Two (or Three) Proposals for Roncesvalles

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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.)