Special Report: Walkable Streets

Traffic Calming on Lansdowne in Toronto a Model for Queen Street

Lansdowne used to be four lanes but the city narrowed it to one lane each way with parking on one side - exactly what Queen should look like.

By Jason Leach
Published January 13, 2014

Last Thursday, a blog entry posted on RTH noted that traffic flowed smoothly on Queen at Hunter, even with a lane closed to traffic and that this extra lane could be used to make Queen Street two-way.

For an idea of how that might work, we can look at Lansdowne Avenue in Toronto, a north-south arterial between Queen Street and St. Clair Avenue, part of which was narrowed and traffic-calmed last decade.

It's a similar street to Queen, with bus routes and in a similar type of family-oriented neighbourhood. Of course, it carries a lot more traffic than our Queen Street.

Lansdowne Avenue, Toronto (Image Credit: Joe at Biking Toronto/Flickr)
Lansdowne Avenue, Toronto (Image Credit: Joe at Biking Toronto/Flickr)

Lansdowne Avenue, Toronto (Image Credit: Joe at Biking Toronto/Flickr)
Lansdowne Avenue, Toronto (Image Credit: Joe at Biking Toronto/Flickr)

Lansdowne Avenue, Toronto (Image Credit: Joe at Biking Toronto/Flickr)
Lansdowne Avenue, Toronto (Image Credit: Joe at Biking Toronto/Flickr)

Lansdowne used to be four lanes but the city narrowed it to one lane each way with parking on one side - exactly what Queen should look like. Toronto took the extra space and added it to the sidewalks and front yards and planted new street trees in each yard, right next to the sidewalk.

Apply Model on Queen Street

From Stuart to Aberdeen, Queen Street should have one southbound lane, one northbound lane and 24-hour street parking facing northbound.

Get rid of the crazy highway ramp at Aberdeen and create a normal intersection with a typical right turn. All the space in that triange can become a new small parkette with trees, benches and fencing to create a new greenspace.

South of Herkimer, where Queen is four lanes, we can either widen the sidewalks and front lawns and plant trees, or have street parking on both sides with one lane each way.

From York to King the city should proceed with their plan to shave back a bit of property from the properties on the west side of Queen in order to create a green buffer with a row of street trees between the street and new sidewalk on the other side of the green buffer.

Just like that, Queen becomes a safe walking, cycling and living street while still maintaining adequate traffic flow for its light volumes, as well as hugely increased convenience for folks driving north and south on Queen between the Mountain and the harbour.

Another nice touch in Toronto is the concrete bumpouts at bus stops. This creates a shorter walking distance for pedestrians crossing the street, and also allows buses to load/unload without having to pull off the road and then merge back into traffic.

Predictions of Doom

It should be noted that residents in this neighbourhood hated the idea and predicted gridlock and doom and gloom if the street was to lose a lane each way.

As you can see from the photos above, the doom and gloom never materialized. Nor will it materialize here once we start taming streets that were designed to carry 30,000 cars but only carry 11,000.

If you recall, lots of people also predicted chaos and doom for the James and John North and James and John South conversions, but all that happened was that those streets turned from traffic sewers into slower, calmer, safer and more lively places to be.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 13, 2014 at 21:29:35

I should have added that Lansdowne through this stretch carries 16,000 vehicles per day. Queen St carries less than 10,000 for most of it's length, but just over 11,000 south of Charlton. Lansdowne also has regular, two-way bus service along it's length. HSR would benefit greatly by being able to run buses both ways on Queen St, instead of zig-zagging through Durand. Although, James and John became two-way over a decade ago and the HSR still runs it's routes in a one-way pattern.

Also, a quick 'stroll' via Streetview shows the new trees planted in the green boulevard that was developed betewen the sidewalks on roadway: http://goo.gl/maps/GrJm4

Comment edited by jason on 2014-01-13 21:34:00

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By MCHammer (anonymous) | Posted January 13, 2014 at 23:54:23

Is landsdowne the street that the residents sued the councillor and city over lack of consultation?

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2014 at 09:02:09

Sounds reasonable. All the city needs is as-yet-unallocated capital for the conversions and a majority vote on council.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2014 at 09:21:34

Century-homes, fencing, wide streets and tiny lawns... It looks just like Victoria Street. Hint hint.

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By AP (registered) | Posted January 14, 2014 at 09:47:28

I've lived on either side of Queen South for the last 5+ years. The one way thoroughfare makes it very uncomfortable for pedestrians (feels like you might lose an elbow to passing cars if you walk two abreast or get run over by left-turning and right-looking drivers coming off side streets) which most often makes it a ghost town, despite being in the heart of a very walkable neighbourhood. Would love to see it undergo a complete street makeover. And agreed: The highway on-ramp style turns are great for getting you around the corner quickly, but do little in the way of ensuring safety for other road users (as a driver, you are moving fast and looking behind you to merge). There's a reason the design works on highways - there's no other road users there...which, given its overall design and resultant people-less reality, explains why it currently seems appropriate on Queen. I don't think the street was designed to deter all but car traffic, but it's certainly a nasty byproduct of not being considered very thoughtfully. Full-disclosure: I drive, bike and walk on Queen.

Comment edited by AP on 2014-01-14 09:48:09

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By TheQueen (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2014 at 10:35:19

I'd rather a bus lane shared with bike lane, traffic lane in the middle, and a parking lane. Buffers on both sides of street with traffic in the middle.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2014 at 10:12:19 in reply to Comment 96769

2 way queen would also reduce traffic on charlton past HAAA (westbound drivers from St. Joes could go up queen to King to get to the highway)

2 way queen would reduce the number of cars diverted to Herkimer and eventually ending up at St. Joes, clogging up the works there (north/east bound drivers could continue on queen to main).

Queen and Bay are the two streets that, from a functional viewpoint, need to be converted immediately.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 15, 2014 at 10:59:54 in reply to Comment 96798

agree totally. And traffic volumes are so low it's amazing that we have these wide 3-4 lane streets like Bay/Queen. Bay could be a gorgeous complete street with parking, bike lanes and 2-way traffic connecting to the north end/ bayfront.

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