The Toronto Police Parking Enforcement Unit has provided a handy information kit for BIA members to help explain parking regulations, parking tags, deliveries and other enforcement issues along Roncesvalles. The kit includes contact information, definitions and advice on how you, your suppliers and your customers can avoid parking tickets.
You can download the kit here (1oMB PDF file)
Also, the City of Toronto parking regulations page is here, and more parking information is available on the Toronto Police website. The City’s parking disputes information page is here, and it includes the locations of Parking Tag Operations offices.
The City and the TTC appear to have reached a general consensus on the basic design theme of the street, proposed for the 2008 or 2009 reconstruction of Roncesvalles.
Back in July, the TTC presented a preliminary plan for curb extensions (bumpouts) onto Roncesvalles. The TTC’s plan widened the sidewalk at TTC stops along the entire length of a streetcar. This bumpout would be placed back from the intersection, allowing for a right-turn or go-around lane for car traffic. The widened sidewalks would create new public space for benches and greenery, and would allow for new sidewalk patios and merchandise displays. Boarding the streetcar without having to cross a traffic lane would be a significant safety and accessibility feature. However, the plan also would require the loss of a significant number of existing parking spaces along Roncesvalles.
The BIA and community members asked the planners to consider the loss of parking, the traffic restrictions and the effect of diverted traffic on neighbourhoods. We also stressed that the bumpouts should enhance public space, and not simply serve as transit platforms.
Since then, the TTC and the City have been going back and forth, discussing every intersection in detail. On December 6, they presented a more complete proposal for the street.
The newest proposed plan, still preliminary, widens the existing sidewalk space by 0.3 - 1.5 metres, not including the bumpouts, and it allows for a widened, “sharrow” lane that can accommodate cyclists. This would be achieved by narrowing the parking lanes. The west side parking lane, which currently has peak-hour restrictions, would be made permanent. The plan also calls for upgrades to the crosswalks to make them more visible and obvious. The TTC withdrew its earlier proposal for a left-turn prohibition at northbound Howard Park, but now proposes peak-hour prohibitions at southbound Howard Park and northbound High Park. As for parking, the City estimates that about 40-50 on-street spaces will be lost in order to make room for the widened sidewalk.
At a meeting on January 12, members of Roncesvalles Renewed (representing the BIA, the three neighboring residents’ associations and other community groups) expressed strong support for the new public spaces proposed by the City and TTC. This support echoes comments the BIA has received from businesses and the community since August, when we posted the TTC’s first preliminary proposal. So far it appears the community strongly desires new and enhanced public spaces along Roncesvalles, even if this means a loss of on-street parking.
While Green P has recently added some parking capacity to Roncesvalles, it is clear that this plan would change Roncesvalles into a street that prioritizes transit, cycling and pedestrian uses over car traffic and parking. This is in line with new city policy, as well as the BIA’s streetscape strategy of 2003. While the BIA would like to preserve parking where possible, the plain fact is that Roncesvalles will never be able to compete with other shopping areas on parking availability. To compare, Roncesvalles currently has perhaps 200 on-street parking spaces, while Yorkdale Mall has 7,200. But Roncesvalles can offer something that a mall never can: a pleasant and distinct experience for shoppers who walk, cycle or ride the streetcar.
The BIA strongly insists, however, that the new sidewalk space must enhance the public realm and be well-used. It must do more than simply open up some room and give transit riders a place to wait for the streetcar. It must bring new people out onto the street, give them a place to meet, chat and shop. Will this plan achieve those objectives? Please share your opinion by emailing the BIA at , or your local residents’ association, or leaving a comment.
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UPDATE (Jan 15): Steve Munro has launched a discussion of the proposal on his well-read transit blog.
Karen Palkowski of the High Park Residents’ Association informs us about an important public meeting to take place on January 17 at Howard Public School (30 Marmaduke St), from 7-9 pm. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the possibility of making the school’s parking lot available to the public, presumably outside school hours.
Parking is tight in the Roncesvalles area, with only about 200 or so on-street spaces. Proposed plans for the 2008 or 2009 reconstruction of Roncesvalles call for the widening of the sidewalk in several areas, which would reduce parking further. If the public were able to park in the school’s lot on evenings, weekends and holidays, this would add significant capacity while bringing the school added revenue.
Such partnerships are not new for Roncesvalles. Green P recently installed a meter in the parking lot of the St. Stanislaus - St. Casimir’s Polish Parishes Credit Union, making a few dozen additional spots available to Roncesvalles shoppers. These are creative solutions that allow for increased parking without needing to build additional lots.
Today’s Globe and Mail has a story about how the Dundas West BIA faced off against the TTC in order to introduce rush hour parking along its street. Interestingly, the BIA seems less concerned about parking availability than the fact that two lanes of rush-hour traffic turns Dundas into an unappealing “highway”:
From the Globe and Mail (link - might be behind a paywall by now):
Gayley Bissoon, who has run Gayley’s Café on Dundas Street West for 13 years, said the strip was slowly changing, thanks in part to a growing population of young professionals and the nearby popular Latin music club Lula Lounge.
But the parking rule change was desperately needed to make the street - and her café, where she counts her homemade cinnamon buns among her most popular offerings - more inviting.
“My biggest beef is that between 7 and 9, it’s like a highway on Dundas Street,” she said. “… People are angry if you even try crossing the street.”
Councillor Adam Giambrone supported the BIA, which is located in his ward. This is despite being chair of the TTC, which had urged the city to uphold the rule against rush hour parking. Ward 19 Councillor Joe Pantalone, on the other hand, sided with the TTC, saying that the rule change was contrary to the intent of the Official Plan, which emphasizes transit. He called the decision “hypocritical.”
But other key goals of the Official Plan include preserving “vibrant neighborhoods” and “attractive streets.” Should there not be a balance between these goals and the need to move people? Why should one automatically trump the others?
Councillor Adam Vaughan supported Giambrone and the BIA, saying the move to allow parking would turn Dundas from a thoroughfare into a destination: “I can build an expressway through every neighbourhood,” Mr. Vaughan said. “I can tell you at the end of the day … I will not have created a destination to anywhere.” (Globe and Mail)
Like Dundas, Roncesvalles is classified under the official plan as an “arterial road” (but minor, rather than major), and it faces similar challenges in balancing the needs of businesses, residents, transit riders, pedestrians and other users of the street. The BIA and the community are working with the City and the TTC to develop a plan for a major reconstruction of Roncesvalles, likely to occur in 2009.
Link: Dundas West BIA - “Dundas West Parking Initiative Update”
The conference reflects a recent shift in thinking at City Hall, where the once-dominant car is now being asked to take a back seat to the needs of pedestrians, transit-riders and cyclists.
From the Toronto Star,:
“Maybe a balance is no longer appropriate,” said John Mende, Toronto’s director of transportation management.
“And if you think that’s anti-car, perhaps it is. But we’re trying to make the other modes of transportation more attractive so people will choose not to drive.”
The City Works Committee is currently considering a report that recommends a significant change in the City’s transportation priorities. The report makes several suggestions, including “pedestrian scrambles,” where all car traffic would stop for a moment at intersections, and pedestrians would be allowed to cross the street freely, even across the diagonal.
Such a change in thinking will no doubt impact the final design for the 2009 reconstruction of Roncesvalles. City and TTC planners are meeting right now to discuss their plans for new sidewalk bumpouts along our street. The results of these discussions could have a big impact on available parking, sidewalk space, traffic flow and other aspects of the public realm. The BIA and Roncesvalles Renewed expect to meet with City staff later this month to discuss the plans.
Roncesvalles businesses are invited to get informed about these changes, and make their priorities known to the BIA and the City. Should sidewalk space be expanded, even if it means a loss of on-street parking? How would the City’s shifts in priorities affect your business? What could the City or TTC do to bring customers to Roncesvalles without a car? Should the TTC introduce a surface transfer that would allow TTC riders to stop, shop and continue without having to pay two fares? What is most important to you? Leave a comment, or , and let us know!
Transportation Services report Steps Toward a Walkable City (PDF)
Roncesvalles Village BIA Two (or Three) Proposals for Roncesvalles
City of Toronto Pedestrian Charter
Toronto Star Editorial: People Friendly Streets
David Gurin: Walking into the urban future
City of Toronto climate change action plan Change is in the Air (PDF)
A key streetscape priority for the BIA and the community has been the creation of bumpouts, or extensions of the sidewalk onto the street (click here to view an example). These would become new public spaces, allowing for new uses such as patios, benches, gardens or public art. It is hoped that such bumpouts would become part of the major Roncesvalles reconstruction scheduled for
2008 2009 (UPDATE: The project will likely be delayed. Click here for more details).
In May, the City unveiled a preliminary proposal that called for bumpouts at just about every corner along Roncesvalles, onto the side streets but also the main street itself. An advantage of the City’s proposal was that the bumpouts that encroached onto Roncesvalles would not greatly affect existing parking along the street. The BIA also liked the fact that the plan would increase access to parking by removing a peak period traffic lane (the southbound parking lane has no parking during rush hour).
A disadvantage is that these bumpouts would prevent cars from passing or turning right without blocking the streetcar. As a result, the TTC was concerned that the bumpouts onto Roncesvalles might slow down the 504 streetcar, the busiest in Toronto. (The bumpouts onto the side streets pose no problem with anyone, as far as we can tell.)
In July, the TTC presented a counter-proposal. It also has many advantages. For pedestrians, the proposal would add far more sidewalk space. For some restaurants, it would open the possibility of true sidewalk patios along the main street itself. Other businesses may welcome the ability to add new sidewalk displays. Disembarking from the streetcar onto a curb is a significant safety and accessibility feature.
However, the plan also requires the loss of a significant number of existing parking spaces along Roncesvalles. The plan would also remove the northbound left turn at Howard Park (and perhaps other intersections).
It must be emphasized that both the TTC’s and the City’s proposals are preliminary. They have been presented in order to create a dialogue and to help establish the principles for a more comprehensive plan.
Representatives of the BIA, the three neighboring residents’ associations and Roncesvalles Renewed recently met with City and TTC staff at Councillor Gord Perks‘ office to discuss the two proposals. The community representatives were unified in their response, excited by the prospect of new public space, but with some concerns. Along with Councillor Perks, we urged the City and the TTC to ensure that their plan
If the City, the TTC and the community are unable to agree on a bumpout plan, there remains a third option - to eliminate main street bumpouts from the plan altogether.
What is important to you? Please have a look at the TTC’s proposal and consider how you would best balance the needs of businesses, pedestrians, transit riders, shoppers, residents and other stakeholders. Click below to leave your comments.
UPDATE: These proposals are being discussed on Steve Munro’s always informative blog. Please click on Reinventing Roncesvalles. For some background info, you might also wish to view Steve’s analysis of the issues facing the King Streetcar. Part One here, and Part Two here. (SECOND UPDATE: Steve has now posted several more detailed analyses of the 504 King line, and is now up to Part VII — whew! To read ‘em all, click here.)