Toronto city council will be asked Tuesday to add three new sets of traffic lights to Queen’s Park Crescent in a bid to improve pedestrian safety, in addition to the six signalled crossings that already exist on the busy north-south artery.
Councillors argue the new lights are warranted by the large number of people who try to cross the busy, multi-lane roadway, which is adjacent to the University of Toronto and several provincial government buildings.
They’re not alone.
“I’ve observed cars jumping the curb. I have called the city of Toronto a number of times expressing my concern for pedestrians,” said Jessica Chlebowski, whose office faces Queen’s Park Crescent.
The speed limit for cars heading south on Queen’s Park Crescent toward College Street is 50 kilometres per hour. But few drivers seem to obey it.
Last Thursday afternoon, CBC Toronto spent about 30 minutes on Queen’s Park Crescent West with a radar gun. Most motorists approaching the proposed crossing site just north of College Street exceeded the 50 km/hr speed limit. The most lead-footed motorist was clocked doing 76 km/hr.
Currently, there are pedestrian crossings operated in conjunction with traffic signals on Queen’s Park Crescent West at the road’s northern edge, and at Hoskins Avenue. There are another four on Queen’s Park Crescent East, south of Grosvenor, at Wellesley Street West, at St. Joseph Street, and at a point 125 metres north of St. Joseph.
The new lights would be set up:
- On the northern edge of the road, crossing Queen’s Park Crescent East.
- At a spot 140 metres south of Hoskins Avenue, crossing the southbound lanes on Queen’s Park Crescent West.
- Crossing Queen’s Park Crescent West at a point 66 metres north of Queen’s Park Crescent’s southern edge.
Staff estimate the cost would be about $360,000 and councillors say there could be even bigger changes coming to the 1.4-kilometre oval in the years ahead.
Councillor Mike Layton, whose ward includes Queen’s Park and the adjacent University of Toronto campuses, said the additional traffic lights won’t be timed, as most traffic lights are. Instead they’ll be triggered manually by pedestrians waiting to cross.
“Queen’s Park is a very busy road, people travel at a very high rate of speed, it’s very wide. And we have very high pedestrian traffic around Queen’s Park — university students getting across campus, people going to and from the legislature, tourists, people using the park,” Layton said.
“We’re going to make it safe for them.”
As for additional delays to motorists, Layton said: “I think even drivers at some point in their day are pedestrians and when they’re driving down that stretch they probably don’t think of… just how dangerous it is for a pedestrian to cross at any of those locations.”
The plan also has the backing of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, staff and a local residents’ group.
The students’ union said in a letter to the city that more pedestrian crossing options would be especially helpful at night, because it would mean a way around Queen’s Park, instead of through it.
“We have received multiple reports of students encountering threat of robbery or violence in Queen’s Park,” the letter states. “Any measures to mitigate these issues are welcome and needed.”
At a community council meeting, another downtown councillor, Joe Cressy, backed the additional crossings, and added: “I see this as phase one. Phase one is the improvement of pedestrian safety with these crossings.
“Phase two, down the road, is the permanent pedestrianization of either the westbound or the eastbound section, I would say the westbound, to turn it into public realm.”
Layton told CBC Toronto later that a larger study of University Avenue and Queen’s Park Crescent is still in the very early stages of planning. He said any thought of turning one, both or neither the eastern and western sides of Queen’s Park Crescent into a car-free zone is still far in the future.
Downtown councillors voted on Dec. 3 to add the three new mid-block pedestrian traffic control signals, but that decision must be approved by the full council on Tuesday.
If council approves signals, Layton estimates they will be in place by the end of 2020.