January 31, 2024

Conflicting Approaches for Ellesmere

On Monday, February 12, the City of Toronto will be hosting a public consultation regarding the Ellesmere Complete Street project which is planned to start construction in 2026 from Orton Park to Kingston Roads. While I normally support complete streets which are badly needed in Scarborough, this project has left me with some concerns. Especially since Metrolinx had already prepared designs for the Durham-Scarborough BRT along the same corridor. Let’s look at how the two projects compare.

Overview of the Ellesmere Complete Street project (via City of Toronto)

For the first segment from Orton Park Road to Military Trail, both the Metrolinx and City of Toronto proposals call for a multi-use trail on the south side. However, the Metrolinx proposal would require road widening to add the two BRT lanes in addition to the existing four traffic lanes, whereas the City’s proposal would stick with the four lanes. The City’s proposal also calls for a signalized crossing 350 metres east of Orton Park to allow for access to The Meadoway.

Four traffic lanes would be kept west of Military Trail with a new sidewalk added (via City of Toronto)

Despite this shortcoming, there is more than enough land available to pursue the road widening, while the existing Highland Creek bridge is 24.4 metres wide (excluding sidewalks). This is wide enough to accommodate six lanes plus the multi-use trail, which would help keep construction costs down. Still, it would have been preferred to get the complete street and BRT related road widening dealt with together.

Ellesmere Road at Highland Creek (via Google Maps)

East of Military Trail – which is expected to be re-aligned in the future – both proposals call for uni-directional cycle tracks. The Metrolinx project calls for the same six-lane layout to Conlins Road and then four lanes to Kingston Road with intersections being wider.

Ellesmere at Military Trail (via Metrolinx) - Note how the multi-use trail switches to uni-directional cycle tracks east of Military Trail

The City presented two options from Military Trail to Meadowvale Road; the first being raised cycle tracks and four traffic lanes – similar to the BRT – and the second being on-road cycle tracks with two lanes plus a centre turning lane. While the second option would lead to fewer trees being removed and help with traffic calming, it would mean increased disruption when pursuing the BRT later on.

Two design options from Military Trail to Meadowvale Road (via City of Toronto)

The City’s proposal would keep two traffic lanes and add cycle tracks from Meadowvale to Kingston Roads. A closer look at the satellite view of Google Maps shows the sidewalks are separated by grass medians which provide an opportunity to widen the road to accommodate the BRT and cycle tracks.

Ellesmere at Meadowvale (via Google Maps) - Note the wide grass medians east of Meadowvale

From a pedestrian perspective, both projects would ensure continuous sidewalks (or multi-use trails) along the entire corridor.

One thing I should note is some opponents in the Highland Creek neighbourhood campaigned to block the BRT back in 2021. While it is unknown whether this group of NIMBY’s is still pushing this campaign, I could only imagine their anger should the complete street project be pursued only to have it torn apart in a couple of years due to the BRT. Not to mention, redoing a project twice would be fiscally irresponsible; especially given the budget shortfall Toronto is faced with.

To ensure community buy in for complete streets along Ellesmere, it is critical that we push for the full BRT project (with the complete street elements) to be done all at once and get clear commitments from Metrolinx as to what their plans are for this project in Scarborough. Only if the BRT were to be deferred beyond 2035 or be scrapped altogether, then it would be reasonable to pursue the complete street without the BRT. After all, advocating for complete streets means respecting the needs of transit users as well and Scarborough residents have gotten the short end of the stick on this file for far too long.

No comments:

Post a Comment