Left turns along streetcar routes may soon be a thing of the past, according to yesterday’s Toronto Star and today’s National Post. Traffic services staff are considering a ban, which would prevent streetcars from being blocked behind a row of motorists as they try to turn left. The King route, of which Roncesvalles is the final leg, is among those routes being examined.
A recent proposal for the 2009 reconstruction of Roncesvalles called for peak hour left turn restrictions at southbound Howard Park as well as northbound High Park Blvd. Members of the community, along with the BIA, have told the City and TTC that they support the goal of reducing streetcar travel times. But they have also expressed concerns that the High Park restriction would only increase residential traffic and prolong the return home of local drivers, who are believed to be the main users of that left turn. The community also asked why a streetcar-controlled advanced green signal would not achieve the desired result without requiring any restrictions. Finally, it was not clear the restrictions would be effective anyway, since those local drivers would simply line up further ahead at the unsignalled intersections at Garden, Fern or Geoffrey.
Interestingly, the TTC told the BIA that it was not as concerned about left turns at the unsignalled intersections, since they allowed more flexibility for drivers. When there is heavier traffic, explained the TTC, left-turning drivers can nudge their way through, causing southbound drivers to slow down and let the cars turn. But when those southbound motorists see a green light, they are less likely to yield. And if there is little traffic, drivers need not wait before making their turn. Currently, those drivers often have to wait unnecessarily at the red light, during which time southbound drivers will arrive and cause a delay when the light finally turns green.
Such flexibility has been shown to be often more beneficial for traffic flow and safety than regulations and controls. If so, should we be asking whether we really need the High Park traffic light at all?
What do you think about restricting left turns along Roncesvalles? Please leave a comment or email the BIA at firstname.lastname@example.org!