Recall that the current transitway, running in an open cut through the west side, will be replaced by rail tracks for the new Confederation Line LRT. There is a construction lead time to construct the tracks and the new stations at Tunney’s and Bayview and LeBreton, so the buses now on the transitway will have to be detoured during the construction period.
Others are busy working on detours that do not involve Scott and Albert Streets. This is the second exploration of how the detour could occur on Scott-Albert. (for the first option, see: http:/www.westsideaction.ca/putting-the-buses-onto-scott-albert/ ; the comments following it are also educational ).
I think it is worthwhile to explore options like this because I think the City will favour a Scott-Albert detour for the two-year construction period. It is best to be prepared, thinking through the consequences.
Since the previous story, I have been reminded that the whole transitway segment between Tunney’s and the Good Companions Centre (where the current transitway rejoins Albert/Slater one-way pair through the downtown) need not be closed all at once.
The LeBreton Station is the most complicated, and will certainly require Booth to be closed for at least two years. Bayview is a bit less complex, since it is added to the sides of and below the existing transitway bridge over the OTrain. The Tunney’s Station, in contrast, is relatively simple, and most of the construction of the new bus transfer facility (rivalling Hurdman in volume and size) can occur on ground level without closing the trench.
If Tunney’s is late-to-close, then the detour onto Scott (play along here, we are looking at the Scott detour options, not the ORP option) can occur for some of the time at the end of Merton street, where the sunken transitway climbs up out of the trench to be on an elevated section leading up to the bridges over Bayview Avenue and the OTrain. At the Merton point, the old transitway is at the same level as Scott, so a transfer can be constructed to move buses over to the Scott right of way.
That is the spot where the locals have made this video: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hintonburgca/10857195344/
So, after that lengthy scene-setting, here is my second option for using Scott-Albert as the detour:
- make Scott one way only, eastbound (toward the downtown), using one lane only on the southside curb lane. This allows locals to access their driveways and side streets on a right in – right out basis. This one lane segment would run from Merton to City Centre Avenue.
- reduce the speed limit to this one way one lane Scott to 20 KMH and install appropriate measures to ensure traffic is slow
- take the remaining three lanes of Scott, between Merton and City Centre, and install a jersey barrier (those concrete walls that block off construction zones along the road) along the edge of the now-one way eastbound Scott and Albert. This barrier will keep local car traffic off the bus lanes, and be an effective sound barrier to reduce bus wheel noise that neighbours will hear. (The existing elevated portion of the transitway running east of Merton has these sound barriers, and they are effective at reducing tire noise).
- Leave the current cross streets open, eg Parkdale, Carruthers, Bayview, and the new Preston extension) with signalized intersections.
- running the two new bus lanes on the former three car lanes of Scott-Albert gives plenty of room for two wider bus lanes, and means we don’t have to pay to widen Scott or Albert and then tear them up again after the detour
- the one way portion of Scott-Albert continues east only as far as City Centre Avenue or Preston. East of Preston, there are plenty of lanes to choose from for the bus lanes (remember, cars will no longer be doing the Hull-Booth-Albert-Preston jog, but will be doing a Hull-ORP-Preston extension routing, so all the lanes between Preston and Booth will have much less traffic). So east of Preston, there will continue to be a single east and west bound lanes for general traffic. (Recall that during the two year construction period of the giant watermain here, a few years ago, Scott-Albert functioned just fine with one through traffic lane in each direction. Car drivers who didn’t like the lane reduction simply went elsewhere, diffused over a number of alternate routes of their own choosing).
- at the Good Companions Centre, there is already a signalized intersection where Albert splits into Albert-Slater. Buses and cars would do the appropriate cross over manoeuvres on their green lights, restoring them to the existing lane configuration.
- about a year and half into the detour period, when the Tunney’s station has to close, then the one-way portion of Scott would begin at Holland instead of Merton.
One of the most deleterious effects of putting all the buses onto Scott-Albert is the noise pollution. The jersey barriers in the above scenario would abate some of the wheel noise. Removing the Scott traffic there today would also compensate, although the reduction in general traffic noise is likely to be less than the increase in bus lane noise.
Making the surviving one way east-bound lane on Scott left open to general traffic into a very slow street, would also abate some noise, make the street safer for local access, and would result in improved curbside conditions for pedestrians and eastbound cyclists, rather than worse. There simply wouldn’t be a wall of high speed buses dragging slush and spray and bouncing over the curbside catch basins.
Considerable thought would have to be given to handling west bound cyclists (options might include connecting the north side multi user paths along Scott and Albert around the north edge of the Bayview Station construction site), truck movements to City Centre, etc. There would have to be additional turns permitted or forbidden on the ORP and other streets, to facilitate predicted traffic movements. Motorists and residents used to using Scott-Albert as four-lane two-way street would be inconvenienced. Appropriate bus stops would have to built at Bayview (for the OTrain) and Preston (replacing LeBreton Station). These were outlined in the previous detours story. What would happen to west bound local buses, like the the 16?
There are some non-intuitive impacts of the scheme outlined above. Booth south of Albert, a residential street totally abused by Hull-bound commuter car traffic, where traffic is shoved as close to houses as Scott, would see virtually no rush hour traffic. Their sudden quiet doesn’t mitigate the increased noise on Scott, but is interesting to ponder.
Scott Street residents, part of a well-organized community association, have vocal representation, although reps there tell me it is hard to get tenants involved (some will simply move). East of Preston, however, much of the housing is OCH and is behind an existing soundwall. Does their landlord care?(does one city department harass another?) The apartment building at Booth is also a rental.
And just how much of bus station will be required at Preston-Albert (replacing the LeBreton Station)? This would be the only station along the detour route that is adjacent to housing, so the starting and stopping of buses will be consequential. I suspect a station here could be possibly be eliminated during the detour, but I suspect OC Transpo won’t concurr. Oh oh.
None of the alternatives to the transitway is without fault. I am not arguing in favour of any one choice yet. I am simply trying to figure out what the options are. Using the ORP , for example, greatly reduces local access to the transitway. Putting the buses on Scott-Albert might make walking and cycling unpleasant, and living in adjacent houses awful.
One can, of course, refuse to consider Scott-Albert for bus lanes during the construction period, in which case we are left with no choices except to protest the plan the city springs on west siders next month, when negotiation time is minimal.