The Roncesvalles BIA forms partnerships to help make our street beautiful
Change is upon us
The Roncesvalles BIA has learned that the TTC plans to replace the streetcar tracks along Roncesvalles in 2008 2009 (UPDATE: The project will likely be delayed. Click here for more details). There is a possibility that the City may decide to replace our sidewalks at the same time. This provides businesses, residents and other stakeholders with a unique chance to advocate for improvements along our street.
In 2003, the BIA released its Roncesvalles Streetscape Strategy, a vision for change along Roncesvalles. This plan was developed in consultation with businesses, residents and other stakeholders in our community. It is not a final vision, but represents the beginning of a dialogue between the BIA, the City and our neighborhood.
ABOVE: A typical intersection along Roncesvalles.
BELOW: The same corner, featuring a “bump-out,” an extention of the sidewalk into the road. The bump-out does not replace existing street parking, but does create extra space for street improvements. In this case, large trees are planted directly into the sidewalk, and are not constrained by the utility services that run below the main sidewalk. Alternative paving treatments enhance the space, encouraging creative new uses.
A joint design advisory committee was formed to help facilitate this dialogue. This committee includes members of the Roncesvalles MacDonnel Residents’ Association, the High Park Residents’ Association and the Sunnyside Community Association. Many committee members have a background in architecture and urban design.
The purpose of the committee will be to share information and viewpoints, and to work with city staff to help implement design changes on the street. By bringing together residents, business interests, city staff and Councillor Gord Perks’ office, we hope to facilitate communication and understanding between all stakeholders, and present a unified vision to city planners.
The BIA’s plan is available as a free PDF file here.
In Vancouver there are two streets that are similar in character and scale to Roncesvalles that have both had a recent public realm upgrade. The first, Commercial Drive, is an original Vancouver streetcar suburb and a vibrant retail and restaurant precinct. In the spring of 2006 the City of Vancouver initiated an engineering works project to separate the sewer from the storm sewers. The City used this opportunity to rebuild the sidewalks and generally upgrade the public realm. The previous street trees had heaved the sidewalks in many, many places and these trees were removed and in their place a different species of trees were planted that would not cause the same damage. Corner bulges and bus bulges were added to improve pedestrian safety, reduce intersection crossing times, offer additional seating area for cafes and restaurants at intersections, and improve transit performance for our electric trolley buses by no longer requiring they to merge back into traffic after they pull away from the stop. By the end of the summer the work was done and the improved public realm included additional benches, higher quality bus shelters, higher quality poured concrete sidewalks with better edge definition for those with vision impairments, additional pedestrian-controlled intersections, universal curb cuts at each corner for complete wheelchair access, tactile guides to identify curbs for the blind and direct them safely across the intersection, street banners, audible cross walk buttons and notification, LED stop lights and pedestrian crossing signals, new and more plentiful garbage bins with recycling space for refundable goods to be picked up by binners, and repair and repainting of all light and electric trolley standards.
Main Street is wrapping up a public realm upgrade similar to Commercial Drive’s but it will also include intelligent transportation systems ITS to speed the street’s very heavily-used electric trolley bus route. Currently buses run at less than one minute intervals during rush hour and they are completely full and routinely pass waiting passengers along the way. The new fleet of electric trolley buses included approximately two dozen large articulated models that will run primarily on Main street. The ITS portion of the Main Street redesign will lengthen a green light or turn it green for an approaching bus. All Vancouver buses are equipped with GPS units, meaning that vehicles can be added and moved around the region without having to restrict the ITS function of the Main Street redesign to a small portion of the fleet. Transport Canada is co-financing the project along with Translink, Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation body responsible for planning, financing, operating, and maintaining regional roads and bridges, and the public transit system.
While I wholeheartedly support streetscape improvements to Roncesvalles, and having been a long term resident in the area, I have serious concerns about any proposal that resticts the flow of vehicle traffic and/or available parking. One of the mitigating factors to improveing the amount of retail consumers and pedestrian traffic on Roncessvalles, is the availablity of parking. Using Bloor West Village as a comparison, there is ample parking on the streets but most significantly in the many public parking lots just north of Bloor behind the retail shops. Without these additoinal parking facilities, Bloor West Village would not be the success it is today. Despite the polical incorrectness of this concept, and I say this as both a cyclist and a walker, the fact remains that the car is and will continue to be a primary mode of transportation for residents in and around the GTA. Any improvements to Roncellvalles should include a plan that greatly increase the amount of avalable parking(in additiion to the planned parking facility at Howard School). The requirement for a vehicle friendly area is furhter accentuated by the fact that Roncellvales draws on a relatively small cachtment area of local homes and shoppers. This due to the railway line that borders the area to the East, Dundas to the north and the Park to West. Once can observe how successful BIAs throughout the GTA are not as limited in this regard and where they also attact and can accomodate travellers (by car) from other areas of the GTA. I say no to bump outs but yes to more parking, less garbage, more trees (planted in the ground!) improved sidewalks, planters, more patios, better pedestrian lighting and modern attractive bus shelters.
Thank you and please take make comments as a postive contribution to the good work all of your are doing on behalf of the rest of us in the area!