Monday, April 13, 2020 - 3:30 PM

Council Considers Street Network Changes

pedestrian push button
Recognizing the importance of safe walking for City residents while maintaining physical distancing, City Council has approved a plan to automate traffic signals and is seeking to engage with the public on possible street reconfiguration options.
The City currently has 108 full traffic signals and another 31 pedestrian signals (overhead flashers, RRFBs or pedestrian signal). Work will begin shortly to automate the network, which will involve a physical visit to each signal to adjust the timing and to post signs advising people that they should no longer use the pushbutton.
The benefit of placing a traffic signal on pedestrian recall is that the walk signal will activate on every cycle of the traffic signal without having to press the button, cutting down on one potential source of COVID-19 transmission. However, automating the signal will mean vehicles will have to wait for the “walk” sign to stop, whether or not pedestrians are waiting to cross. 
It is important to note that the pedestrian recall approach Council has directed staff to implement will only work at full traffic signals. Stand-alone pedestrian signals will need new equipment and substantial modifications to be placed on a timed cycle and will not be changed at this time.
“Although there are compromises regardless of the approach we take, Council believes that automating as many signals as possible will improve safety for pedestrians and is in line with the direction we have been given by federal and provincial leaders,” said Councillor Sandy Hickman, Council lead for Traffic.
Council also discussed the possibility of reconfiguring streets to allow for greater physical distancing. Some options include:
  • Lane reconfigurations, to take space between the curbs and assign it for use by pedestrians and/or cyclists; pylons or barriers would be used to mark the affected areas
  • Full street closures, taken on a block by block basis
  • A traffic calmed boulevard, using restrictions on vehicle traffic to make the space more inviting and safer for active users.
Council will be engaging with the public on these options and will announce a plan to gather feedback from residents shortly.
“We will need to engage with our residents on balancing the need for enhanced pedestrian movement with the directive to stay at home to flatten the curve and shorten our pandemic period,” said Councillor Hickman. “We look forward to hearing the opinions of our residents and business community on this matter.”