On Monday, June 1, the transition to the “new” two-way operation of Queens Quay started with conversion of the traffic signals at Bay Street to their new configuration. This work will progress westward with one intersection a day until June 10.
The new traffic controllers are supposed to have much more sophisticated transit priority provisions than are used elsewhere in Toronto, and their ability to speed up operations on the streetcar right-of-way will be interesting to watch. I have already requested vehicle tracking data for May 2015 as “before” information, and the June 2015 data, when it comes, will show the degree to which the new signals actually perform as claimed.
(Existing signals have no transit priority at all. They merely cycle through a standard program which does more to hinder transit vehicles than to help them.)
Work on the overall Queens Quay project is nearing completion in many areas, although visitors may be forgiven for doubting this given the ever-present and shifting construction barriers. The weekly construction notice gives details of the work as it progresses.
The traffic has become really bad on Queen’s Quay since the narrowing was done. It would have been far better to keep it the way it was.
Steve: It has been a construction site for two years. Complaining about traffic under those conditions is a bit of a stretch. Previously, it was two lanes each way with the curb lane commonly blocked by parked vehicles, deliveries and tour buses.
IMO the major problem with the lights, for both cars and transit, is that the streetcar and E/W car traffic phases are not one and the same. Instead, the streetcars get just two very, very brief chances at a green per overall cycle, and the E/W cars have to wait those extra two phases which slows them down as well (N/S traffic is negligible in most cases and will be ignored). To further worsen things, it seems as if none of the lights are coordinated with each other at all…or if they are, it’s in an act of revenge on everyone, as it’s nearly impossible to make two greens in a row for either streetcar OR auto!
I’ve been told a few times by operators that the reason the phases are currently separated is a sort of “permanent advanced green” for the westbound cars, or rather a safety measure for cars wanting to turn across the tracks – as there is no oncoming eastbound traffic to block them from doing so, they assume they can turn left at any time (and without thinking to check for a streetcar coming up behind them first, accidents could indeed occur if a driver turned directly in front of a moving streetcar. So, the streetcars must wait). Supposedly, the introduction of two way traffic will eliminate this potential problem, and allow the streetcar phase and the E/W car phase to be combined as it is normally. I say supposedly because I can only think of two things the city can do going forward:
1) They continue to separate phases, ensuring no one can ever turn across the streetcar tracks while a streetcar is flying through the intersection – this option is foolproof safe, but horrendously slow as we’re currently experiencing. It would of course require plastering every intersection with “No right turns on a red” signs for the eastbound traffic as that eastbound traffic will assume it can safely turn right on a red…even if it’s a green for a streetcar, which is not safe as they could then turn in front of a moving streetcar. I haven’t seen any signs yet, but I’ve been out of town and will check tomorrow if I remember (I live at QQ/Rees).
2) They re-combine the streetcar and E/W car phases, and sooner or later someone driving west wants to turn south, sees no oncoming eastbound traffic or streetcar, and turns left directly into the path of a streetcar that’s also traveling westbound (for instance). Chaos / collision ensues… :S
As far as I know, this is the first time the city has tried to put streetcar tracks on the side* of a road…and regardless of what method is ultimately employed to ensure both safe and efficient travel, I suspect it will take some getting used to by everyone. The real issue is how to prevent drivers from turning south into the path of a moving streetcar…and knowing Toronto’s finest, I fear this may be impossible no matter what solution is finally implemented 😉
That being said, If the lights really do have more sophistication in terms of coordinating with each other and prioritizing transit, and they’re able to solve the safety/phase problem, the potential gains will indeed be very interesting (and relieving!)
Just my $0.02
*Technically Fleet and Manitoba run beside the 509 tracks, but no intersections cross during the time it’s “on the side” instead of “in the middle”
It will be very interesting to see how this is, once all is done. I hope that they really do fix the transit priority, as this and walking should really be the primary ways of coming and going for this area. The next issue will of course be figuring out the Waterfront East, and getting that started.
Also Steve are there any opportunities to increase the number of cars through Union enough to support the current services and a Waterfront East and West light LRTs.
Steve: There is a proposal for a substantial increase in the size of Union Loop by placing platforms in a north-south orientation. Arrivals would be on the east (northbound) side, departures on the west (southbound). I am not sure how to get rid of the pinch point in the pedestrian flow at the north end for arrivals as there may be a building in the way.
Of course, this should have been buklt while Union and Queens Quay were closed down for renovation, but that would have required spending some money on a downtown streetcar line.
I can’t speak to the transit priority, but I took an eastbound ride on the 509 today and can confirm that for the intersections that have been hooked up to the new controllers, the streetcar green light is simultaneous with the e/w green light for general traffic. Much faster over that stretch.
As for safety/danger, that comes down to how observant people are, as with any intersection. People have to be responsible for their own actions.
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The reason this is upsetting is that during that entire period, city staff had been quite clear that Waterfront East LRT was an important item to future specifically desired and identified development. I believe on general principle that something will be need to be done to support additional cars from the west as well, however, well, is this increase not required or at least close just to support growth from the east?
Steve: The loop has problems operating today, and this will be made worse by the Flexitys because simultaneous loading and unloading will be more difficult. Also, some capacity in the approach corridor was lost to the Union Station expansion.
I think there are a couple of things that can be done without separate transit signals, first would be a left/right turn yield to through streetcars sign on those intersections. Similar to the signs on Sherbourne reminding drivers to yield to through travelling bicycles. These would be potentially for local traffic during the initial phase, and then visitors to the area for all time.
Knowing the way the city operates, if there is a $50 solution, and a $50,000 solution, they will go for the $50,000 solution every time.
So there has been nothing done to hold the gate open for the already identified need for a Waterfront East LRT, or for the potential growth/redevelopment that could have been supported by streetcar at the Exhibition site.
I have a hard time really thinking that even RER will be effective in supporting redevelopment in the area east of the Humber river and west of the Beaches. I would have thought therefore that supporting capacity here, would have been a very high long term priority. What if any is the plan to support these areas? Is there an alternate serious medium term plan for linkages to a DRL that will allow for this type of development within a reasonable window?
Steve: The short answer is no. We talk a good line about supporting downtown development, but what this really means is providing service for suburban dwellers to get to and from work. If Liberty Village were in Scarborough, it would have a subway by now, but then, of course, no self-respecting Liberty Villagian would be caught dead east of the Don, never mind in Scarborough.
What DRL? You speak as of the DRL as if it already exists or is under construction. The DRL is nothing more than a delusion that will never happen as SmartTrack will take over its purpose while the Scarborough subway will provide relief in the East. And so SmartTrack + Scarborough subway = No DRL needed.
Steve: Actually SmartTrack as currently designed will not replace the DRL, only possibly delay it for up to a decade, probably less. SmartTrack is likely to be less of a local and more of a regional service taking off pressure from growth of long-haul trips, but not doing much to address demand within the 416 itself. SmartTrack has been very badly oversold by a candidate and a campaign team that frankly didn’t understand what they were proposing very well. Don’t forget, this is the same crew whose “experts” didn’t bother to actually look at the line before proposing it, and did not know of serious problems with the entire scheme in Mount Dennis and west to the airport.
I have to admit Steve: I still find myself taking a somewhat darker more cynical view than yours. You seem to think they were misinformed, I still think that it is quite likely that they left this, to provide for walking away, on the chance that they won, which at the time of the proposal looked like a long shot.
RER would substantially fulfill the promise in the east, and the province could not realistically come to the table in the form of line in the west, so it would be a non commitment. That is, I believed then and now that it was a naked political ploy from the start, that he now needs to find a way to gradually work his way away from, while increasing pressure on the province to bring forward the implementation of RER in Stouffville.
Also – I will be the first to say – I was being a little sarcastic when I say reasonable time for these lines, as I believe the waterfront east should already have been under construction, and the linkages for a waterfront west should have already been built (or at least a corridor preserved) where it is no longer possible. That there has not been an allowance made to support these, would cause me pause for thought, and affect what I was willing to pay for the properties and fees in redevelopment for the Exhibition anything east of Jarvis, along the Waterfront. This will still be valuable, but if properly served, this would be a tax treasure chest for the city.
The DRL is needed well before the 15 year time horizon that Tory suggested, and that as an opening date at this juncture would be hugely ambitious.
Actually SmartTrack will delay the DRL for at least two decades.
Steve: Your opinion, not mine.
And the seats vacated by long distance travellers will be available to address the demand with the 416 from which you apparently leave out Scarborough.
Steve: Actually, the seats vacated by the long distance travellers will be used up by riders surrounding the Yonge corridor from Finch southward, and there still won’t be any room for the Scarborough residents at Bloor-Yonge. That’s what the DRL is for, but you are too short-sighted to understand this.
Which candidate? A candidate who wins is not just a candidate – Olivia Chow was just a candidate and only just a candidate but the winner is never just a candidate. Which candidate are you talking about anyway?
Steve: I used “candidate” deliberately because the sales job happened during the campaign. Now that John Tory is Mayor, he is stuck with a lemon of a proposal. In the west, it has very serious problems on Eglinton. In the east, it directly competes with the Scarborough Subway, a scheme he does not want to debate, but is happy to spend more money on to avoid telling Scarborough that maybe he was wrong during the campaign.
You may have noticed that Olivia Chow’s call for better bus service was adopted by John Tory after he spent the campaign slagging off the proposal as far too little. If anything, what Tory has supported is far too little because he has no long-range plan for building up TTC services in 2016, 17, 18 … His money (actually our money) is all betting on SmartTrack and the SSE.
Granted then there may be some problems in the western part of the SmartTrack but we can build DRL West to address it but the eastern part of SmartTrack is SOLID and will delay DRL East by at least two decades.
Steve: We don’t need a DRL west. What we need is a more intelligent use of the Weston rail corridor than SmartTrack and UPX.
Has anyone seen 2 Flexitys at the Union platform concurrently?
Today, at Union I say 2 Flexitys is a row. The first one stopped about 2 metres short of the end of the platform. Behind the first Flexity there was probably room for a CLRV; but the next car was another Flexity that waited almost a minute at the tunnel exit before the first left the station.
I have even seen a CLRV waiting the tunnel mouth until the Flexity at the platform left. I have also seen a Flexity stop with the cab in the tunnel but all doors at the platform. This would provide room at the platform for a CLRV but I doubt for another Flexity.
Queen’s Quay has been an absolute madhouse now that two-way traffic has largely resumed. I thought that would improve it–no selfish drivers figuring they’ll use the ROW as an eastbound lane in the absence of a proper one–but no, somehow it’s worse! here’s an album with some pictures I took tonight.
I saw TONS of drivers running right through a left turn red which could have resulted in a collision with a streetcar, multiple people driving on the ROW, cyclists using the eastbound York-Bay service road or the eastbound traffic lane as their personal WESTBOUND bike trail, an e-bike on the sidewalk going quite fast, cars on the wrong side of the road, pedestrians jaywalking into moving traffic while staring down at their phones, and more. Somebody is going to die down there, and only then will the police finally take this insanity seriously and start pulling people over to write tickets. People driving the wrong way, running reds, or on the ROW are usually not penalized, the most I’ve ever seen from any officers who happen to be present is a head shake or a mildly stern warning but even that much is rare…
I wonder Steve, he has made a strong point of pointing to the need for study – might he really be looking for a way to walk away? RER and SSE is enough of a conflict in the east.
Steve: Just look at the Gardiner debate. No matter how many studies or polls support the “boulevard” option, Tory is hanging in to the bitter end.
This is a problem whenever side of road rights of way are introduced. If it had been grassed as waterfront Toronto wanted, then the problem of cars driving on it would be reduced. East bound cars making left turns in front of east bound street cars will be a problem until right turns are given their own phase and prominent, illuminated “No right turns on red” signs are used, and even then some morons will turn in front. North bound cars blocking the tracks is a problem because cars are use to pulling up to the edge of the cross street. In the US there are videos of cars coming up and making a right turn across the ROW only to get clobbered by a trolley coming from their right. One would think that they would learn from the problems encountered in other cities but they don’t.
They need a lot of illuminated “Do not enter” signs on the right of way at each intersection and on the sidewalks and bike paths to keep cars out. Part of the problem is the change to how the roads are used after two years of chaos. Once the locals get used to it the situation will improve but wait until all the tourists arrive in the summer.
Steve: Yes, there is a dearth of “abandon all hope ye who enter here” signage. I think a graphic of a badly crumpled auto might be appropriate.
Yes would make it much clearer to drivers, that this is not a roadway. Of course if you also had the tracks a little elevated, and a bit of a barrier at every crossing it would be even more so. Overall you could go a long ways to make it unattractive to drive on, although you would need to make sure you did not go too far and make it a spot where people would want to hang out.
Hopefully he can be convinced that his position on the Gardiner is not great either. Not only is it pointlessly expensive, the real costs are likely in the degradation of the real estate immediate adjoining, and thus the community and tax value impacts. However, I would remind all – he was not exactly elected on the strength of a realistic plan. He needs to be able to morph, to being a provider of good government, which is a very long ways from being an effective politician.
Steve: “Morphing” at the last minute would be a flip-flop of unimaginable proportions throwing his entire credibility into doubt (for those who don’t doubt it already). He’s in to the finish, and might actually win by a vote or two. Then the question is (a) how do we pay for it and (b) will Queen’s Park intervene as Davis did with the Spadina decision?
From what I’ve seen, the problem mostly isn’t a lack of signals or signage (except that the signs are not illuminated as Robert suggested). And the tracks are raised, but the crossings obviously have to rise to track level at intersections. Perhaps more has to be done, though, to distinguish the transit signals from regular signals, especially at night. I’ve seen drivers go, or at least start to go, when the transit signal changes (moreso for turning vehicles). (See not paying attention, below.)
At York & Queens Quay there are “no right turn” signs eastbound at both of the signal heads; other than illuminating them, I don’t see how they could be more prominent. Westbound there is a clear (though not illuminated) “left turn signal” sign. The Queens Quay Terminal west driveway light has “no left turn” signs westbound, and “right turn signal,” “no right turn on red” signage eastbound.
What we really need is for police to actually start enforcing the rules. People would pay more attention if there were an actual prospect of being fined for disobeying posted signs; as it is they don’t need to, so they just ignore them. I literally can’t keep track – over the course of a day’s commuting – of the number of cars that drive straight into a right turn, despite having a facing red light. Drivers barely treat a red light as a yield, and this is even worse where cars have to cross a bike lane to get to the road (as with the exits from the former Ontario Place parking lots).
I am firmly of the opinion that at any light where a separated bi-directional bike lane crosses on one side of the intersection, no right turns on red should be permitted on that side. It sounds melodramatic, but people (cyclists likely, maybe pedestrians) are going to get hurt eventually – I typically have about 1 close call a week. (Driver stopped at light, I approach from the right, driver suddenly lurches 2m forward to try to get into a gap in oncoming traffic.)
Steve: A few issues here. On the matter of illuminated signs, City Transportation has installed some LED no left turn signs along King and has observed that the amount of turning has fallen off. People see these much miore prominently than text-based signs, but the latter are a requirement of the Highway Traffic Act.
I think the issue of transit signals needs to be revisited by Queen’s Park (again as part of the HTA). The only one sanctioned at present is the vertical white bar. We need the full range of distinctive transit indications so that they does not look the same as auto signals (e.g. horizontal bar means “stop”).
Definitely the lack of grass on the transit right-of-way was a mistake, but it was forced on Waterfront Toronto by the Emergency Services.
2 things – 1: I was trying to avoid using that word. 2: As much wiser people have said – it takes a fool to not change your mind in the face of new information. I simply hope that he is not too afraid of changing in the face of new information (and that he can make a claim that it is new) and that he knows that being a good mayor is more important than not flip floping. That is – Mr Tory – do the right thing, not the thing you said you would do.
Years ago when I lived in Boston a car made an illegal left across the Green Line ROW…it was promptly plowed into the fence separating the two directions. The MBTA left the car-shaped dent in the fence for at least half a year…I think it was intended as a warning that T vehicles would always win over cars.
I wonder if a fence might be good to separate the two streetcar directions on the right of way. That would presumably stop cars.
The WT Construction notice issued today notes:
Steve: Yes, I had an idea that was the situation based on how the signals behaved. So much for getting it all hooked up in go.
It would also have the side effect of preventing pedestrians from crossing the ROW where they shouldn’t be.
Brain dead drivers are not confined to Toronto.
Any time there are changes made to hety way transit operates or the roads are laid out confusion is going to result. The Goldcoast in Queensland Australia opened a new tram line last July and have had their share of idiots.
Gold coast trams testing
Nearly hits a pedestrian
Drunk gets stuck on bridge
More crazy driving
Yes the trams are Flexities. From Wikipedia:
More crazy driving
re: LED signs and the HTA:
I used to think that the static sign was a requirement, based on the regulations that provide minimum specifications for each sign. For example.
However, I recently noticed that there is a section in the “general” part of the signs regulation that appears to allow for the use of LED signs instead of static signs in certain situations:
(Sections 21 and 22 deal with turn prohibition signs; section 23 deals with No U-Turn signs; section 34 deals with lane designation signs.)
The section seems to be related primarily to changeable or blank-out signs that are only activated for certain conditions (e.g., the King Street “no left turn” signs are only illuminated at certain times of day; MTO has recently installed “no right turn on red” signs at certain off-ramps that are only illuminated during certain signal phases, allowing right turns on red part of the time). However, I don’t know that that would necessarily exclude signs that are illuminated all the time.
Another change to the HTA that might be helpful, similar to changing transit signals, would be to change “left turn only” signals so that the red signal is a red arrow. It would help reduce the number of signs (i.e. the “LEFT TURN SIGNAL” signs) and would be more visible especially at night.
Due to injury I was away from home until today…but managed to ply the route both east and west between Bay, Rees in what must be record time.
During this brief time on the “new and improved” QQ I saw: 2 cars turn south to east…onto the streetcar tracks; 3 cars waiting to proceed northbound…across the streetcar tracks; 1 car turn right on what was clearly an explicit red right turn signal…right in front of a streetcar; and at least 5 or 6 people who effectively just stopped in the middle of the street, going either direction, confused at what had happened (“What happened to my signal between Bay, York? Woah, why is there oncoming cars, what do I do? Wait…what’s a right turn signal mean? etc etc).
It was still easily twice as fast 🙂
So … if the concrete ROW may (likely) be because of Toronto Fire wishing to have the ROW available if they ever need to use it for emergencies … would green paint be a possible solution to mark the ROW more clearly?
I suppose a fence is another good idea … but it would need two fences … one to separate the cars from the ROW and the other to separate the cyclists and pedestrians from the ROW.
If Toronto Fire wants the right-of-way available for their use, wouldn’t they also object to fences restricting where fire vehicles can get on and off?
Steve: Almost certainly.
Red paint seems to be the standard for transit in North America (and Australia, judging by the videos posted above). Green typically used for cycling, as you know. Red = bad, green = good also a subtle cue for drivers.
In those Melbourne clips, there seemed to be red paint with “TRAM ONLY” markings, only at the entrances where cars could erroneously turn onto the tracks. That may be sufficient to keep them out of the ROW, and also very clearly painted markings at intersections which may alert drivers who are about to “right hook” the streetcars.
I noticed that too.
While I haven’t seen the problems on Queen’s Quay, I have seen several cars turning onto the ROW on St. Clair. In many cases the ‘keep right’ sign is perpendicular to the tracks so it is not easily seen by a car turning left from a cross street. I have wondered why the TTC (or Traffic) has not placed something on the ROW at the cross street to indicate ‘no entry’. I believe even a one-foot wide white stripe would help as this usually indicates a stop line and drivers should realize subconsciously that this is a lane that should not be entered.
Melbourne is not the only Australian city with light rail. It also exists in Adelaide, Sydney and the newest system in Gold Coast, a city on the east coast of Australia in the southeast corner of Queensland.
See Wikipedia for more information on the new G-Link.
Could technology help prevent vehicles turning into oncoming streetcars?
I think it could.
If a streetcar is getting close to the intersection, regular vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles get an amber light, and then a red light. After the red light all vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians should be stopped. Here is where the technology kicks in.
If the road vehicles, bikes and pedestrians haven’t stopped, play that clanging you get at level crossings. Take a snapshot of the rogue vehicle’s license plate, and hit them with a heavy fine. Give the streetcar a red light when it is far enough away to stop, and let the errant vehicle whose driver is going to get the heavy fine proceed through the intersection. The radar robot could even read out the license number over a loudspeaker. “Vehicle 305 CMB you have been fined $500!”
If everyone stopped, but then a car, bike or pedestrian starts to edge forward, radar or some other technology detects their movement. A narrow spot light is aimed right at the driver of the rogue car. It turns on, or starts to strobe, when a rogue vehicle starts to advance, together with the level crossing clang clang clang.
Someone complained above about bureaucrats never preferring the $50 solution when there was a $50,000 solution available.
Steve: There is a messy wrinkle in this and other priority schemes — transit vehicles stop nearside to pick up passengers. If the signal system advances a green phase, but the streetcar or bus is going to stop, the benefit may be lost. This is complicated also by whether there is a queue of traffic ahead of the vehicle preventing it from reaching the stop. One proposed scheme is a vehicle transponder that includes basic info — are the doors open — that could indicate a vehicle is serving a stop and does not need to leave, yet. However, that “yet” is itself a complication — how often have we been on vehicles that are loading and close the doors just in time for the signal to turn against them? The algorithm would also differ between a bus route with curb loading and a streetcar route that does not use safety islands, but holds passing traffic at stops.
This is very much an “it depends” situation, and I think there is too much emphasis on esoteric schemes rather than the basics of moving transit vehicles as fast as possible along their routes.