Why I wait with baited breath for the Queen Street Rapid Transit Study to be released

Physical dividers have a powerful impact on space. Consider the following two streets. One, a nice Kitchener neighbourhood with a 2 lane road. The second, a six lane road in Montreal.

belmont villagemontreal

Two lanes, Six lanes, either can be an attractive and liveable sized road … assuming you streetscape the area in an attractive manner. The Six lanes in Montreal as shown aren’t a desolate wasteland of smog and exhaust (side eye to you, sections of Bovaird).  With smart construction, we can achieve a nice blend of transportation options on our existing roads.  Which brings me back to a point I made earlier this month: integrated dedicated transit lanes.

Williams Parkway in particular has long stretches that are plenty wide enough for six lanes. But that does mean we just widen them outwards into six lanes, leaving all other features as is? I don’t think it does. I think we have a real opportunity on roads like Williams Parkway, and others like Sandalwood, Glidden, Clark Blvd., and definitely Queen Street, to create really integrated and high speed east west transit options, with or without upgrading the transit service to Light Rail technology.

See for example this set up:

brt-basics

We could get all the benefits that we ascribe to LRT (fast and reliable travel times, segregation from traffic, level boarding platforms, pre-boarding payment, multi-door boarding, etc.) without a single overhead wire; with double-decker buses, you get over 100 passenger capacity per vehicle; if you run electric buses, you get the same environmental benefits; if the new rapid charge electric buses (the ones being beta tested right here in Brampton) show proof of concept, the range of vehicles grows exponentially. I mean, I’d want to work on the aesthetics a little from what you see in that particular snap, but it illustrates the vision.

We have several corridors in our city, north south, east west … which are now, or are planned to be, Six lane throughfares. Not all will have green space in the middle. But modern set ups that are built with segregated transit in mind from Day 1: gives you mass rapid transit (BRT or BRT Lite or even just local buses without the traffic) gives us all the flexibility of buses, the ability to run tri-articulated buses if needed, the ability to reroute buses onto the regular roadway (one direction or two, up to you) to host a marathon here in town, and all the aforementioned advantages of LRT in terms of comfort and speed for users.

And, when the time comes to upgrade to a rail based system (when resources allow and ridership dictate), much of the heavy lifting is done vis a vis, the traffic patterns are established, the lane realignments are already done, etc.

This idea has been used in very populous locations all over the World:

chinabus.jpg

brt 2

Our streets can be attractive places, as shown at the top. Our streets can be functional too, for vehicles, commercial traffic and emergency services alike all at the same time, and offer high speed transit services, as shown above.  We can make suburban streets into urban streets at a fraction of the 30 year cost of LRT systems now, and in 30 years when ridership and resources dictate, we can upgrade the systems if needed. If not, we still have a network of high speed transit routes.

I am truly hoping that the Queen Street Corridor, from Kennedy Road to Vaughan, gets the kind of treatment that will allow one of the set ups seen above, with our without LRT as part of the equation.

(I only say Kennedy Road as a wink to a friend, of course we can go all the way to Mississauga Road with it, which is just where Queen Street ends).

 

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