Why does North York have the city’s worst gridlock?
For years, residents have pleaded with councillors to slam the brakes on transit gridlock in the city’s north.
Now a city staff list of the top 10 most congested intersections or sections of road confirms their grievances are well placed.
Of the top five most congested intersections or road sections, four are in North York. Of all 10, half are on Sheppard Avenue.
That comes as no surprise to Willowdale MPP David Zimmer, who has the dubious honour of having the top spot of Bayview and Sheppard avenues in his riding.
“It’s bad in North York because if you just look at the intersection of Sheppard and Bayview, it speaks for itself,” he said. “There’s a busy, successful plaza on one end, there’s the interchange with the 401 and within 100 [metres] is the Yonge and 401 intersection.”
Ward 10 councillor James Pasternak pointed out that North York serves as the main transportation corridor for northern 905ers working in Toronto.
“Because of the growth of the suburbs in Thornhill and Richmond Hill, the density and congestion just continues to increase as people commute north and south,” he said.
That stretch of Yonge Street between Sheppard Avenue and the 401 also made the list. During rush hour, the left-turn lane often spills into the next lane when drivers traveling south on Yonge Street try to turn left onto the 401.
“It’s like you’ve removed a lane from Yonge Street,” said Ward 23 councillor John Filion.
To try to rectify the problem, the provincial Ministry of Transportation has been working on a functional planning study for the last few years.
A major recommendation includes building a flyover or crossover ramp that would allow drivers to get directly onto 401 from Yonge Street, which Filion says is badly needed.
“It is the only intersection in North America that has those kinds of traffic volumes that does not have some sort of flyover or other system to easily get off one main street and onto the highway,” Filion said.
But even if driving infrastructure is improved, the fact is there are too many cars on the road, Zimmer said.
The Sheppard subway line was built with intensification in mind. However, Zimmer believes it didn’t quite turn out as planned.
“The idea was that the condo people were attracted there because they could get around on the subway,” he said. “And I’m just speaking anecdotally, but it seems there are still huge numbers of condo folks using their cars.”
Some, such as Filion, have suggested there should be a hold on development until further transit infrastructure is built in North York. But Zimmer believes ultimately it’s about changing the city’s cultural mindset when it comes to getting around.
He recalled when he lived in New York and saw senior executives on the subway because it was simply far faster than having a chauffeur.
“That’s just how you get around. If you go to New York or London, people wouldn’t dream of taking their cars into the city centres,” he said. “It’s a part of the culture.”
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