Friday, November 1, 2013

Dundas/Carlaw Corridor Planning Study: Documents - and a little reflection on what it all meant...

A follow up is required on my last post on the Dundas/Carlaw Corridor Study - which I posted at "Ward 30 Bikes" blog:

That planners at the Dundas/Carlaw Corridor Study Workshop meeting didn't accent transportation in the lead-in address was distressing.

Transportation is a key element in urban development and redevelopment - especially in the old City of Toronto (Toronto/East York). In any planning study, transportation should be one of perhaps four cornerstone elements that should be addressed in combination. Other cornerstones might be: Building Height; Density; and Pubic Benefits. Transportation cannot be ignored when discussing the other three cornerstones - transportation is central to our lives in countless ways, and effect all the other cornerstones uniquely.

The Province has a 25 year plan to double population density in Ontario's urban places. But there is no more room to build new streets - especially in our older the inner cities. This means that transportation infrastructure is going to come under even greater pressure than it already is.

So progressive thinking planners ("New Urbanism") have come up with a way forward - they call their vision, 'Complete Streets'. This means narrowing or removing car lanes; increasing the amount of public transit infrastructure; widening sidewalks; and adding bicycle infrastructure to the roadway. The City of Toronto has recognized that Complete Streets is a good idea and has instituted a plan to make all city roadways Complete Streets in the coarse of scheduled maintenance or reconstruction.

In practice (in my recent experience, re: Leslie Street Reconstruction) this has meant that no new room is being made available for other modes - unless there is a cyclist/pedestrian lobby that lobbies for it - and further - only if that lobby does not receive a lot of push-back from the car driving, and car parking lobby. So far, all progress on this has been left in the hands of the local City Councillor - as a way of minimizing push-back from the entrenched, ubiquitous and powerful car lobby.

The road forward out of city wide gridlock and congestion is a tough one - even though our transportation grid is critically broken, many honest drivers don't understand how lower speed limits, and making more road space available for other modes of transport will reduce their commute times and grid-lock stress. In fact, when they see these kinds of plans they often react badly - incensed that some stupid politician with a bureaucratic plan is responding to a tiny lobby (bikes) that if instituted, would undoubtedly further destroy their ability to use the car effectively in their lives.

While the Complete Streets idea can appear to be a bad idea at first glance - once they are instituted the counter-intuitive recommendations within the Complete Streets protocols actually turn out to be good for all road users.

In the Dundas/Carlaw Corridor Study - transportation needs to be a central theme in the discussion. This article is an attempt to begin to make that so.

I said (in the article linked at the top) that bikes were not mentioned by anyone except the public participants at the first Dundas/Carlaw Corridor Study Workshop - and this is true --- but I did find a reference to cycling in the documents presented at the meeting posted the day after at

Below is an image I made from the City of Toronto Planning documents where cycling is mentioned - in the section titled "Neighbourhood Improvement Plan", Point #4 - "Transportation: improve TTC, bicycle and pedestrian systems and coordinate parking."

Neighbourhood Improvement Plan
(via "Carlaw + Dundas Community Workshop" - page 13 - City of Toronto Planning)

For reference - here's the City of Toronto Planning, "Dundas/Carlaw Corridor Study" map:

Dundas/Carlaw Corridor Study Map
(via "Carlaw + Dundas Community Workshop" - page 5 - City of Toronto Planning)

Public Benefits

Planners and Councilor Fletcher came up with some "public benefits" proposals - gleaned I expect from feedback the Councillor was/is getting from the neighbourhood. They included: Repave Carlaw; Add better street lighting; Add street furniture; Add public art; Green everything that we can green; Add 'neck-downs' Colgate; Put in the triangular park on the north west corner of Carlaw & Dundas; Add a Theatre space and 'Community Hub', as part of the tower development on the north-east corner of Dundas and Carlaw, (the Theatre will house the long established, award winning "Crow's Theatre" acting company -

During these meetings the deluge of information is absolutely unfathomable to most people I think. Looking through the documents one day later though, I think I see some of the sense of it.

As a transportation advocate, specifically focused on Complete Streets and sustainable development - I didn't understand that transportation infrastructure was on the table in this study (this is my first 'live' (as opposed to the virtual - I participated online, in Round One of the Gardiner East Study).

Perhaps because it's like a 'forest for the trees' thing - transportation networks are so ubiquitous that we become used to it, such that we don't even see it anymore - at least as something we could change, make better perhaps. So perhaps that' how transportation seems to not be a part of this study.  But the kinds of changes I'm advocating for here are Provincial and City Policy - but they are not terribly popular or well understood - so they remain side bars, so to speak - when they should be headlines across the top of the front page.

Provincial Biking Policy - #CycleON released Spring 2013 (sees Complete Streets as the urban formula they wish to proceed with) -
City of Toronto Complete Streets Policy - TMMIS - Complete Streets

At the next public consultation, I'll be sure to be prepared with some talking points around redefining Transportation Infrastructure - so as to get more, and more focused, cycling infrastructure feedback for Planners.

If we are serious about a complete streets redevelopment protocols - and we should be VERY serious about them - then we need to make transportation alternatives to the car model transportation development of the past half century central to our redevelopment process - at every turn (so to speak  :).

Colgate avenue was the one road treatment suggested in the presentation. It is a great idea. Colgate Ave., is a short street that comes off the west side of Carlaw about 300 metres north of Queen; and leads two blocks west over to Jimmy Simpson Park. People who live in the area can then walk, or bike, or roller blade, or push baby strollers - along that route to the park - in a relatively peaceful and serine environ compared to the busy Carlaw Ave.. Its part of an off-arterial route from the Dundas Bike Lanes that I regularly use to avoid Queen; in order to use the Queen street railway under-pass 'gateway' to get to Riverdale and Riverside on Queen. I expect other cyclists use this off-arterial route as well.

If what I thought I saw at the meeting (concerning the long discussion of bicycle issues) is what I think it is - a change in life style away from a car-centred one - then the Dundas Bike Lanes need to be a serious part of this discussion. With a little leadership, this should become obvious - if it is true - at the next meeting.

How do we get to them? Where do we park our bikes? Should the Dundas Bike Lanes be separated bike lanes? Should we make Carlaw (or Logan?) into a north-south cycling route?

Increasing Density

Using the "Approved Redevelopment Sites" map (see below), I counted 700 new units that have come on the residential market by now, over the last 8 to 10 years - and in the next year or so, 300 more will come onto the market.

Approved Redevelopment Sites
(via "Carlaw + Dundas Community Workshop" - page 9 - City of Toronto Planning)

Happy hundreds of new ward voters is extremely important.

The street right now - looks like hell - what with all the construction that seems to be never-ending... . Plus at night, I think Carlaw along this stretch might be one of the most dangerous streets in Toronto. It's dark, and there are all kinds of nooks and crannies where who knows what's going on. Better lighting is required, and not just street lights - but artistic lighting on building faces that highlight beautiful architecture - and at the same time open up the shadows... .

If I lived in those buildings at this time, I wouldn't want to come home after dark via anything other than a safe car. But we know that everyone driving a car, is not sustainable - or desirable. To achieve the move away from the car mode centred development, we need a design process with a lot more thought put into it - and with a lot more feed back from the neighbourhood.

Now that we've seen the planning documents the discussion can only now begin to become very deep.

In my opinion, these public redevelopment process discussions need to have a longer time period arch - that allow at least three public consultations, rather than this hurried two - with it's projected study completion date set for Spring 2014.

Lets be honest - there is a lot of fear around these kinds of things - people are worried that big money is pulling strings everywhere; and that the politicians are worried about the economy more than they're worried about the community; and that the City's thinking about the tax base increases inherent in high rise development; and the developers are eagerly looking forward to super-profits that they can realize with high rise development.

But from what I see at these public consultations - people just what a neighborhood that feels like a neighbourhood - rather than super-high densities at arterial intersections populated with these wall-of-glass money-making-machines that add local volume congestion to the already congested 'highways' that run through these neighbourhoods.

The alternative to this arterial-intersection high-rise development that the big money developers are pushing - is a more spread out development vision. A plan where 4 story walk-ups apartment buildings spring up across the Ward; where home owners are allowed to add top-story additions onto their homes - or reconstruct garages into apartments; or build apartments above their garages; or build new buildings on their properties to rent out to tenants. This kind of development will help families struggling with mortgages, and will create tight-knit communities - rather than isolating, vertically stacked boxes that can over time, easily degrade the value of an area due to social disease - resulting in 'vertical slums' and dangerous surrounds.

Complete Streets - Sustainable Transportation Redevelopment

Complete Streets understands that the street grid is full - it cannot move any more cars than it is right now, and the geographic reality is that we cannot just build more roads - there is no more room. Thus, with a view to moving people - rather than the vehicles they chose to use - we come upon the idea of counting 'trips' rather than cars.

Trips can happen by walking, rollerblading, bicycling, e-biking, public transit, or by driving. But - so the thinking goes - all our transportation infrastructure is built solely to move cars and trucks safely. Thus - to accommodate more 'trips' - we need to redesign our street grid to accommodate other forms safely. So far, here in this city, this has meant bike lanes. But the vision is more than bike lanes - it envisions changes to roadways from property line to property line.

The image below is an architects' drawing of a Complete Street - from a Dylan Reid article at Spacing Toronto "Re-engineering road standards for cities" (image via Urban Street Design Guide:

The idea is to make the street feel like it is safe to walk, safe to bike on. It can include sloping curbs - that indicate pedestrians and small wheels may move here, textured and coloured surfaces - that indicate which mode of transport belongs where; it can include narrower driving lanes - which cause drivers to slow down; it can include separated bicycle lanes with concrete planters separating car and bike lanes - that make riders feel like bicycling is an accepted mode of transport; sidewalks can be made wider and more green and art can be added there - so pedestrians aren't over-whelmed by the other, faster modes. Complete Streets holds Public Transit as extremely important within the model - for it's demonstrated ability to move masses of people efficiently.

It is a brilliant new way to look at transportation, and its' got legs - it's not going away.

This is the 'War on the Car' that reactionaries talk about. But it's not a war on the car. Drivers can understand that more trips being accomplished by means other than the car - means there will be more room on our roadways for cars!

Complete Streets is a fact, it's coming. And there's no getting away from it - if our cities are to remain powerful economic engines into the future.

How do we apply 'Complete Streets' to Carlaw?

So on Carlaw and Dundas, lets think about:

Where do we park our bikes safely? How do we get to the bike infrastructure already in place via a dangerous car-clogged Carlaw? Will the Dundas Lanes be separated Bike Lanes soon? How does one get down to the Lower Don Recreational Trail along the north side of Lake Shore Boulevard (a huge bicycle commute route)?

Let's talk about:

Broadening the sidewalks on Carlaw; plant lots more trees. Narrow the roadways in order to slow traffic, take out one side of the on-street parking; instal a two way cycle track as part of a north-south bike corridor that connects the Carlaw/Dundas Neighbourhood to the Portlands and via a fly-over bridge acorss the Turning Basin -to the Lake Front - and north also, up to the Danforth ... so that cyclists will feel like they can commute to work safely and efficiently by means other than the car mode. So Transit users can walk a pleasant walk down to the Queen Car in the morning. So school children can ride their bikes to school, (which no sane parent would allow in this city now), instead of being driven every morning.

All this instead of this hellish noise, smell and stress bursting by like a raging river torrent for six hours every work day - morning, noon and night.

There we go. Now a Complete Streets discussion about Carlaw has begun. :)

References: TIMMIS | Agenda Item History | Dundas/Carlaw Corridor Study |

Councillor Paula Fletcher web | Community Planning in Ward 30 - Carlaw Dundas Study |

LINKS: (via Councillor Paula Fletcher, web) - Dundas/Carlaw Corridor Study, October 24, Community Workshop #1: Agenda, Presentation, Workshop Questions,

Spacing Toronto "REID: Re-engineering road standards for cities" September 24, 2013 - by Dylan Reid -

National Association of City Transportation Officials (New York) - "Urban Street Design Guide" -


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