A Strange View of Transit Priority

At last night’s Community Liaison Committee meeting on the West Don LRT project (aka Cherry Street streetcar), I heard a rather bizarre definition for “transit priority” that will be used to evaluate various design options:

“Transit Priority” means that transit will get at least as much green time as the through auto traffic at an intersection.

Hmmm.  Let’s compare this with what we have today.

On the Harbourfront line, the streetcar has to wait for its own green cycle which is much shorter than the green time for traffic, and is so short that it sometimes prevents more than one car from getting through on a cycle.  Clearly not a model for transit priority.

On St. Clair, the detectors don’t seem to be working everywhere, and there are left turn phases blocking the streetcars (and through traffic) even when there is nothing waiting to make the turn.  If this blockage occurs in only one direction, then one of the through road movements gets more green time than the streetcar.

On Spadina, the detectors actually work, and if there is traffic waiting in the queue only for one direction, the other one gets a green for the cars before the green for the streetcar.  If there are left turns both ways, the streetcar and other traffic get the same green time.

On a regular street in mixed traffic, everybody gets the same green time although left turns can block the movement of both through traffic and streetcars equally.

Nowhere in this list is there a model where the streetcar pre-empts the left-turning movements and is able to cross the intersection for the majority of the cycle.  Instead, the emerging standard appears to be that left turns pre-empt everything in their path.

Maybe we should call it “left turn priority” since these are the only moves that really benefit from this scheme.

“Transit priority” means “transit first”, not transit in the five seconds we grudgingly spare from everyone else.