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Thread: Design considerations of in median surface transit ROW

  1. Default Design considerations of in median surface transit ROW

    I wasn't sure if this should have its own thread, but I have a general question about design considerations of surface transit right-of-ways that run in the median of existing roads. Please merge with another thread if more appropriate.

    I usually hear that these ROWs do not remove lanes of traffic. However, consider the following scenario:

    Turning lanes usually get backed up into the area where you're not really supposed to drive (e.g. the median on Highway 7 near East Beaver Creek for left turn). If you wait until where the lane actually opens up, most people would not let you in as you are cutting the queue. And I think a lot of the right turn lanes were combined into straight/right-turn lanes in the photos I saw.

    Now with the ROW, we haven't removed any through lanes, but traffic will back up since you no longer have that area to wait (not to mention the fully protected left turn signal you have to wait for).

    Is this typically taken into consideration during the design?


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    Saying ROWs won't remove traffic lanes is one of those 'Hail Mary' statements LRT advocates like to make - sounds good but misses the point.

    Consider these scenarios that you'll face as a driver on a ROWed street:

    If you want to turn LEFT: You can't turn left ANYWHERE on the road, except at major intersections, because of the ROW. If your destination is on the opposite side of the street, you'll probably have to drive past it and make a U-turn. At intersections, you can't turn left on a regular green light; you'll have to wait for the dedicated left turn signal. This will quite often cause longer queues of left-turning vehicles, which may back-up into regular through-traffic lanes.

    If you want to turn RIGHT: You'll have to wait for all those extra pedestrians crossing to and from the ROW (pre-ROW, these people would have stood at the curbside bus stop; now they'll all be walking into the middle of the street, with their strollers and granny carts). At intersections, a good number of dedicated right-turn lanes will be lost (in order to save the left-turn lanes), so again there may be queues of right-turning vehicles backing up into through-traffic lanes.

    If you want to go STRAIGHT: Get ready for longer waits at traffic lights. Thanks to the largely ineffective 'signal priority' system, all the lights at an intersection will turn red whenever a train arrives from EITHER direction. Remember the dedicated left-turn signal will will further delay your straight-ahead green light. Hopefully there won't be queues of left- or right-turning vehicles backing up into your through-traffic lanes, which by the way will be very narrow, so you won't be able to 'squeeze by' anything which happens to block your way or pull over to the curb, like a utility vehicle. You'll just have to come to dead stop, put on your turn signal, and wait to change lanes.

    Sound like fun and a good solution? Just take a drive on any of the ROWed streets in the city - Spadina, St. Clair, Queens Quay - and notice all these things. Then take a drive on the very congested Eglinton or Sheppard East and look around with enlightened eyes. Still think LRT won't worsen gridlock?
    Last edited by Cityminded; 2012-Mar-30 at 14:20.

  3. #3

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    @above

    Every arterial in the city is congested during the rush. Sheppard is no different. And frankly, outside of the rush hours Sheppard East's traffic is pretty sparse. Its pedestrian traffic is even more non-existent.

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    Yeah, the commenter above you makes it sound like U-turn lanes will mean the end of the world as we know it. I remember driving on St. Clair before the ROW and driving on St. Clair afterward. To tell you the truth, I barely noticed the difference, although maybe that's because I compared the situation after the ROW to the situation that immediately preceded it: when the road was under construction. That's actually how most people remember things - not to what it was years ago, but what it was immediately before (i.e. a construction zone), so I don't think most people will care about traffic flow once it opens.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cityminded View Post
    Saying ROWs won't remove traffic lanes is one of those 'Hail Mary' statements LRT advocates like to make - sounds good but misses the point.
    >> Uh, no, it's not. There will be as many traffic lanes after construction of the Eglinton East portion of the LRT was there was beforehand. It sounds good because it's a fact.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cityminded View Post
    Consider these scenarios that you'll face as a driver on a ROWed street:

    If you want to turn LEFT: You can't turn left ANYWHERE on the road, except at major intersections, because of the ROW. If your destination is on the opposite side of the street, you'll probably have to drive past it and make a U-turn. At intersections, you can't turn left on a regular green light; you'll have to wait for the dedicated left turn signal. This will quite often cause longer queues of left-turning vehicles, which may back-up into regular through-traffic lanes.
    >> According to Google maps, there are 8 intersections, of which 5 are major, between Vic Park and Kennedy. Are you seriously saying that it's too much of a burden on the society of car drivers that they can't take a left at three corners?

    http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=Eglinto...tario&t=m&z=14

    Quote Originally Posted by Cityminded View Post
    If you want to turn RIGHT: You'll have to wait for all those extra pedestrians crossing to and from the ROW (pre-ROW, these people would have stood at the curbside bus stop; now they'll all be walking into the middle of the street, with their strollers and granny carts). At intersections, a good number of dedicated right-turn lanes will be lost (in order to save the left-turn lanes), so again there may be queues of right-turning vehicles backing up into through-traffic lanes.

    If you want to go STRAIGHT: Get ready for longer waits at traffic lights. Thanks to the largely ineffective 'signal priority' system, all the lights at an intersection will turn red whenever a train arrives from EITHER direction. Remember the dedicated left-turn signal will will further delay your straight-ahead green light. Hopefully there won't be queues of left- or right-turning vehicles backing up into your through-traffic lanes, which by the way will be very narrow, so you won't be able to 'squeeze by' anything which happens to block your way or pull over to the curb, like a utility vehicle. You'll just have to come to dead stop, put on your turn signal, and wait to change lanes.
    >> hahahaha... so... there's a possibility of congestion? Might I suggest taking the new LRT...

    Quote Originally Posted by Cityminded View Post
    Sound like fun and a good solution? Just take a drive on any of the ROWed streets in the city - Spadina, St. Clair, Queens Quay - and notice all these things. Then take a drive on the very congested Eglinton or Sheppard East and look around with enlightened eyes. Still think LRT won't worsen gridlock?
    Sigh. I drive most Sundays on St. Clair from Mt. Pleasant to Vaughn Road to go to Phil White arena. I travel most Thursday nights from MP to Avenue Road to go to UCC or Bathurst to go to St. Mike's. The ONLY time I have a slowdown is when some butthead driver parks in a 'no standing' zone 'for just a minute' and causes everyone to have to go to one lane. I would humbly suggest that the biggest problem with driving in Toronto is not the TTC, but rather the other drivers.

  6. #6

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    I am sure we all know Cityminded could care less about transit, unless it's a subway so his precious driving time is not impeded by those evil LRT ROWs, and pedestrians! I have driven Spadina, and St. Clair, and I haven't noticed much of a difference in travel time. What I do notice on St. Clair is the on-street parking takes up practically one lane, which can cause some back-up, but that cannot be blamed on the ROW, and obviously no parking is allowed during peak hours.

  7. Default

    Maybe this isn't a concern on Sheppard or the golden mile with so few pedestrians, but on St. Clair I think its often easier to turn left only at intersections. It used to be that you wait in the left lane, blocking other traffic, waiting for gaps in oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Now you wait in a left turn pocket, and get a protected signal. Its probably not faster or slower, but I find the whole process more reliable and less frustrating. I used to live off a minor street that was blocked by the ROW, but my minor inconvenience is balanced against the reliability increase for streetcar riders who aren't blocked at every street and driveway by a turning car.

    The issue of turn lanes overflowing with cars to block travel lanes is not related to the ROW. Its a design issue that happens with any type of road whenever the turning movements are underestimated, or turn signal phases are inadequate.

    I'll also point out that the left turn issue may be a negative for drivers, but there are also positives in removing all bus traffic.

  8. #8

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    Side of the road bus versus middle of the road LRT: Instead of half of the riders crossing all the way across the road, we'll have all of the riders crossing half way across the road. Sounds zero-sum to me.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil View Post
    Side of the road bus versus middle of the road LRT: Instead of half of the riders crossing all the way across the road, we'll have all of the riders crossing half way across the road. Sounds zero-sum to me.
    For me personally, I much prefer curb side lanes, at least for BRT. It's much less disruptive to left-turning traffic, and it has a negligible impact on right-turning traffic if done properly (dedicated right turn lane on the outside of the BRT lane). When I've been driving, I don't think I've ever really encountered a situation where a bus coming up in the bus lane beside me has really impeded my ability to turn right. But I do know that in-median streetcar lines do cause problems for people trying to turn left.

    And yes, I know this makes me sound like I'm favouring the cars over transit, but I'm not. From my experience, I don't think a car crossing over the bus lane to make a right turn has really ever impeded a bus that I've been on either. From the standpoint of route efficiency, in-median vs curb side is a toss-up. As a result, it falls to which is better for vehicle flow, and the answer is curb side.

    I also prefer to have stations on the side of the road as opposed to in the middle. If you're on the same side of the street as your stop, it's much easier to access. Even if it's on the other side, you'll still have to cross the street at the same intersection you would if the stop was in the middle. It may not be shorter in terms of distance walked round trip, but it's definitely faster time wise, because you only have to wait for the light to cross the street once if it's a side configuration, whereas you need to wait twice if it's in-median.

  10. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Neil View Post
    Side of the road bus versus middle of the road LRT: Instead of half of the riders crossing all the way across the road, we'll have all of the riders crossing half way across the road. Sounds zero-sum to me.
    I'd rather cross a one way road of 3 lanes all the time than a two way road of 6 lanes half the time.

  11. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Cityminded View Post
    Still think LRT won't worsen gridlock?
    While true, do you think left turns are worth $300M per km in economic output?

    The expense incurred by limiting left hand turns is more than offset by the extra carrying capacity of the street with LRT. On St. Clair, the infrequent and short tram already carries 50% of the people and could (with larger more frequent vehicles) carry around 80% of the people.

    We can't make St. Clair 10 lanes wide nor do I think it would have been wise to put $1.8B into that street to underground the tram.
    Last edited by rbt; 2012-Mar-30 at 21:45.

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