Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Fixing Whyte Avenue

For the second Main Street in Edmonton, it's currently a stroad as I have defined before. Let's see what it takes to make it a road for everyone.

To those who don't know Edmonton, Whyte Ave is a major East West route through South Central Edmonton. Strathcona used to be an independent city until a merger in 1912. Whyte Ave used to be the main street for Strathcona, just like how Jasper Ave did the same for Edmonton. it became the main route over time for traffic running through there and didn't bother to go south and use 61 Ave. It is a 50 km/h urban arterial, varies between 4 and 6 lanes, along with turn lanes, some areas have parking, some have a median barrier, it has full sidewalks and a lot of businesses and shops along it, and some apartment buildings. It crosses a creek to the east of the storefront zone. It connects at the East end to a motorway that leads to Sherwood Park and on the West end to 114 St, where the LRT is.

There are no cycleways here. This is one of the big things that make this a bad corridor. There are also a lot of transit passengers in this area. Buses are delayed due to congestion, traffic signals don't give them priority, stops are not very good, and buses often bunch up. Thus, transit needs improvements as well. And because of the way that roads cut through minor side streets and there are multiple lane crossings at speeds of 50 km/h at the crossing itself, and occasionally more than that, along with large trucks, pedestrian collisions are common, and many injuries and deaths have happened as a result.

There are several ways to fix this.

Let's start with the traffic volume. Some of the traffic isn't local. Some of it could take other routes that are more suited to the volume and speed. River Valley Road combined with 98 Ave makes for an effective route to bypass the entire area on the North Side, and it leads from 75 St to Groat Rd, and it has very few local destinations, and even those can mostly be dealt with. We can also add Argyll Road, 63/61 Ave and 113/114 St as a South bypass of the area, and a better route for traffic coming from the East of the city to get around to the University. Both would have fewer stops, in some cases a speed limit of 70 km/h, and with a design to have as few things to deal with as possible.

That should take care of a considerable amount of the traffic on Whyte Ave. Most of the rest would be local traffic. Let's deal with the exact street layout now.

Let's first apply Sustainable Safety. First, classification of function. This road functions as an access road in many ways but it also needs to carry traffic in a fairly efficient way as a distributor road. To solve this problem, we could try using a pair of fiestsraaten parallel with the main roadway. I found that this actually works. I can fit transit lanes in the middle, a pair of motor vehicle lanes at 50 km/h on links, a pair of service roads, parking on one side of the road at a time (this can be alternated as required), and 3 metre wide sidewalks. Link to the design here: Thus, this road works well in terms of functionality.

The second principle is to make the speeds, masses and directions of road users homogeneous or separated. As you could see in the cross section, I have. I added 30 km/h service roads for local access at low volumes and low speeds, sidewalks, to give slow and vulnerable pedestrians protection. The dedicated transitway in the middle of the road keeps the rather large trains out of the way of cars. I mean, substituting a Blackpool tram style Flexity 2 (the contract to built the low floor line out to Mill Woods was won by a consortium that included Bombardier. No surprise as to which style of LRV's they're going to pick. Their own) for Edmonton, multiply that by 3 to get a platform length of 90 metres, and multiply that by 40 tonnes (per LRV), and you get 120,000 kg on rails facing off against 1500 kg of car, crashing into each other, both at 50 km/h, and it's not pretty. The best solution is to separate these at speeds over 30 km/h. The buses don't need to exist anymore on this corridor, the trains stop frequently enough here (about 400-600 metres apart, the same as modern standards for bus stops in my neighbourhood) and go to the same places anyway, so they don't need to mix with cars anymore. Trucks can be limited to 7500 kg, limiting the results of a crash between motor vehicles and especially trucks and vulnerable road users.

The third principle is to make everything recognizable. As in, if we plopped this down in the centre of Amsterdam or Den Bosch, people would understand the way that you were supposed to use it just by looking at it. The service streets, being fietsstraaten, would get red asphalt and priority over minor side streets, as well as raised junctions and narrow lanes and usually parking. The distributor road part of the road is black asphalt, without parking directly off of it, no local access, it has priority over minor side streets like distributor roads should, and no on street cycling or walking. The speed limit would be 50 km/h, although traffic would go slower at intersections. The railway component of this street would simply be red concrete to indicate it's reserved lane status and have signs and markings to show that it's not part of the road for motor vehicles.

The next principle is forgiveness of errors. There is a curb next to the roadway to protect the LRT line, so straying will just make you hit the curb, and in this case it would be a larger curb than normal to protect both the train and the people in the motor vehicle. The speeds at intersections would be low. 30 km/h. And the speed at which cars do mix with bikes is also 30 km/h. Thus, speeds are low, so if a crash happens, there is a much smaller chance of a serious injury or fatality. You can angle the curbs next to where cyclists happen to be riding on, for example the curb that separates parking from the fietsstraat or the curbs on either side of a cycle track, so that hitting it won't cause a fall. You can remove bollards from where cyclists might be riding.

And finally, you must consider factors in relation to the cognitive ability of road users to understand what's going on and their capability to adapt, or State Awareness. In this particular case, we are going to need to deal with a higher chance that someone will be under the influence of alcohol here. I have no idea what the cannabis consumption rate is likely to be next year when it's legalized in Canada, but we are probably more likely to have stoned road users here regardless of that law. So making sure that roads are forgiving is especially important here. There are also going to be a lot of university students, and even when not drunk/stoned, university students tend to take disproportionate risks. We also should consider that there is a children's hospital on the west side, so cognition of children is a factor to think about.

Putting the South Central LRT line here is a good idea, as it's a more or less direct line depending on what the routing is from the west side, and there is lots of space. Plus, it connects well to Bonnie Doon stop on the east side on the Mill Woods line, and could go out to Sherwood Park pretty easily from here. It also wold be a pretty fast and straight route. 50 km/h wold be an easy speed for the train to maintain here.

By prohibiting the left turns for motor vehicles, the signal cycles are simpler and quicker. Because you can use protected intersections for cyclists and pedestrians, it`s easy to allow left turns without being intrusive on the cycle timing. Plus, left turns are among the most risky movement for any road user to make, especially if there is a chance that you can be hit by a train.

The trains should probably have stops on the split side platform style, on one arm you have from left to right, looking into the street, a left turn lane, a train track, the second train track, and the platform, in that order, and then the same goes for the opposite side of the intersection. Like this: The stops would be 3.5-4 metres wide, with a raised curb, 30 cm high, with a tactile edge, a fence to prevent people from accidentally stepping onto the roadway and to discourage crossing in unsafe locations, off board payment for the trains, shelters and benches, a few other amenities like trash bins, wifi, some decoration, and a real time departure board. It works pretty well in places where this stop style is used. The platforms would be 90 metres long to allow either a pair of 45 metre long trains (Gold Coast in Australia uses trams this long) or 3 30 metre long trains, I don't know which model is going to be used, and a 4 metre long ramp to go from 30 cm to 10 (raised intersections are nice to have to control speeds) to allow wheelchairs to use it as well.

I propose that the following intersections have stops line this on Whyte Ave:

  • 112 St
  • 109 St
  • `106 St
  • Gateway Boulevard
  • 99 St
  • 95a St
  • 90 St
It would join up at Bonnie Doon, stopping there along with the under construction Valley Line. 

But bicycles by far would be the greatest enabler here. By providing continuous networks of cycleways around here, from 30 km/h low volume fietsstraaten to fully protected cycle tracks and everywhere else having low volume 30 km/h access road designs, you can ride anywhere with efficiency and ease. A 5 km journey each way is very easy on a bicycle, taking 20-30 minutes depending on how fast you want to ride. There is a lot of density here, and everything is close together, making it even more attractive. A lot of options too, grids can be very dense for cycle routes. It makes it much easier to ride to the grocery stores for your food needs, to go to retail and clothing stores, to go get your computer fixed. Many university students live without a car quite comfortably, and with LRT and bicycles and an enhanced bus system, it would be very easy and people often feel no need of cars where cycling and public transport is so easy. Many people in central Amsterdam or Groningen don't own cars for this reason. Bikes are just too easy and affordable and usable in the dense urban environment to not chose them. 

Cars aren't even really negatively affected. It's likely that with so few cars and not having to worry about the left turn arrows that your average speed would be higher. 

Whyte Ave could be made a safe place for all to use and a vital transportation corridor while adhering to Sustainable Safety, and a place for people to congregate, a place that people are actually likely to use because cars don't dominate. It would be foolish to do anything else. 

1 comment:

  1. These are good ideas to curb pedestrians death and respect to other motorists..


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