I received a comment from “Dave” in the King route analysis thread on the design issues for Roncesvalles Avenue as well as street design in general for streetcar routes on narrow streets. His comment deserves its own thread, and here it is.
An important point to consider is that the Roncesvalles tracks, and in fact the entire street, are going to be rebuilt very soon, including alterations to improve the public right-of-way (ie, wider sidewalks and boulevards with street trees, intersection bump-outs, etc). An example of this can be seen here.
The TTC is apparently not pleased with the proposal because they think that the more narrow sections of the street will result in left-AND-right-turning traffic blocking the streetcar. They counter-propose a different cross-section.
I haven’t seen anything regarding whether Roncesvalles will be getting transit signal priority installed, so perhaps these alterations will make no difference either way, since the streetcars will often get held up at the traffic lights anyway.
To me, this speaks to the much larger issue in Toronto of how street cross-sections are arranged when streetcars run on them. Street design affects everything that is within the PUBLIC (yes, we all “own” the space) right-of-way, including transit service, trees, benches, garbage cans, car traffic, sidewalks, street lights, etc.
It seems that Roncesvalles could become the St. Clair debate all over again…there just doesn’t ever seem to be much agreement between the City, the TTC, residents, and/or businesses, on what are the “optimal” cross-section treatments for streets with streetcars on them. For example, St. Clair ended up giving away a lot of right-of-way space over to traffic, at the expense of sidewalks, in some areas. Is the St. Clair treatment the “best” option?
I understand that balancing the space given to traffic, pedestrians, and transit is extremely difficult, especially with narrow right-of-way widths for certain streets. But in Europe, they seem to be able to create very lively and vibrant streets that are extremely pedestrian-friendly (with trees, benches, cobble-stones, etc) but that also accommodate good transit service (trams) and even occaisional automobile traffic. One could argue that these narrow, European, pedestrian-friendly streets result in less traffic choosing to drive and park on it, resulting in more walking trips, more transit riders, AND better transit level of service.
This raises the question of what IS the “optimal” cross-section for “streets with streetcars”? Should space be given over based on the percentage of people trips? For example, if 50% of people walk or take transit, give them 50% of the street right-of-way space? (Just a random percentage I chose…I have no data to back that up.)
It seems we’re just randomly experimenting with each streetcar line individually (Spadina, St. Clair, future waterfront lines, future Transit City lines…), instead of borrowing cross-sections that actually work from other successful European cities with streetcars and trams. I see this being of upmost importantance when Transit City EA’s finally begin and we have to start taking right-of-way space from each street user on the new routes. I’d hate to see an S.O.S. St. Clair fight on every route!