Three new pedestrian crossovers proposed for Queen’s Park

Final decision to be made on December 17 by City Council

Three new pedestrian crossovers proposed for Queen’s Park

Students trying to cross Queen’s Park may be able to walk with more security as Toronto’s Transportation Services (TS) has proposed three new pedestrian crossovers at popular jaywalking spots. If the measures receive final approval on December 17 from City Council, construction is estimated to begin during the summer of 2021.

Following consultations, the university proposed crossings at areas around Queen’s Park where pedestrians naturally tend to cross. The points of interest were an area at the north roadway of Queen’s Park on Queen’s Park Crescent East; a point on Queen’s Park Crescent West, south of Hoskin Avenue; and a point on Queen’s Park Crescent West, slightly north of the south leg. The study was conducted in April by the TTC, where it observed pedestrian traffic in those three areas during the busiest eight-hour period of weekdays.

The study found that all but the third noted area of concern justified installing a pedestrian crossover, since they had high pedestrian volume and consistent pedestrian delay. Queen’s Park Crescent West, south of Hoskin Avenue, had the highest amount of pedestrian crossings, with 1,323 crossings in the eight-hour period.

Based on these findings, TS recommended installing crossovers in all areas, despite none of the areas meeting all of the standards for pedestrian crossings, as Queen’s Park has nearby driveways and turning movements, alongside three lanes of one-way traffic on both Queen’s Park Crescent East and West. The areas are also in close proximity to other pedestrian crossovers and driveways.

A 2017 investigation by The Varsity found four major road accidents around Queen’s Park in a 10-year period.

Should City Council give final approval during the December 17 meeting, the time between approval and activation would be around 18 months, according to the city. “Traffic control signal installation could be reasonably expected during the summer of 2021,” wrote a city spokesperson in an email to The Varsity. The cost would be about $360,000, depending on the availability of funding.

A report by TS cited U of T traffic as the main reason for requesting the crossings, to improve connectivity and safety. U of T constitutes a “distinct region of urban parkland in the city’s downtown core,” according to the report, which also cited the Ontario Legislative Building, which is built on Queen’s Park, along with its numerous historical monuments as reasons for the new crossovers.

The crossings at Queen’s Park are part of a larger effort by U of T to make the campus more friendly to pedestrians, according to Christine Burke, Director of Campus & Facilities Planning.

“The university proposed these new crossings and we’re very pleased they are moving forward,” wrote Burke in an email to The Varsity. “From consultations, we learned that these crossings are all natural routes for pedestrians, including people travelling back and forth from the University of St. Michael’s College and Victoria University on the east side of Queen’s Park.”

Opinion: UTSG has much to gain from expanding pedestrian-only streets

Willcocks Commons showcases the potential benefits of outdoor community spaces

Opinion: UTSG has much to gain from expanding pedestrian-only streets

UTSG is nestled within Toronto’s downtown core, making it well integrated within the city’s traffic network. While this integration is convenient, the downside is that car-free spaces for pedestrians are limited.

There lingers an ever-present danger for pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents, and so studying in the heart of North America’s fourth-largest city requires students to be extra vigilant when travelling across campus.

As a response to this problem, the university and city have partnered to identify road corridors that may be suitable or appropriate for pedestrian-only spaces over the past decade.

Identifying potential sites for pedestrianization depends on locational features that can be developed to promote an improved flow of and use by foot traffic. Favourable candidate sites should also be supported by an already low traffic-to-pedestrian ratio, to minimize any adverse side effects closure might have for the city’s traffic network.

Through this partnership, two of the campus’ more well-contained streets were identified — both thought to be potential student hotspots — and were piloted for project feasibility.

One of the 2010 pilot sites was Devonshire Place, which runs perpendicular to Harbord Street and connects with Bloor Street on its north end. Ultimately, that site was scrapped as a potential long-term pedestrian space because it was determined there wasn’t enough foot traffic to justify the limitations on motor traffic.

Devonshire Place is not a major city thoroughfare, so it’s easy to appreciate why it was originally selected. However, it’s also understandable why the pilot site was abandoned.

The other site is a section of Willcocks Street, which connects Lash Miller Chemical Laboratories and Sidney Smith Hall between St. George Street and Huron Street. This site was much more promising, and was later approved as a permanent pedestrian space. Its pedestrianization was completed around 2012.

Recently, it has been targeted for a revitalization project, called the Willcocks Commons, to update or expand amenities.

The potential expansion will expand the pedestrian-only corridor to connect with Spadina Avenue.

The revitalization project is headed by DTAH, an architectural firm which has considerable experience in urban design and landscape architecture. The popular Toronto Waterfront and Evergreen Brickworks urban spaces are already under its portfolio.

The project’s first phase, which involved the development of initial design concepts and community consultation, was completed in 2016. The commons have since been put on hold for an indeterminate period of time, while funds are raised that will allow further project development.

The successful example of the Willcocks Commons, with its many amenities and regular usage, suggests how students and the wider U of T community stand to benefit from pedestrianization.

Cordoning off areas on campus from motor traffic isn’t just important for improving campus’ spatial contiguity and traffic safety. These spaces can also serve the community as a public square. Space for hosting outdoor events and facilitating community interactions and exchanges are important for campus’ cultural development and social enrichment. A vibrant and thriving student community is also a key for helping foster a more engaging and inclusive learning environment.

A renewed commitment to long-term investment in community projects, like the Willcocks Commons, is crucially needed, but the lack of funding for revitalization projects is concerning. The administration must not forget the importance of encouraging deeper investment into the campus community.

Oscar Starschild is a second-year Mathematics, Philosophy, and Computer Science student at Woodsworth College.