Former Toronto Councillor and TTC Chair Adam Giambrone has written an essay for Now Magazine on the proposal by Councillor and Public Works committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong to turn Yonge Street and Bay Street into paired one-way thoroughfares.
While dozens of cities across North America are in the process of reverting their one-way expressways back to two-way traffic after decades of stagnation and decline, Minnan-Wong wants to take Toronto - one of the few North American cities whose downtown avoided a catastrophic postwar decline - in the opposite direction.
There's tons of evidence that two-directional streets are not only safer, but better for local businesses and neighbourhoods. The best example of a twinned one-way network is Richmond and Adelaide, both of which have little commercial activity, acting as funnels for traffic. Compare them to College, Dundas, King or Queen and you can easily see the difference.
Over 50 cities in the U.S. are currently considering changing one-way streets to two-ways. One-ways are good for one thing, increasing traffic speed - nice on highways but not on urban streets. Speed is a critical determinant of whether those on foot or bikes - or in cars, for that matter - survive accidents. Speed is also presumably one reason why one-ways aren't good for local commerce: drivers barely notice stores as they whip by.
Instead of sacrificing the vitality of Yonge to accommodate fast through traffic, Giambrone argues that Toronto should follow the successful examples of Montreal, New York City and Bordeaux that have embraced a complete streets approach, "which takes into consideration all those who use the road, and not just their mode of transport."
Giambrone recognizes that there's a delicate balance to a successful complete streets deployment, and that all those new restaurants, cafes and retail establishments need a workable goods delivery system.
Finally, he reminds us of the central paradox of transportation infrastructure: demand expands to fill the available supply.
Solving Toronto's downtown congestion may be impossible. In an economically dynamic city like ours, traffic will expand to fill capacity as people make more discretionary trips. But we can make things move a lot better through smart planning - and respecting everyone on our streets.
Instead of squandering scarce public dollars on the endless, destructive treadmill of induced demand for vehicle capacity, Toronto Council would do much better to keep in mind that "traffic" means people going from one place to another, not people in automobiles.
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