City looks at opening median lane to buses alone
May 11, 2007 04:30 AM
City hall bureau
Bus rides up and down the Don Valley Parkway may get a lot easier – and faster.
It could take a few years, but Toronto is looking at making transit-friendly changes to one of Canada’s busiest roads, including a bus-only lane to unplug the congested expressway.
There’s no room to expand, but officials want to squeeze buses onto the centre median lane to let transit users zip ahead of car drivers in the regular lanes.
The concept, already used in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Ottawa, would help GO Transit buses draw more passengers out of their cars, said managing director Gary McNeil.
GO runs 133 buses daily from Union Station to GO stations on the Bradford, Richmond Hill and Stouffville lines, but they’re often stuck in snarled traffic on the DVP, McNeil said.
Bus-only lanes running in the median from Highway 401 to Bloor St. would help, he said.
“For a passenger, it’s very attractive,” he said. “There’s nothing better than sitting on a bus and going by stopped traffic. You’re doing something good for the environment and it’s smart for you because you’re going to get to work quicker.”
Councillor Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East) said buses currently get stuck on streets funnelling into downtown, while car drivers use the parkway as a more direct route.
“It’s too compelling an argument to get into your car,” she said. “We have to modify the road to make public transit more attractive, and I think this plan makes sense.”
Other ideas city transportation planners are exploring:
Ramp meters, essentially stoplights at on-ramps, similar to those on the QEW in Mississauga. Cars would be held for five or six seconds each to smooth the process of merging.
A bare-bones GO train station at Eglinton. Studies show many residents in the burgeoning Wynford Dr. area work downtown, and a train stop would provide an alternative to cars.
Upgrade overhead signs to provide more information on traffic conditions.
The idea for bus-only lanes came up as early as 2000, in planning for the unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Olympics.
“We’re into the seventh year now, to the point where finally they’re analyzing soil conditions to confirm whether we can run a bus,” said Rod McPhail, the city’s director of transportation planning.
There’s room in the median for a bus lane in each direction. McNeil said he’s confident the threat of fines and demerit points will keep motorists out of the lane.
GO Transit will pay the full cost, estimated at $12 million and considered dirt cheap as infrastructure projects go. The only thing holding things up is the need for a full environmental assessment, McNeil said.
“The mayor of the city of Toronto, I can categorically say, is very supportive of this. No one has said they don’t like it.”