Leaving Main and Cannon as one-way streets undermines LRT by resulting in lower levels of investment within the transit corridor, as well as lower rates of ridership growth.
By Ryan McGreal
Published December 03, 2010
I sincerely appreciate Rapid Transit office director Jillian Stephen taking the time to prepare a detailed explanation of why the Rapid Transit office decided to drop two-way traffic conversions from its east-west Light Rail Transit plan.
Most of her letter explains staff reasoning with regards to King Street. I can appreciate the decision with respect to King Street, and in fact I recently acknowledged, "There may be a case for leaving King Street one-way to vehicular traffic through a short stretch of the downtown core between Wellington Street and Gore Park".
However, staff have also decided to leave Main Street as a one-way thoroughfare, and Stephen's letter provides much less justification for this move. She notes that the 2008 Transportation Master Plan designated Main Street and Cannon Street as "the primary corridors for through traffic". In closing, she adds, "There is still a need for some traffic to move easterly across the City, and Main Street fulfills this role."
It seems clear that the only reason to leave Main as a one-way street is to preserve its current function as an expressway for eastbound traffic, with Cannon as the westbound expressway.
As we have argued on RTH for years, a major objective of LRT is to promote new investment and intensification within what is widely understood as a walkable distance to each transit stop - a 400m corridor on either side of the line, assuming a stop at least every 800m. Transportation planners call this the Transit-Oriented Development or TOD corridor.
Both Cannon and Main Streets are within the TOD corridor for LRT on King Street. Main is well within it, ranging between 100m and 150m from King through the downtown.
Leaving Cannon and especially Main as one-way streets seriously undermines the LRT plan in two ways:
The Transportation Master Plan was developed and approved before LRT was in serious consideration - before the potential existed for LRT to transform both land use and transportation patterns through the lower city from the status quo of economically depressed streets funneling high-speed automobile traffic through the core.
Leaving Main and Cannon as one-way streets was already a bad idea in 2008, but it's a positively terrible idea today.
Both can be converted to two-way traffic flows. The total number of lanes would remain approximately the same, but the speed of traffic would be much lower and the streets would have a chance to function as actual urban destinations instead of just through-routes.