It’s Time to Transform Kingston Rd. April 2023
By Kevin Rupasinghe
As a Cliffside resident, I’m out on Kingston Rd. almost every day, and I’ve come to realize something: Kingston Rd. isn’t working well for anybody.
Local residents like myself have to deal with a wide, fast, dangerous road cutting right through our neighbourhood. Shoppers and visitors deal with the same congestion and noise as locals—if they can make it at all. Transit service is lacking, walking or biking is dangerous, and even drivers may struggle to find parking.
Local businesses are struggling. Children cannot safely get to school. Even car commuters simply passing through our community contend with ever-growing congestions, with drivers racing from one red light to the next, aggressively swerving around parked cars, buses, and turning vehicles.
The fact is that when Kingston Rd. was last rebuilt decades ago, it was designed to act as a highway. And today, even though it is lined with apartments and homes, churches and mosques, shops and schools, it still very much feels like a highway. Kingston Rd. needs to fill a different role for our community, and it is overdue for an overhaul.
Luckily, we have a chance to make things better. I was so excited to hear that later this year, the City of Toronto is planning to move forward with City Council-approved changes to Kingston Rd. (and Danforth Ave.), with the goal of making it a “complete street”—basically, a street that works for all road users.
For whatever reason, some people frame this as “bike lanes on Kingston Rd.” which, in my opinion, is almost entirely missing the point. Really, this is an opportunity for our community to lay out a shared vision for the short- and long-term future of Kingston Rd. It’s a chance for us to make this road work better for everyone—local residents and business owners, schoolchildren and seniors, shoppers and commuters. Here are some ideas of what I would love to see:
First, safety improvements. There have been multiple serious injury collisions and fatalities along this corridor, with 3 fatalities in 2021 alone. Road safety professionals have an entire toolkit of measures that make the road safer for people walking, biking, taking transit, and driving – we should be offered an entire suite of safety options for this dangerous corridor.
Second, our local businesses need a boost. High-quality CafeTO patios or more 24/7 parking could help. I’d love to see more public art and greenery along the corridor. Measures that make Kingston Rd. a welcoming and vibrant street will bolster our local economy.
Third, we should plan for the community’s future. Development along Kingston Rd. is almost certain. The last thing anybody wants to see is more cars on the road, and widening a six-lane road to eight or ten lanes is costly, ineffective, and impractical. Investing more in walking, cycling, and transit is crucial so new and existing residents have more options to get around in a healthy and sustainable way. And it’s a win for drivers who will see fewer other cars on the road.
Do I expect the City to get everything right through one project? Of course not. But is there a chance for us to imagine a better future, and take some steps towards it right now? Absolutely. That’s why I am optimistic that our community will embrace an opportunity for change and decide together how we can make a Kingston Rd. for all.
We’ll All Feel the Pain of the Scarborough RT Shutdown
Opening a new transit line is not something that happens very often in Toronto. Shutting one down is even rarer – and that’s exactly what is going to happen next year in Scarborough.
In 2023, the TTC’s Line 3 Scarborough Rapid Transit (SRT) is slated to be closed permanently. It is old, unreliable, and may become unsafe – even if the TTC invested more than $500 million to keep it running for another decade.
The Scarborough subway extension is scheduled to replace the SRT by 2031. Until then, the TTC’s plan is simply to run shuttle buses to replace the 35,000 daily trips currently handled by the SRT. Most of these trips are between Scarborough Centre and Kennedy; by the TTC’s estimates, travel time will balloon from 10 minutes to 15 to 23 minutes if shuttle buses share the road with car traffic.
This minimal plan will be painful for everyone – unless elected officials bring forward a comprehensive vision to mitigate the impacts.
These transit delays will make the TTC less appealing, and transit riders that can afford to will switch to driving. This is bad news for existing drivers since more cars means more congestion. Worse, the TTC expects at least 75 shuttle buses per hour are needed to match the SRT capacity – a bus on the road every 48 seconds – which is bad news for everyone, whether you take transit, drive, walk, bike, or live nearby.
We need more viable mobility options, not fewer, to plan for a connected and vibrant Scarborough.
Repurposing the SRT train guideway into a busway is the best way to speed up the shuttle buses, keeping transit users and drivers happy. However, it will take a couple of years to retrofit the route for buses instead of trains.
Installing on-street dedicated bus lanes and transit priority traffic signals from Kennedy to Scarborough Centre will ensure that TTC can stay competitive as a transport option. It might seem like repurposing a car lane into a bus lane will cause congestion, but doing nothing would be worse as transit riders switch to driving.
A plan to provide mobility options should include a safe cycling route, with protected bike lanes or multi-use trails to give another choice for local trips, keeping extra cars off roads and freeing up bus seats.
Another huge opportunity is integrating TTC fares with the GO network, which would immediately give Scarborough access to an entire other rapid transit rail network. Most transit riders refuse to pay a double fare to use both GO and TTC, but if the fares were integrated so riders only paid once, people would immediately have another transport choice without crowding onto shuttle buses or getting into a car.
In the words of Zain Khurram, an SRT customer and member of the group TTCriders, “Politicians must act now to keep Scarborough connected.” TTCriders recently published a report outlining actions that governments could take to mitigate the impact of the SRT closure, available at www.ttcriders.ca.
Scarborough’s economic and social recovery from the pandemic will depend on reliable, quick, cost-effective transportation options. While the SRT closure is going to be a loss for Scarborough, it is an opportunity to add mobility options in the short-term. Long-term, once the subway opens and the busway is no longer needed, that transportation infrastructure could be transformed into a new iconic destination: an elevated park running across the borough, like New York’s High Line.
It all requires our elected officials to be proactive and come up with a robust plan—without one, everyone will feel the pain of seven years of shuttle buses.
Kevin Rupasinghe is a sustainable transportation advocate, Scarborough resident, and holds a Masters in Cities Engineering.