Archive for May, 2012
By Jamie Swift
What if our neighborhood hosted Kingston’s second traffic circle? Common enough in Vancouver, these little gardens in the middle of the street are round and raised. They’re pretty and they help slow traffic down.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have one at the busy intersection of Clergy and Ordnance?
As it is, Ordnance Street is under active consideration for traffic calming. But there are widespread local concerns about the speed bump and “courtesy crossing solution that Kingston planners propose to slow traffic on Ordnance.
The City has a template for deciding these things. Poll-the-people-on-the-affected-street. While this may be appropriate for some suburban roads that have become arterial, it does not seem to fit this particular challenge.
Why? Because most of those living around and near McBurney Park not only use the attractive green space for recreation but also cross it on foot and bicycle when heading south. This is the overwhelmingly predominant direction in which neighborhood residents travel — especially to Princess Street retail and to Queen’s — Kingston’s second largest employer. And to KGH and Hotel Dieu, also large workplaces.
One reason for the neighborhood’s increasing popularity is this proximity, the fact that one can get to work and shop without driving. My understanding is that the City’s Transportation Master Plan emphasizes pedestrian and bicycle travel and that the subsequent emphasis on sustainability underlines the importance of non-vehicular travel. This makes good sense. So the traffic calming process here needs to reflect that reality. It doesn’t.
Polling only Ordnance Street residents (or is it just property owners?) does not reflect the reality in an area where “rush hour” does not mean lines of vehicles overwhelmingly occupied by a single person. Early morning and late afternoon traffic hereabouts involves people heading south and returning north across Ordnance Street. Stand in McBurney Park at these times on any weekday and this will become immediately obvious.
Most traffic planning seems to be based on vehicle counts. Fair enough. But this particular problem needs to take into account foot and two-wheel counts. You are probably aware that the problem faced by local residents is that our “rush hour” coincides with that of suburban an ex-urban drivers who have chosen to use Ordnance Street as an arterial road in heading to/returning from downtown or Pittsburgh workplaces.
Their vehicles constitute the traffic that planners are seeking to “calm.” It is clear that the stakeholders in this process are not simply confined to Ordnance Street residents. The pedestrians and cyclists mentioned above are directly affected. But the planning process seems not to acknowledge this reality.
Another issue relates to the nature of the voting process. To achieve speed bump and “courtesy” crossing installation, I understand that the process requires half of Ordnance Street residents to respond and 60 per cent to vote in favour. But because Ordnance Street includes relatively few buildings (because no one lives, at least officially, in McBurney Park), the process will entail consultation with only a tiny fraction of neighborhood residents who are affected. The process is, by its very design, problematic in this case.
Many schoolchildren cross Ordnance by foot and cycle on their way to Central, Sydenham, Montessori, Vanier and KCVI. It was only after many hazardous years that the City even agreed to put a stop sign at Ordnance and Sydenham.
Traffic calming possibilities call for imaginative measures such as mini traffic circles or roundabouts. The only one in town is Willingdon, a much quieter street than Ordnance. Roundabouts can be attractive — certainly in comparison to the large and unsightly “courtesy” crossing signs. They also offer neighborhood residents the opportunity to use the gardening energies that MPNA members currently invest in flower beds in McBurney Park — mere steps from Ordnance Street.
It was good news to hear that roundabouts are now on the City of Kingston radar. I think that we should seriously consider one for Clergy and Ordnance.
Maybe we’d need to carve a bit of space out of the park. But the cannon is crumbling anyway. Landscape designer Carl Bray’s blue-sky vision for the park (part of the MPNA backed renewal process a few years back) has an elegant idea for a new park entrance at Clergy anyway. So we could slow traffic down, spruce up the park and get a neat little public garden – all at the same time.