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Bayview and Sheppard: Toronto's most congested intersections

Electrify

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Bayview and Sheppard is crazy, say the weary navigators of the most congested intersection in Toronto.

It’s ridiculous, surreal and out-of-control.

In peak hours it can take four red lights to get through it to the 401 tantalizingly visible from her nearby condo building, says Brenda Mazlow.

The eight-year veteran of the intersection has given up making the “impossible†left turn from Sheppard Ave to Bayview and the 401 on-ramp.

And the neverending condo buildings popping up in the area are making it worse, she says.

The condominium boom is being blamed for the fact that five of the city’s 10 most congested intersections are on Sheppard Ave.

Councillor David Shiner, whose Willowdale ward has two of the busiest at Sheppard and Bayview and Sheppard and Leslie, says it’s only going to worsen as more developments get approved.

“You haven’t seen nothing yet,†Shiner said, during discussion Thursday about the clogged intersections at council’s public works and infrastructure committee.

Shiner noted that just this week, the North York community council gave its blessing to 4,000 new condo units, the latest phase in a massive 20-hectare development on Sheppard between Bayview Ave. and Leslie St.

Last month, the North York Community Council opposed a 2,100-unit development on Sheppard just west of Leslie St. A final decision is expected at the Ontario Municipal Board.

At Yonge and Sheppard — No. 2 on the most congested list — a huge development is going up on the southeast corner with towers of 39- and 45-storeys and about 700 units.

Across Yonge St., just south of Sheppard, construction of two towers of 42 and 32 storeys and 550 units is well under way in the Emerald Park development.

Only two of the 10 most congested streets in Toronto — Canada’s gridlock capital — are downtown and none of the clogged arteries have streetcar tracks.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the city’s public works committee, requested the list from city staff. He provided the answers in a letter tabled at Thursday’s public works meeting.

Only York St. and Lake Shore Blvd. fall within the boundaries of the downtown transportation study being conducted this year.

The committee voted to request the transportation department to examine each of the clogged streets and report back in the fall on how to improve traffic flow on them.

Shiner blamed city transportation staff for not raising objections when proposed developments come up for approval.

“Our transportation department does not in any way, ever, stand up and fight any of these applications with a strong message to say that they won’t work unless you put the public transit in.â€

While the Sheppard subway runs from Yonge St. east to Don Mills Rd., Shiner called it a partial subway line given that it was originally intended to go all the way to Scarborough Town Centre.

Last year, the Toronto Board of Trade warned the gridlock crisis will only worsen and, using 2006 census data, ranked the GTA dead last of 21 North American cities for average commute time. Some 70 per cent of Torontonians drive to work.

GTA politicians are increasingly looking at new revenue sources to fight gridlock. Last week, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion used a meeting with Premier Dalton McGuinty to push for a new tax to help fund transit and other initiatives. McGuinty was noncommittal.

Mayor Rob Ford has, in the past, resisted talk of road tolls and other so-called revenue tools, instead pushing for private investment to help build subways while blaming streetcars for gridlock.

In March, before losing a vote on light-rail expansion in Toronto at council, Ford said Torontonians “don’t want these damned streetcars blocking up our city.â€

But on Tuesday, in a surprise move, Ford’s executive committee endorsed Councillor Josh Matlow’s call for a regional working group to look at ways to fund transit expansion in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1211295--toronto-s-10-worst-streets-for-traffic-gridlock (includes map and listing of the worst intersections and roads)

I think the problem is that there is too much traffic being infused into these areas because of the increase of density along with the 401. Along many suburban and rural highways in the US, the areas surrounding highway interchanges are of very low density and sprawling. While poor urban form, it does the job of allowing the surrounding streets absorb the influx of traffic.

This is more proof that west-east rapid transit in North York (along with intensification) should have been located along Finch instead of Sheppard.
 

scarberiankhatru

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http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1211295--toronto-s-10-worst-streets-for-traffic-gridlock (includes map and listing of the worst intersections and roads)

I think the problem is that there is too much traffic being infused into these areas because of the increase of density along with the 401. Along many suburban and rural highways in the US, the areas surrounding highway interchanges are of very low density and sprawling. While poor urban form, it does the job of allowing the surrounding streets absorb the influx of traffic.

This is more proof that west-east rapid transit in North York (along with intensification) should have been located along Finch instead of Sheppard.

That makes no sense. Sheppard has always been busy and intensely developed with places people are actually going to and from and it's the place that makes the most sense as an east/west transit corridor. It was congested long before they started any of the condos a decade ago.

But two things. One, a 5km stubway that leads to an overcrowded Yonge line is just not enough to do much for congestion. Obviously. Two, the road network was botched. There are no roads parallel to Sheppard longer than a couple of blocks. Every driver from these new condos is forced to go onto Sheppard, and if they're travelling north or south they're forced onto Bayview.
 

Electrify

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That makes no sense. Sheppard has always been busy and intensely developed with places people are actually going to and from and it's the place that makes the most sense as an east/west transit corridor. It was congested long before they started any of the condos a decade ago.

But two things. One, a 5km stubway that leads to an overcrowded Yonge line is just not enough to do much for congestion. Obviously. Two, the road network was botched. There are no roads parallel to Sheppard longer than a couple of blocks. Every driver from these new condos is forced to go onto Sheppard, and if they're travelling north or south they're forced onto Bayview.

Sheppard has not ALWAYS been busy and intensely developed. It was a country suburban road until at least the late-1960s, if not 1970s. Here is a picture of Sheppard and what is now Leslie taken in 1964:

fo0217_ser0249_f0217_s0249_fl0159_it0001.jpg


Here is an aerial from 1967:

1967+-+173a.jpg


http://cityinthetrees.blogspot.ca/search/label/Sheppard Avenue

With the 401 nearby, the planners should have designed Sheppard as wide and open as possible. Something comparable to Highway 7, more or less. Look here at how Route 46 follows Interstate 80 in New Jersey as another example:

http://goo.gl/maps/MtDO

No question it is poor urban form, but for areas surrounding major highways, the goal SHOULDN'T be to create an urban form. It should be to filter the traffic influx as not to overcrowd the more urban neighbourhoods located away from the highway. Rather than building condos along Sheppard and the 401, they should have built motor inns, outlet malls, etc. and saved the higher density developments and transit along Finch Ave.
 

scarberiankhatru

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Sheppard has not ALWAYS been busy and intensely developed. It was a country suburban road until at least the late-1960s, if not 1970s. Here is a picture of Sheppard and what is now Leslie taken in 1964:

That's like saying, "Yonge has not ALWAYS been our intensely developed main street. Here's a woodcut etching of Simcoe surveying the future Yonge Street. Look at the all the trees and lack of development."

With the 401 nearby, the planners should have designed Sheppard as wide and open as possible. Something comparable to Highway 7, more or less. Look here at how Route 46 follows Interstate 80 in New Jersey as another example:

No question it is poor urban form, but for areas surrounding major highways, the goal SHOULDN'T be to create an urban form. It should be to filter the traffic influx as not to overcrowd the more urban neighbourhoods located away from the highway. Rather than building condos along Sheppard and the 401, they should have built motor inns, outlet malls, etc. and saved the higher density developments and transit along Finch Ave.

So Sheppard should be more like Hwy 7? Uh, yeah, because that street is such a model of free-flowing traffic with no concentrations of development or jobs or stores along it...
 

valkoholic

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The main issue is the poximity of the 401 to Sheppard. Bad things happen when you put highways too close to arterial roads (i.e. can't develop parrallel service roads) which is why most 400-series highways split concessions down the middle.

There are solutions to the problem that may help somewhat, but the area is too rich for 1950's style transportation improvements. Probably be easier for people just to take the subway.
 

Electrify

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That's like saying, "Yonge has not ALWAYS been our intensely developed main street. Here's a woodcut etching of Simcoe surveying the future Yonge Street. Look at the all the trees and lack of development."

When we are discussing a master plan which began to be drawn up in the 1980s, if not earlier, referring back to the 1960s is not an unrealistic time frame. Regardless, I assumed it was clear in my initial post that I was referencing a time before Sheppard was built up, but possibly I assumed too much. So let me clarify myself: in the 1960s-70s when North York's Official Plan was being constructed, they should have designated the areas along Sheppard to remain low density and focused intensification and rapid transit along Finch.

So Sheppard should be more like Hwy 7? Uh, yeah, because that street is such a model of free-flowing traffic with no concentrations of development or jobs or stores along it...

While there are plenty of areas along Highway 7 which are highly congested, between Keele St and Bayview Ave there is usually very little congestion. Point is that Sheppard should have been designed as a semi-limited access roadway where it is closest to the 401.
 

Urban Shocker

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Sheppard has not ALWAYS been busy and intensely developed. It was a country suburban road until at least the late-1960s, if not 1970s. Here is a picture of Sheppard and what is now Leslie taken in 1964:

fo0217_ser0249_f0217_s0249_fl0159_it0001.jpg

I lived near Bayview and Sheppard ( Carluke Crescent ) in 1970 and 1971, and your description of Sheppard as, "a country suburban road" is pretty accurate for that time, though the widening happened soon after. By 1976 a couple of rental apartment towers had been built just to the east of Bayview Village Shopping Centre. I went to high school at York Mills Collegiate in '70/71 and there was still undeveloped land over at Leslie.
 

datamouse

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I couldn't imagine wanting to use the 401 during rush hour if it could be avoided. There's many questions here as to why people are still using their cars along Sheppard. Are they commuting to a location not served by transit? Does their job require the use of a car? Is it attachment to the car culture that is so closely linked to suburbia? Are they avoiding using the equally crowed Yonge line?
 

James

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If I can add my 2¢, a lot of the traffic build-up on Sheppard Avenue at Bayview Avenue, Leslie Street and Yonge Street is simply volume in the evenings. I believe a large number of people are using these arteries (both from north of Sheppard and from south of Sheppard) instead of the DVP/404 for their evening commute towards the 401. From the south, York Mills Road is far enough away from the 401 that cars have an opportunity to spread out by the time you hit the light just before the 401 on-ramp. From the north however, Sheppard is so close to the 401 that those dreaded turns from Sheppard to Yonge, Bayview or Leslie are inevitably going to get backed up.

Don Mills is not quite as bad going northbound to Sheppard since it does have 3 lanes (2 + an HOV) but there is no access to the 401. The lack of an on-ramp to the 401 is probably also the reason Bathurst Street isn't worse than it is. Victoria Park southbound towards the 401 gets pretty congested as well, again likely due to the commuters trying to access the 401 but avoid the 404 backup starting at Finch Avenue all the way to the 401 on-ramp.
 

scarberiankhatru

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When we are discussing a master plan which began to be drawn up in the 1980s, if not earlier, referring back to the 1960s is not an unrealistic time frame. Regardless, I assumed it was clear in my initial post that I was referencing a time before Sheppard was built up, but possibly I assumed too much. So let me clarify myself: in the 1960s-70s when North York's Official Plan was being constructed, they should have designated the areas along Sheppard to remain low density and focused intensification and rapid transit along Finch.

While there are plenty of areas along Highway 7 which are highly congested, between Keele St and Bayview Ave there is usually very little congestion. Point is that Sheppard should have been designed as a semi-limited access roadway where it is closest to the 401.

I guess it was obvious that when I said Sheppard was always a busy, developed road, I was talking about after it was farmland. Guess not. The area went from farmland to having office parks, malls, apartments, etc., in one development cycle. Look at the hospital getting built next to a farm. Sheppard was not a low-rise suburban artery lined with strip malls and houses before it was built up...like much of Toronto, the towers were essentially built right out of the cornfields. The traffic predates the post-2000 condos. Sure, the condos have made it more difficult to make a few left turns on certain streets, but the bulk of the congestion is due to growth to the north and east. There's a heck of a lot more people driving to Bayview Village/Loblaws/Ikea/Fairview/NYGH than there is driving to those NY Towers condos with the snazzy roofs, to say nothing of 905ers and Scarberians using it as a through-route. Sheppard was a congested mess before the condos.

Hwy 7 is less congested between Keele and Bayview because it's a limited-access traffic funnel with few intersections or driveways and nothing along it that anyone is going to or from. And what a wonderful part of town it is!

Stretches of Kennedy and Markham right off the 401 are also amongst the most congested. The issue is not condos or whatever the most recent individual development is. The congestion is due to a massive concentration of people and trip generators near the 401 and the fact that arterial roads can't move as many people as a highway can. That's all it is.
 

Tacoma

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This is more proof that west-east rapid transit in North York (along with intensification) should have been located along Finch instead of Sheppard.

I live in the Leslie/Sheppard area. This problem isn't east-west on Sheppard, but rather going south on Leslie during rush hour in the morning. The problem is poor planning as there's another traffic light about 150 feet south of Sheppard where North York General Hospital is located, and then another traffic light about 100 ft further south where the 401 intersects and then, believe it or not, still another one about 150 ft later just south of the 401.

This is what's causing the gridlock at the intersections, too many lights so close together. I don't see how putting the east-west subway at Finch instead of Sheppard is going to help.
 

Palma

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I still find it hard to believe 2 of the most congested ares are along Sheppard (where Ford wanted that subway extension. I have driven along Sheppard from Keele to east of Yonge and never saw any congestion
 

rpgr

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Sheppard was always congested during peak time. I remember taking the bus to Yonge subway and at it's worst, Don Mills > Yonge (where we have the stubway now) could take upwards of 1 hour.

The problem stems from the intensification of suburbia North, in Richmond Hill and Markham and the increasing developments. Bayview, Yonge and Warden are the major roads that people take North and South from the areas to the 401. There is no way to fix it short of having a real GTA (not just downtown Toronto) mass transit. The problem is less East-West (thanks to the subway now) but North-South. Even building a single new subway wouldn't really help. There has to be an actual network criss-crossing along the entire GTA.
 

W. K. Lis

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Sheppard was always congested during peak time. I remember taking the bus to Yonge subway and at it's worst, Don Mills > Yonge (where we have the stubway now) could take upwards of 1 hour.

The problem stems from the intensification of suburbia North, in Richmond Hill and Markham and the increasing developments. Bayview, Yonge and Warden are the major roads that people take North and South from the areas to the 401. There is no way to fix it short of having a real GTA (not just downtown Toronto) mass transit. The problem is less East-West (thanks to the subway now) but North-South. Even building a single new subway wouldn't really help. There has to be an actual network criss-crossing along the entire GTA.

The problem is that there are no real alternate routes. Downtown, you have Queen and King close together, along with Adelaide and Richmond as alternative routes. Bay and Church are alternative north-south routes. For Sheppard, you just have Sheppard. For Bayview, you just have Bayview. The 401 blocks other alternative routes. And if the city wants to build alternatives roadways, the NIMBYs would cause an uprising.
 

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