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Potential for Maple GO Station development

reaperexpress

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During this summer's GO Barrie Line weekend service trial, ridership was not very high, and that is probably because there are almost no destinations along the line other than Barrie and Downtown Toronto. Most stops have little around them except subdivisions and parking lots.

I think Maple GO Station is a great location for a development which would be a major destination, for shopping and for work. It has tons of vacant land, and is very close to destinations such as historic Maple and Vaughan City Hall. The development would also aim to improve bicycle access to the station by creating a network of bicycle paths centred around the station and providing plenty of weather-protected bicycle parking.

All the City of Vaughan seems to be doing with the site is to slowly develop it with unpleasant big-box stores. The site is currently home to a Lowe's and a WalMart, the latter of which was built since the Google image was taken in 2009.

What do you think of this idea? Feasible? Unrealistic? Flawed?

Overview

Here's the site plan, showing my proposal (Click here for full size image)
gorutherfordredevelopme.jpg


The main street would be Eagle Rock Way, lined with shops with big-box stores and apartments above. Motorized vehicles would not be permitted except for deliveries and maintenance.
gorutherfordeaglerock.jpg


McNaughton avenue would serve as a ring road around the site. It would continue to be a suburban arterial, but now with bike paths:
gorutherfordmcnaughton.jpg


Detailed Site Tour

For a better sense of the pictures' locations, they are all geotagged in the Flickr set

Looking south across Major Mackenzie from Station Road:
There would be a bicycle/pedestrian bridge here, providing access to the residential areas southeast of the station.
There would also be an identical bridge on the other side of the tracks providing access to Vaughan City Hall (visible on the right) and the southwest residential areas.
8064380765_e6db55a07c_z.jpg



Closeup of Major Mackenzie Overpass:
This segment of the Barrie line (from Union to Newmarket) is prepared for double tracks. Note the extra space on the bridge.
8064385605_48c65891db_z.jpg



Hill Street looking north:
Still at the same spot, looking the opposite direction. Hill Street would be redesigned for bicycles. Car parking could potentially remain.
8064389899_6d9d5bac2b_z.jpg



Looking northeast toward Hill Street and Station Street:
Note the topography of the site. It would naturally have been a gradual hill up from the tracks to Troon Avenue. But to accommodate the massive surface parking lots, the land has been divided into two flatter levels by a concrete retaining wall. We should restore a more gradual topography, such that the Eagle Rock would be on a continuous 4.5% grade from Troon to the station.
8064396684_423e7bd11d_z.jpg



Looking south at the station from McNaughton:
There is plenty of room for a second track and platform on the west side of the station.
8064406511_8a884db647_z.jpg



Looking southeast toward Troon Avenue and Eagle Rock:
A WalMart was recently built on the southeast corner. I'd replace it with a line of shops/apartments, followed by rows of townhouses with garages in the back (hence the alleyways).
8064413915_19ffaf2142_z.jpg



My two main sources of inspiration for this design were the Paseo Colorado mall in Pasadena California, and the town of Houten in The Netherlands. Paseo Colorado is an example of a successful pedestrian mall in a car-dependant environment, while Houten uses a network of bike paths to achieve an incredibly high bike-and-ride rate at its central station.
 
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RC8

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I like the idea but I'm not sure it'd work where proposed. Maple really is as bad as a placed can get in terms of a conducive atmosphere for street retail. The main culprit being the lack of a real street grid and ridiculously low-densities/wide streets.

I spent quite a bit of time in Streetsville when my girlfriend lived there, and as pedestrian friendly as the core was, we were the only people who would walk 5 minutes from a subdivision to the stores on Queen St. The lack of a real grid or human-scaled paths meant that a psychological barrier was erected between the newer residential neighbourhoods and the stuff in the middle.

Your proposal would be so isolated from its immediate surroundings that it wouldn't be a major asset to its present community other than as a drive-to destination. Houten is very well connected throughout thanks to its human-scaled streets and bike paths. The conversion of Maple to a people-friendly place would require massive amounts of change unless you are aiming for essentially a fancy liveable mall.

Clusters of development as you propose would be most viable and beneficial to the city in places like Keelesdale, I believe. Many of these inner city suburbs have become a cartoon of themselves and no longer offer many tangible advantages in terms of traffic, noise, pollution, or crime. Turning parts of them into self-contained yet well-connected cycling/waling havens would naturally spark an expansion of these principles.

See the place I have in mind here:

https://maps.google.ca/maps?q=Keele...onto,+Toronto+Division,+Ontario&z=16&lci=bike
 

Memph

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I like the idea but I'm not sure it'd work where proposed. Maple really is as bad as a placed can get in terms of a conducive atmosphere for street retail. The main culprit being the lack of a real street grid and ridiculously low-densities/wide streets.

I spent quite a bit of time in Streetsville when my girlfriend lived there, and as pedestrian friendly as the core was, we were the only people who would walk 5 minutes from a subdivision to the stores on Queen St. The lack of a real grid or human-scaled paths meant that a psychological barrier was erected between the newer residential neighbourhoods and the stuff in the middle.

Your proposal would be so isolated from its immediate surroundings that it wouldn't be a major asset to its present community other than as a drive-to destination. Houten is very well connected throughout thanks to its human-scaled streets and bike paths. The conversion of Maple to a people-friendly place would require massive amounts of change unless you are aiming for essentially a fancy liveable mall.

Clusters of development as you propose would be most viable and beneficial to the city in places like Keelesdale, I believe. Many of these inner city suburbs have become a cartoon of themselves and no longer offer many tangible advantages in terms of traffic, noise, pollution, or crime. Turning parts of them into self-contained yet well-connected cycling/waling havens would naturally spark an expansion of these principles.

See the place I have in mind here:

https://maps.google.ca/maps?q=Keele...onto,+Toronto+Division,+Ontario&z=16&lci=bike
The density and street width of Keelesdale and the area surrounding Maple GO aren't significantly different, but I do agree that Keelesdale is better set up for walkability and intensification, but for different reasons:

-More organic looking residential areas: It looks like the homes in Keelesdale weren't all built at once by the same person. Some of the homes look about 100 years old, some look like they're new tear downs, you've got bungalows, 2 storey homes, semi-detached homes, even some small apartments. Even looking just at the older bungalows for instance, there are a variety of designs and customizations, so it's not as boring.

-The main roads are more pedestrian oriented: Eglinton and Keele are about the same width as McNaughton and Major Mac (all 4 laners), but Eglinton is lined with retail that comes up to the sidewalk, and Keele is lined with houses. Meanwhile, Major Mac and McNaughton are lined by sound barriers, parking lots, berms and streets that are kind of like frontage roads (but residential side streets). Keele and Eglinton also have a lot of intersections while Major Mac and McNaughton have very few. Major Mac and McNaughton are essentially designed like highways with typical driving speeds probably around 60-70km/h, and as a result are unpleasant for pedestrians. Eglinton and Keele are designed more like streets, with speeds of 40-60km/h and are more pedestrian friendly.

-Front yards haven't matured: In Maple, the space between the house and the sidewalk is pretty boring for now, it's just a blank patch of grass and a blank patch of asphalt. People haven't customized their driveways, facades/porches, and front yards like they have in Keelesdale.

-The context of the neighbourhood is autocentric: Even if the area around Maple GO was properly urbanized, it would still be an island of urbanity in a sea of sprawl. Since neighbourhoods don't exist in isolation, and the residents of Maple will have to go to other parts of Vaughan and the surrounding areas, which are by and large autocentric, they will need to use the car a fair bit. And once they have a car (or two), and they're using it, they're more likely to use it within their neighbourhood too. There's also the fact that aside from Maple GO, there's not much transit in the area, so people will still be driving a fair bit here. On the other hand, Keelesdale, if developed properly could become an extension of Old Toronto's urban core. Transit is already pretty good, with plans and potential for further improvement (Eglinton LRT mostly). The surrounding neighbourhoods have decent transit and are fairly pedestrian friendly, so there's a better chance locals won't use the car when going outside their neighbourhood. There's a greater potential for living car free, so you don't have a situation where you might as well use your car since you invested in it.
 

RC8

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We agree - those are not different reasons!

You pretty much summed up and elaborated on the reasoning I used to pick Keelesdale as a good prospect.

With street width I'm referring not just to the street itself but also the size of the driveways and such. Houses on Keelesdale are several metres closer to the street. Also, and I might be dead wrong, but I would think that the residents of a place like Keelesdale would be more willing to try something with the potential to radically improve their neighbourhood while reducing noise and traffic than the people living in the bubbles of Maple. As you point out, chances are if people live in Maple they own a car and see no problem in using it for the most trivial things.

I know people in Mississauga who live across the street (literally!) from Giant Tiger, yet they drive there to do their groceries even if they are buying a very small amount of products. Since they've invested in the car and live in Mississauga, isolated from everything else, they are put off by the idea of walking even the smallest distances.

However, I do think Keelesdale is significantly denser than Maple. You can probably fit 2 Keelesdale houses into the lot of a single house in Maple.
 
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Memph

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We agree - those are not different reasons!

You pretty much summed up and elaborated on the reasoning I used to pick Keelesdale as a good prospect.

With street width I'm referring not just to the street itself but also the size of the driveways and such. Houses on Keelesdale are several metres closer to the street. Also, and I might be dead wrong, but I would think that the residents of a place like Keelesdale would be more willing to try something with the potential to radically improve their neighbourhood while reducing noise and traffic than the people living in the bubbles of Maple. As you point out, chances are if people live in Maple they own a car and see no problem in using it for the most trivial things.

I know people in Mississauga who live across the street (literally!) from Giant Tiger, yet they drive there to do their groceries even if they are buying a very small amount of products. Since they've invested in the car and live in Mississauga, isolated from everything else, they are put off by the idea of walking even the smallest distances.

However, I do think Keelesdale is significantly denser than Maple. You can probably fit 2 Keelesdale houses into the lot of a single house in Maple.

Alright. Well I also agree with a greater likeliness of Keelesdale residents being more likely to allow redevelopment, but I don't really agree that it's much denser. Houses there are on narrow lots, but I think the lots are a bit deeper than in newer parts of Maple (obviously to old part is very low density), and the houses in Maple are bigger and almost always 2 storey, whereas Keelesdale has lots of bungalows.

Keelesdale:
http://goo.gl/maps/kGXjD

One of the denser parts of Maple:
http://goo.gl/maps/rArVi
The houses are further from the street, with wider lots, but they're bigger (wider and taller) and have a much smaller backyard.

Another one of the denser parts of Maple:
http://goo.gl/maps/HTGrM
Houses are on lots about the same width as Keelesdale, but all 2 storey. They're further from the street but again have much smaller backyards.

Lower density block in Maple:
http://goo.gl/maps/ndq01
Lots are considerably wider than in Keelesdale, though I think still a bit shallower. The lots are probably bigger than in Keelesdale, but the houses are bigger.

A lot of this comes down to bigger houses in Maple, but that means bigger household sizes. Keelesdale probably has a lot of couples without children and small families, even single person households.

Regarding the OP: I don't think it's necessary or realistic to have car free streets for bikes. I think having narrow side streets that connect different areas is just fine, that way there won't be too much traffic, and it will be slow moving, so you can still bike on the street safely.

Japan is a good example of how to make this work (beginning of the video).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssaywjBi8QI&feature=player_embedded#!

On commercial streets that would have more traffic, I think you could still have no bike lanes. Living in Waterloo now, a good local example would be King Street in Kitchener. It's only 1 lane each way, so you just take the lane. Cars don't go fast there, so you're not really in their way.
 
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reaperexpress

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I like the idea but I'm not sure it'd work where proposed. Maple really is as bad as a placed can get in terms of a conducive atmosphere for street retail. The main culprit being the lack of a real street grid and ridiculously low-densities/wide streets.

Yes, I knew from the start that it would be a serious challenge to have an active pedestrian atmosphere in a car-dependent area. But that's what I experienced at the Paseo Colorado in Pasadena. Even though most of those people probably drove to the mall, the design likely increases the number of "actual" pedestrians. As well, people who live in the Paseo probably make far fewer car trips than a typical Pasadena resident, thanks to their proximity to retail.

I spent quite a bit of time in Streetsville when my girlfriend lived there, and as pedestrian friendly as the core was, we were the only people who would walk 5 minutes from a subdivision to the stores on Queen St. The lack of a real grid or human-scaled paths meant that a psychological barrier was erected between the newer residential neighbourhoods and the stuff in the middle.

Your proposal would be so isolated from its immediate surroundings that it wouldn't be a major asset to its present community other than as a drive-to destination. Houten is very well connected throughout thanks to its human-scaled streets and bike paths. The conversion of Maple to a people-friendly place would require massive amounts of change unless you are aiming for essentially a fancy liveable mall.

Connectivity is of course a key to a TOD. And as you point out, walking isn't very popular in the suburbs. That's why this design is heavily based on bicycle access, like in Houten. The actual urban form in the new section of Houten isn't all that different from the built form of the new section of Markham, both are bland and low-density. Put in the easy bicycle access, and you have a remarkably similar situation. From any house in the nearby subdivisions, it would be a very short and very pleasant ride to the centre, thanks to the bike paths crossing and paralleling the major arterials.

The low existing rate of cycling isn't so much due to the cycling conditions within the subdivisions, it's due to the cycle-unfriendly retail, transit stations and employment areas.

I think cycling is far less vulnerable to psychological barriers than walking, because speeds are several times higher. When you're walking, you quickly get bored with the bland suburban atmosphere, but on a bicycle it passes by so quickly you don't even notice.

Although most of the bike paths are within the site, the range of bicycle-friendliness is quite large. Those suburbs are not bad to ride a bike around, it's just that there's nowhere to go. Given a way to comfortably cross major arterials and access destinations, people will cycle far more.

As for benefiting the community, I think it would indeed be a fancy liveable mall. But it's a mall that would have a much more healthy modal share, and also accommodates a large number of residents and jobs.

I don't think it's necessary or realistic to have car free streets for bikes. I think having narrow side streets that connect different areas is just fine, that way there won't be too much traffic, and it will be slow moving, so you can still bike on the street safely.

Japan is a good example of how to make this work (beginning of the video).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssaywjBi8QI&feature=player_embedded#!

On commercial streets that would have more traffic, I think you could still have no bike lanes. Living in Waterloo now, a good local example would be King Street in Kitchener. It's only 1 lane each way, so you just take the lane. Cars don't go fast there, so you're not really in their way.

I know for a fact that it's practical to have popular car-free retail streets in the suburbs, because that's what malls are.

I'm quite familiar with King Street in Kitchener, actually.

I actually really enjoy cruising along with traffic in areas like King Street. It's really cool to be able to do everything a car can, but on a bike. But when traffic is heavy enough that it isn't practical for cars to pass using the opposing lane, a pleasant ride depends on being able to keep up with traffic.

The bike I ride in Waterloo is a single-speed, geared very low. So my speed is fixed at 22km/h. Even on King Street, that's a bit low for me to take the lane without cars getting upset. It was actually quite an eye-opening experience to ride down King on a single-speed, since that must be the way it feels for children and elderly people who are unable to cruise along at traffic speeds.

So even though the low-speed single-lane design might be fine for you and me, it's not suitable for a significant portion of the population, and I don't think it's practical for a retail area to exclude such a large number of potential customers.

As well, I'd point out that the infrastructure required to get people to cycle is not the same as the infrastructure that is good for people who already cycle. The quiet street with no bike lanes is a great example. They may be great for people who are riding bicycles, but someone who doesn't cycle isn't going to look at those streets and consider the possibility of cycling. A bike lane is more of a thought provoker.
 
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Memph

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I know for a fact that it's practical to have popular car-free retail streets in the suburbs, because that's what malls are.

I'm quite familiar with King Street in Kitchener, actually.

I actually really enjoy cruising along with traffic in areas like King Street. It's really cool to be able to do everything a car can, but on a bike. But when traffic is heavy enough that it isn't practical for cars to pass using the opposing lane, a pleasant ride depends on being able to keep up with traffic.

The bike I ride in Waterloo is a single-speed, geared very low. So my speed is fixed at 22km/h. Even on King Street, that's a bit low for me to take the lane without cars getting upset. It was actually quite an eye-opening experience to ride down King on a single-speed, since that must be the way it feels for children and elderly people who are unable to cruise along at traffic speeds.

So even though the low-speed single-lane design might be fine for you and me, it's not suitable for a significant portion of the population, and I don't think it's practical for a retail area to exclude such a large number of potential customers.

As well, I'd point out that the infrastructure required to get people to cycle is not the same as the infrastructure that is good for people who already cycle. The quiet street with no bike lanes is a great example. They may be great for people who are riding bicycles, but someone who doesn't cycle isn't going to look at those streets and consider the possibility of cycling. A bike lane is more of a thought provoker.
How about something like this then, instead of what King Street is like? http://goo.gl/maps/o75P5

I don't side streets are going to be an obstacle, at least that hasn't been my experience. The suburb I lived in in my teens had lots of quiet side streets with no sidewalks and all my neighbours were perfectly comfortable using it for walking, biking or playing. I started biking to school and the community pool using a slightly busier collector street pretty early in my teens too, it was considered pretty normal. The Tokyo example (basically woonerfs) is probably even better for side streets since it's too narrow for cars to go faster than 20-25km/h.

King street is busier, so for those kinds of streets, you'd have to slow them down (like in the New Zealand example).

Regarding your map, I would also add some sort of crossing at Troon Ave and consider allowing bikes on all the pedestrian streets, or at least on the pedestrian bridge.

Another possibility for big box retail would be to have it in the middle of the building and line it with small shops along the streets (except for the big box entrance).
 

reaperexpress

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How about something like this then, instead of what King Street is like? http://goo.gl/maps/o75P5

I like that a lot. As long as it allows bi-directional bicycle traffic, it's a great example.

One reason I wanted the centre to be completely car-free is to avoid the need of traffic controls (such as stop signs or stoplights), maximizing speed and efficiency for bicycles. Throwing cars into the mix makes intersection interactions considerably more complex, dangerous and stressful.

Regarding your map, I would also add some sort of crossing at Troon Ave and consider allowing bikes on all the pedestrian streets, or at least on the pedestrian bridge.

Good call on the crossing at Troon, it would be a welcome addition.

The reason pedestrian streets are such is that they don't have a bike path. There isn't really any reason for cyclists to want to ride down there anyway, they're mainly for people who are walking to the parking garages. For a cyclist to ride on a pedestrian street, they would have to leave the bike path, which signals to them that they are entering a pedestrian zone. They will know that they no longer have priority, and would ride accordingly (slowly, yielding to pedestrians).

I would have had a bike path on the bridge, except that it would require big ramps. Cyclists are perfectly welcome to take their bikes up the elevator and walk their bikes across. Alternatively, they could park their bike at one of the bicycle parking shelters located on each end of the overpass and walk the rest of their journey to the train or centre.

Another possibility for big box retail would be to have it in the middle of the building and line it with small shops along the streets (except for the big box entrance).

Yes, that is a good alternative. The downside is that it results in much larger building footprints (less walkable).
 
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