Traffic, speeding, and cars. Oh my!

I participated in an excellent Zoom meeting today, hosted by the Town of Collingwood, about the proposed Third Street corridor classification and upgrades. I first wrote about this plan back in August. Now, after the meeting, I am better informed about both the plan and the residents’ concerns about it, thanks to both town staff and the engaged residents who participated and spoke.

The big issue for most people is having safe streets. Having a main thoroughfare in residential areas and an increased volume of vehicles — especially through the historic core of the community — has really upset a lot of people. And rightfully so.

I was impressed by some of the speakers who had amassed a considerable amount of data and background about planning, traffic, safety, and urban design. Thanks especially to Jack and Jeanette, who spoke so convincingly about the issues and were well-prepared with maps, facts, and figures.

Some of the issues they raised are those I have raised myself recently and in past years: the need for more traffic calming; the need for more all-way-stop intersections, and a reduction in speeds along residential roads. The speed limit proposed by some residents is 40 km/h, which I support. However, I did ask (in chat) how this would be enforced and how often. I cannot recall ever seeing a police radar/speed trap set up on Third Street. If one has been used, I would like the public to be able to access the data collected (number of cars, speeds, averages, etc.).

Speed is, of course, a threat to safety, particularly on a street used by parents and children to go to and from the local elementary school. As Jeanette said, “Speed kills.” The faster the traffic, the more likely the accidents and the fatalities. More traffic will mean more speeding vehicles unless the street is designed to make it slower to travel on.

Data collected from various apps suggests that 50-66% of all traffic on Third St goes through the community rather than to locations in it. The majority of drivers aren’t residents, but rather transients. With around 4,000-5,100 vehicles a day using the road, that means between 2,000 and 3,400 vehicles are just “passing through” town on their way to locations outside the community. And that number will only increase, in part when traffic along Hwy 26 gets too congested and drivers want faster routes through town.

What is the impact on the residents of this growing volume of traffic? The noise, the reduced safety, the congestion, the pollution, the challenges of trying to cross the street or to leave your own driveway: they can only lower the quality of life and raise the residents’ stress levels. And, as someone pointed out, there are already 223 driveways onto the Third-Ontario Streets corridor, with 24 intersections, and the plan to open it all the way to the Tenth Line will add many more (58 more in the Red Maple subdivision alone).

Plus the proposed connection to Cambridge Street will funnel more traffic from Mountain Road onto Third Street.

Through traffic should not be encouraged to use Third Street, but rather discouraged by traffic calming, lower speed limits, and more intersections with four-way stop signs. Our residential streets should be pedestrian- and cycle-friendly first, rather than being mere corridors for more vehicles. Our transportation master plan should recognize that the core areas are not suitable for high traffic volumes, and should be designed for slower speeds and better calming.

I have already said I want to bring back public advisory committees (PACs) into our local governance model. I suggest council also create a traffic-transit-transportation PAC for residents to be able to provide input and ideas about the town’s future traffic and street management.

UPDATE: Here’s an interesting article on making cycle-safe cities and what was done in Amsterdam. Not entirely relevant, but there are some things the next council should consider.

NB: I support the traffic light proposed at the corner of High and Third Streets, but would also retain the existing light on High Street at Home Depot. That light is a demand-only light and doesn’t affect north-south traffic except when vehicles need to enter or leave the Home Depot (and any later box stores in that area, or when pedestrians need to cross High Street). However, it could be useful for the fire department: both traffic signals can be controlled to stop traffic in that block so emergency vehicles can enter and leave the fire hall more safely.

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