Better thinking about complete streets

There are a number of “complete street” initiatives on the west side. Over the next week, let’s look at three of them.

First, Scott Street CDP. This plan is in progress, and the details may evolve.

Scott Street had a first, econo-version of complete street-ing two years ago when the section west of Island Park was put on a road diet. Four traffic lanes were reduced to two, with left turn lanes, and bike lanes were added to the street. Some bits of sidewalk also appeared.  It was a big improvement, despite my previous criticisms that too many of the features are underachieving, ie the result is less than the sum of its parts.

Now the area between Holland and Breezehill is undergoing redesign as part of the Scott CDP. This redesign is for the post-2018 period, when the new LRT is opened and the temporary use of Scott as a busway replacing the transitway draws to a close (more on that next week).  This is a great chance to get it right, and there are some competent planners looking at the situation. Here’s the big picture: scott cdp scott xsection   While the drawing says Holland is the boundary, it actually shows the road configuration that would continue to Churchill on the west (left off the strip map).

There seems to be a bit of “artistic license” going on here: the cut looks somewhat shallow, and the overpasses somehow have become arched bridges instead of flat slabs.

At a recent public meeting about the CDP proposals, there was enthusiasm for shifting Scott a few feet north, away from the houses on the south side. I share their enthusiasm for a bit more green space on the south side. But is that what the fine print actually delivers? scott cdp 5a not much shift On the Holland – Parkdale block (above), the shift is less than six feet north. Most of this block is either already well set back (Holland Cross) or subject to imminent redevelopment (Parkdale intersection).  Presumably more developer setbacks and greenery might come with redevelopment, since we are not getting them clawed back from motorists. The public realm remains dominated by asphalt and motorists.

For the area between Parkdale and Bayview to the east, where there are a number of houses fronting the curb, the shift is much larger: scott cdp 6, more shift   The shift of the southside curb is now almost 10 feet northwards. This is made possible by the four lane street rather than five, although I would be interested in knowing if Scott needs to be four lanes at all. Three might work, although it would require considerable pressure on the traffic boffins to achieve this.

The ten foot shift of the curb does NOT create what most homeowners would consider more green space, ie a larger lawn. Look closely at the picture above to spot the “old curb” under the left end of the arrow.

The new “greenspace” is on city’s inner boulevard, now to the right of the old curb. It’s shown here nicely planted with mature trees, but in reality there will be view planes, driveways, and other things that drastically cut down on planting space, plus its a very harsh growing environment. Other boulevards in the city aren’t exactly strewn with abundant thriving trees, are they? But it’s still worth a try.

Now look left of the old curb line.  The sidewalk space is now a separated bike track, same width as the old sidewalk. The new sidewalk is further north (left) of the cycling track, on what used to be the little bit of green space in front of the houses. In modern landscape architectural terms, there is greener space to be found here. The boulevard will be planted with trees.

Presumably there will be back curbs and retaining walls on the south side of the sidewalk to create a consistent environment, to protect the plantings, and the green space may now be shrubs instead of lawns. See the newly reconstructed bits of Bronson for an example of how this might turn out. (Of course, Bronson didn’t get the bike track, or the landscaped boulevard, or the big trees, since the city valued commuter interests over resident interests. A very incomplete street.)

Here’s a pretty picture from the planners showing what somewhere else did, although it is rather different from Scott: scott cdp 3, detail of bike track north side Next: the north side of Scott.

4 thoughts on “Better thinking about complete streets

  1. I’m also confused. “The new sidewalk is further north (left) of the cycling track” Isn’t left south in that image, and the Transitway trench is on the right (north)? Just a thought but when you’re providing the background information about what is there now versus the proposal, it might be clearer to just pull the picture into mspaint and put in a single line with a few colours showing green, grey (sidewalk), black (roadway), Given the amount of effort you already put in, please feel free to ignore this if it isn’t feasible.


  2. One more correction – the Scott road diet extends (almost) as far east as Holland.

    I’m happy to see the traffic lights and crosswalk proposed for Ross/Banting and Scott – it’s over 700m between the existing crosswalks at Holland and Carleton. I just hope that there’s signalling (and enforcement – the existing signs are frequently ignored) to prevent the Tunney’s rush-hour traffic from emptying onto a residential street.

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