation planning focus therefore became a fixation on what the car needs, not what people need.

Thus the second factor, the helicopter parent. Fear has engulfed our psyche around the safety of streets. Easy access to media has made security seem worse than it once was. So, instead of allowing children to walk, ride or take the bus, parents drive their children to school. Accordingly, one experiences significant traffic reduction on school holidays and PD days.

Trip frequency has increased with wealth. Vaughan is one of Canada’s wealthiest municipalities. Making a separate trip to the store instead of combining it with a trip to work is legitimized because the decision is unaffected by the cost of the trip. Disposable income also allows people to indulge in extras such as day spas, fitness clubs and personal services.

Urgency of trips is under-evaluated. Combined with the aforementioned wealth argument, we have no hesitation in driving to the distant grocery store for that one product to complete a meal. Also, the direct costs to drive might be $5, which adds 25%to the cost for a $20 purchase. Driving also cuts into our time management equations. Whereas, prior to suburbanization, we could walk to the corner hardware store, now we are obligated to attend Big Box retailers and their ‘free’ parking conveniences. A fifteen minute distant car trip creates a 1½ hour event. We have no volunteer time because it is taken up in time on the roads.

So, how do we relieve congestion?

vAUGHAN bikelanes_web[1]

Relieving Traffic Congestion

Previously, Traffic Congestion was broken into Trip Length, Frequency and Urgency. The following suggests how the existing infrastructure of Vaughan can be used to reduce perceived ‘Congestion’.

Education

Emphasize to people/drivers the time and dollar cost of their trips in the car. Can we change their behavioural patterns through education? The answer is: likely not. We can afford the car and spread out housing and we are not changing.   But educate the children that they can enjoy a walk or ride to school and help the environment and our next generation could impart change.

Are there ways to make our existing infrastructure more efficient?

Sidewalk zonesThe intelligent street

Through computer technology and physical road planning there are ways to speed the trips taken. With sensors, communication between vehicle and road infrastructure, we could spend less time at traffic signals and increase safety by keeping our vehicles within the limits of the infrastructure. Building roundabouts instead of signalized intersections increases traffic flow by as much as 50%. Smart streets can also respond to transit and emergency vehicles, allowing them to flow more freely through traffic. Intelligent streets will not affect the numbers of trips, indeed it will increase the number of trips because it becomes easier to go from origin to destination.

So how else can we improve infrastructure?

If you need a sign - street designed wrongComplete Streets

The concept of including pedestrians and cyclists with transit and motorized vehicles has grown in the past ten years. It may be adopted by Vaughan on Centre Street in Thornhill. Cyclists have long campaigned for safer and defined corridors. A complete street provides that. Generous sidewalks provide for pedestrian safety and comfort. And transit only lanes/tracks give priority to multi-user vehicles. Although Highway 7 in Richmond Hill/Markham attempts a complete street, the pedestrian is left with a long crossing. Hence, few pedestrians are found. Similarly the cycling lane is a green patch of asphalt. It is unseparated from motorized traffic. Consequently, cyclists are few.

Had the City incorporated a separated cycle lane and generous pedestrian space on Major Mackenzie between Keele Street and Jane Street in Maple, there would be more cyclists and pedestrians venturing between homes and retail. There would be fewer motorists using the route for short trips that cause frequent turns and hence slower traffic.

We do not need to increase and grow streets. We need to think smarter, both planners and citizens of Vaughan.

Ped X-ing

September 24th, 2012
Pedestrianization, Urban Design

I was asked, as part of a city’s pedestrian trails system, if zebra stripes should be integrated into the streets. After all, they had been using only two stripes perpendicular to traffic flow always before.  They also had that double stripe design engrained into their engineering standards (which we all know are unchangeable). With the retirement of the engineering director in charge of standards, the time was ripe to modify the standards to zebras.

What if there was more out of the box considerations? Themed to the city, such as the piano keys of Vienna; or, visually triggered such as the 3D optics in China.

What theme would your City use?

Atlanta: Coke bottles on their side…

Calgary: Cowboy hats….

Hollywood: Oscar statues….

Kleinburg, Ontario: bales of bindertwine….

 

See http://yorkurbanist.com/2012/09/pedestrian-integrated-streets/ where pedestrian crossings will never be needed if the streets are creatively designed and modes of travel integrated.

Pedestrian (Integrated) Streets

September 24th, 2012
Pedestrianization, Urban Design

Kleinburg’s Nashville Road and Islington Avenue suffer morning and evening congestion due to its being a short route north-south. Streetscape plans were created to beautify the village core. But what would happen if congestion was increased? This could be a good change!

Pedestrian priority streets would do that. The benefits?
Bypass: Through traffic, disrupted by congestion would bypass the village core. Those who know the village will make it a destination.
Safety: Make the village pavement all the same from storefront to storefront. Add planters, benches, limited signage and free up the streets for pedestrians first. Vehicles will be forced to move slowly through the space, making safety implicit and not required to be enforced.
Uniqueness: Vaughan and the GTA have no such opportunities for pedestrian streets, unless, like parts of Yonge Street in the summer, sections are closed. This should be a year round phenomenon and Kleinburg is ripe to such change.

An Integrated Street report for Switzerland can be found at http://www.pedestrians-int.org/content/33/6ped-pri.pdf . See photos attached from that report. There are many more examples.

In this example, the street was paved with a rubberized surface, a flexible pavement that can be snow plowed.  In fact, the pavement is not the essence for success of this Integrated Street.  The continuous and consistent pavement could be unit pavers, concrete or asphalt.  The signal to drivers and pedestrians is that everyone mixes here. Slow down, stop, and enjoy village environment. Less expensive than typical street cross-sections, Safe and Unique.

Observations of a Staycation

August 15th, 2011
Pedestrianization, Urban Design

Observation #1: There is much to do in Toronto.  We did not go to Dundas Square, CN Tower or
Yonge Street, the big draws in the Downtown.
Instead, we did a self-guided walking tour of King street, Kensington
and University of Toronto campus. King Street west of University is vibrant
with theatre and restaurants and clubs.
The volumes of people give it a safe feel. Kensington is not what we
remember it from the 1980’s. Perhaps it is the evolution of demographics that
have made it less diverse, or perhaps we were there too early at 9:30am.  U of T was a fascinating tour of the school
in the city. Although the city grid of streets permeates, the campus still
feels integral…and the heritage of the buildings amazes.

Observation #2: King Street vs University Avenue – the
safety of activity on King is not evident on University.  This observation I made while at Ryerson in
the 1970’s and it still exists. It remains a 9 to 5 stalemate, with pretty
plants in the centre median.

Observation #3: If cranes are an indication, Toronto remains
economically healthy.

Observation #4: I agree with Christopher Hume about the poor
connection of the Opera House with the street. Although a magnificent venue
inside, the wall facing Richmond salutes the Hilton with a middle finger. Even
the entrance from Queen and University offers little to entice the visitor to
enter.  Nice Beemer in the window at the SW
corner.  (I guess that’s how they pay the
bills.)

Observation #5:  The
number one attraction in Toronto – people: its diversity of demography and
neighborhoods.

Pedestrian Priority

July 28th, 2011
Pedestrianization

Might as well be....

My children have dreaded returning to the streets they call ‘suicide’ after being in small town Ontario for university for the past few years.  So, today after 3 months of no commute work, I was caused to enter the north part of Toronto and Vaughan on business.

I caught myself returning to the rut of racing from the lights and pushing the length of the amber….when a pedestrian appeared standing at a non-signalized crossing.    Much to her shock, I had recalled last year’s trip to Saint John, and I stopped to allow her to cross.  Two rubber necks from her and I was satisfied that I had brought some civility to the roads of the GTA.

zebra stripe crossing

5 TOM TAYLOR TRAIL, NEWMARKET

July 18th, 2011
Pedestrianization, Trails, Urban Design, Urban Places to Delight

Where? Along the Holland River north to south through Newmarket

What? The Trail is a connecting link for the key elements of the town along the river. This trail is one of discovery. For history buffs, it skirts a canal whose locks led to the downfall of a Canadian government. For cultural lovers, it becomes an event place, outdoor theatre and annual fests, connected to the downtown around Fairy Lake. 

Why? Tom Taylor refused to leave office until it was completed from south to north. The former Holland River Trail was named in his honour and it continues to be the spine of the trails system of Newmarket.

How is it an Urban Place to Delight? This pedestrian spine is for pedestrians, what Highway 400 is for drivers – a thoroughfare along which one can venture through the entire town or casually flirt with the waters of the Holland River. This is an urban trail with little to immerse one with nature, but there is enough tree cover to provide a safe and cool environment. The cultural centre of the town is Fairy Lake where Stratford meets craft shows.  And people come to meet. Unlike other cities and towns, you can get to the centre of town by bike or by foot, if you live near the spine. The rest of the Town is not as advantaged, as the east to west corridors have yet to develop without a natural passage to follow. The Tom Taylor Trail is Newmarket’s playground and a valid reason for locating in the Town of Newmarket.

Previous Urban Places to Delight

8 Magna Headquarters and Golf Course, Aurora

7 ROC Park, Georgina

6  Disera Street commercial neighbourhood, Vaughan