Two (or Three) Proposals for Roncesvalles

A key streetscape priority for the BIA and the community has been the creation of bumpouts, or extensions of the sidewalk onto the street (click here to view an example). These would become new public spaces, allowing for new uses such as patios, benches, gardens or public art. It is hoped that such bumpouts would become part of the major Roncesvalles reconstruction scheduled for 2008 2009 (UPDATE: The project will likely be delayed. Click here for more details).

In May, the City unveiled a preliminary proposal that called for bumpouts at just about every corner along Roncesvalles, onto the side streets but also the main street itself. An advantage of the City’s proposal was that the bumpouts that encroached onto Roncesvalles would not greatly affect existing parking along the street. The BIA also liked the fact that the plan would increase access to parking by removing a peak period traffic lane (the southbound parking lane has no parking during rush hour).

A disadvantage is that these bumpouts would prevent cars from passing or turning right without blocking the streetcar. As a result, the TTC was concerned that the bumpouts onto Roncesvalles might slow down the 504 streetcar, the busiest in Toronto. (The bumpouts onto the side streets pose no problem with anyone, as far as we can tell.)

In July, the TTC presented a counter-proposal. It also has many advantages. For pedestrians, the proposal would add far more sidewalk space. For some restaurants, it would open the possibility of true sidewalk patios along the main street itself. Other businesses may welcome the ability to add new sidewalk displays. Disembarking from the streetcar onto a curb is a significant safety and accessibility feature.

However, the plan also requires the loss of a significant number of existing parking spaces along Roncesvalles. The plan would also remove the northbound left turn at Howard Park (and perhaps other intersections).

Northbound at Howard Park

Photo: TTC

Widening the Sidewalk: A proposal by the TTC suggests widening the sidewalk in order to allow riders to step from the streetcar onto the curb. This would allow greater use of the sidewalk, including patios and merchandise displays. The proposal would significantly reduce on-street parking, however.

It must be emphasized that both the TTC’s and the City’s proposals are preliminary. They have been presented in order to create a dialogue and to help establish the principles for a more comprehensive plan.

Representatives of the BIA, the three neighboring residents’ associations and Roncesvalles Renewed recently met with City and TTC staff at Councillor Gord Perks‘ office to discuss the two proposals. The community representatives were unified in their response, excited by the prospect of new public space, but with some concerns. Along with Councillor Perks, we urged the City and the TTC to ensure that their plan

  • enhances public space,
  • minimizes the loss of on-street parking,
  • examines alternatives to total left-turn prohibitions, and
  • considers the impact of traffic restrictions on local neighborhoods and side streets.

If the City, the TTC and the community are unable to agree on a bumpout plan, there remains a third option – to eliminate main street bumpouts from the plan altogether.

What is important to you? Please have a look at the TTC’s proposal and consider how you would best balance the needs of businesses, pedestrians, transit riders, shoppers, residents and other stakeholders. Click below to leave your comments.

UPDATE: These proposals are being discussed on Steve Munro’s always informative blog. Please click on Reinventing Roncesvalles. For some background info, you might also wish to view Steve’s analysis of the issues facing the King Streetcar. Part One here, and Part Two here. (SECOND UPDATE: Steve has now posted several more detailed analyses of the 504 King line, and is now up to Part VIIwhew! To read ’em all, click here.)

18 thoughts on “Two (or Three) Proposals for Roncesvalles

  1. jay

    Street parking is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Remember that only 1.1 people drive around in the average car…

    One need only look to St. Clair and its streetcar re-alignment to see how foot traffic is actually increasing business flow, not hurting it.

    Sidewalk traffic and public transit are long-term priorities that must be weighed more heavily than street parking. “Bumpouts” would increase the appeal of Ronce as a destination for walking pedestrians. With Dundas, College and King Streetcars, as well as the Bloor line, Ronce should shine as an example of modern transit, not car culture.

    Perhaps less short-sighted business owners, and more long term visionaries are required here, in order to balance this issue properly.

    Best,

    Jay

  2. Andrew MacKinnon

    I doubt if users of on-street parking account for a significant number of customers on any major commercial street in Toronto. Only a few hundred on-street spaces can be provided per kilometre of street if parking is allowed on both size, which is insignificant compared to the capacity either of public transit or of off-street lots. In comparison, one CLRV carries 102 passengers (in “normal service usage”) and during rush hour, there is a streetcar every 4 minutes in each direction on Roncevalles. This is a total of 3060 passengers per hour, not including the east-west streetcars (Queen, Dundas and College). Most customers take public transit, not the car – the few who do take the car are more than willing to pay for off-street parking. There is no need for on-street parking on Roncevalles.

    On streets like Spadina, foot traffic is so heavy that the on-street parking should be removed, in order to widen the sidewalk. This street has streetcar service every 2 minutes most of the day 7 days a week, which is a testament to its success. This is more frequent than the subway!

  3. Dave

    Jay, foot traffic didn’t increase on St Clair. The sidewalks are narrower, and have to carry the same amount of people before with less space. That’s bad, just in case you haven’t figured it out yourself.

  4. Fin

    I think pay parking should be maintained on one side of Roncesvalles. While there are clear benefits to businesses, residents and visitors to making the street more pedestrian- and transit-friendly, I think the businesses that serve the Polish community from across the GTA need to maintain some nearby parking. I live on Ronce and I see a lot of people parking for half an hour to pick up a few things from the butcher, book store, music store, etc.

    That said, there are all kinds of ways to maintain some local parking:

    – parking could alternate sides block-by-block

    – parking could be eliminated entirely near key intersections to prevent congestion

    – short-term parking could be shifted from Roncesvalles the first 50m of side streets

    – and I’m sure others have their own creative ideas

    I definitely like the idea of wider sidewalks and more trees on Roncesvalles, which seems to have more parking than it needs at the moment. It could be a lot more pedestrian- and family-friendly. And anyone who rides the 504 on a regular basis (and that seems to be most of the neighbourhood) knows it’s important to keep it moving quickly, so that’s an important consideration too.

    I think the more public discussion and creative thinking there is around this issue, the more likely we’ll have a result that’s positive for everyone. Be sure to keep us posted here about public meetings.

  5. Liz

    There are lots of competing priorities here – pedestrians, transit users and drivers have all been included. What about cyclists? Is there scope to make the road more bike-friendly (and possibly encourage cyclists off the sidewalk in the process)?

  6. John Bowker, RVBIA

    “What about cyclists?”

    Both plans call for the narrowing of the parking lanes, since they would no longer be available for driving. This would allow for a slight widening of the sidewalk, even where no bumpouts are planned, along with extra space for cyclists. As I understand it, this would not quite be a bike lane, but it should be more comfortable for cyclists.

  7. Nick

    One very important consideration has not been mentioned. Loosing parking on Ronces may likely increase a flow of parking on side streets. There are residents who rely on the street parking as their only option – many homes do not have their own front drives (and never will at this point) or laneway parking. I’m certainly for decreasing parking/ increasing public spaces on Ronces, but I also believe a side street parking strategy is a must. If I have a visitor from uptown or out of town and they drive down, it would be nice if they didn’t park in someone elses neighborhood or get a ticket after 1 hour (like in some other neighborhood of the city where parking is sparse). All stakeholders are equally important and must receive consideration – Transit riders (to little of us), Businesses (some of us), Residents (most of us), Cyclists (too little of us), Walking Pedestrians (most of us) and cars (to many of us).

  8. Fin

    On the subject of bicycles: some restaurants and coffee shops seem to be attracting more cyclists this summer, and I’ve noticed they’re running out of space to put their bikes. When the city ring-and-post stands fill up, they resort to locking their bikes to trees, pipes sticking out of buildings, etc.

    It’s nice to see more people on bikes but they do take up a lot of space and sometimes block the sidewalk. When the street is rebuilt, I’d love to see the ring-and-posts in the busiest spots replaced with wider racks that hold more bicycles, so that no one has to resort to putting their bikes in awkward places.

  9. AL

    Cut down on street parking, but make a couple of lots like the one behind the credit union, except spread out up and down the street, like in bloor west village.

    As far as i can tell on by the proposed plans, it looks like left turns will not be allowed according to the ttc’s proposal. So how are you supposed to get to your house if you live on the east side of roncessvalles and your traveling south? Make right turns around the block, and try to cross roncesvalles, two way traffic, i think that idea sucks.

    How about getting rid of some of the Hydro wires that line Roncessvalles on both sides of the street. I find they look rather dim and depressing, and feel they really add alot more poles, (no pun intended) to the sidewalk, that make it feel clostrophobic.

  10. John Bowker, RVBIA

    How about getting rid of some of the Hydro wires

    The BIA asked Hydro about burying the lines. Apparently, this is very expensive! In fact, it would nearly double the cost of the reconstruction project and would stretch the construction time over two years instead of one.

    As for the poles, there is some good news. While the Hydro poles on the west side are relatively new and will not be touched, there are several redundant poles on the east side. These belong to the TTC, which installed higher poles next to the older, shorter ones in order to upgrade their services. The TTC has agreed to remove the older poles once the non-TTC services on the poles are removed. Hydro has agreed to remove their services, along with the BIA’s pedestrian light fixtures, and install them on the newer TTC poles. Most of this work is complete. Thanks, Hydro and TTC!

  11. mkb

    I hope that this really happens! I agree that more parking on the West side (and getting rid of the 7AM parking banishment on the west side) and little bit of metre parking on side streets should solve the problem.

    The idea of Bloor West Village-style parking lots behind stores is a great idea Any chance that is possible?

    Also, how far south will the improvements go? I hope all the way to Queen!

  12. John Bowker, RVBIA

    The idea of Bloor West Village-style parking lots behind stores is a great idea Any chance that is possible?

    The area is fairly restricted in terms of lot parking. Apparently Green P is always looking for suitable locations, but they are hard to come by. Community support is also essential for any parking solution. The BIA would like more parking where appropriate, but it does not want to force a parking lot on a neighborhood that is steadfast against one.

    How far south will the improvements go?

    The project scope includes all of Roncesvalles.

  13. Veronica

    I certainly hope that the narrowing of Roncesvalles proposed by both the city staff and TTC would help restrict drive-through traffic. This would make the street more ameanable to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers who are shopping or have other business along the avenue.

    Although it’s not evident in the proposals how cyclists would benefit, it’s encouraging to hear from John Bowker that the space for cyclists would actually improve. The delineation of bicycle lanes would certainly make it safer for cyclists to ride on the street rather than the sidewalks. Thankfully, much has changed in the public consciousness since 2003 when the RVBIA strategy was released. The use of bicycles continues to increase in the neighbourhood and it would be hard to accept a street proposal that didn’t overtly address needs beyond bicycle posts.

  14. Robert Wightman

    The parking behind the stores north of Bloor St exists because it is on top of the subway. You would have to tear down a lot of houses to get it near Roncesvalles; how about if we start with your house.

  15. Walter Lis

    How about turning the school parking lots into pay parking lots after school, holidays, and on weekends?

  16. Anonymous

    Getting rid of left turns onto Howard Park Ave. is a dumb idea.

    All this will do is increase traffic on the side streets (by alot!). What about the people who actually live on Howard Park Ave.? I have to turn left somewhere.

  17. Andrew

    Getting rid of left turns onto Howard Park is not a big deal. If you are coming from the south and would turn left from Roncevalles, go up Parkside and turn right at Howard Park. If you are coming from the north, turn left at Dundas/Roncevalles and turn right at Howard Park. Big deal.

  18. J Albert

    The figure of 102 for a CLRV is delusional. The TTC uses a figure or 74 – above that people will just wait for another streetcar.

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