Eglinton LRT signals new shift to the left

Toronto’s new Transit City project on Eglinton Avenue includes Ontario’s first specialized u-turn intersection and drivers used to making the standard left turn at traffic lights will have to pay a bit of attention.

Ryan Bissonnette handles the public affairs for the Toronto Transit Commission. He said, “If you’re travelling east on Eglinton and want to make a left hand turn on Islington, you won’t be able to.”

The TTC is in the process of revamping the city’s public transportation system. It’s currently constructing an above ground Light Rail transit line on Eglinton Avenue. It’s a modern version of the streetcar that will connect Kennedy subway to Pearson airport.

The above ground LRT requires tracks that will run along the middle lane of the street. Vehicles are prohibited to cross the tracks to make left hand turns. Instead, they will have to make a u-turn at a specialized median intersection; it’s the first of its kind in Toronto.

“Vehicles will have to travel through the main intersection, veer to the left and come to the u-turn traffic signal. Once it goes green, the car can make a u-turn while opposite traffic is stopped,” Bissonette said.

The TTC believes this will improve traffic safety.

“Studies show that with these specialized intersections there’s a 20 to 50 per cent deduction in crash rates compared to other signals,” Bissonnette said.

While on-coming traffic is stopped at a red light, vehicles can cross without fear of head-on or angle collisions. The commission also believes that it will improve the flow of pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

“Median u-turns result in short wait times for pedestrians and left turning vehicles,” Bissonnette said. “Busy intersections and LRT light phases are long. These will permit a quicker signal phase and ultimately more reliable service for the LRT.”

But with any new concept, there are some concerns. The CBC radio’s traffic reporter, Jim Curran believes it may help congestion on Eglinton in the long run, but he’s concerned that people who don’t frequent the road will find it confusing.

“This is very new. People don’t normally turn left at u-turn signals in Toronto,” he said. “If you don’t drive the street all the time you may find it confusing. Especially if no sign is posted, clearly indicating how to proceed.”

He believes that like everything, it will take frequent drivers some getting used to. He predicts a two-month period where drivers will familiarize themselves with the new rules. In conjunction, the TTC will most likely conduct studies to determine its success and make the necessary adjustments.

“Anything new takes some getting used to. If you’re on Eglinton road everyday you may find it a nuisance at first. But in my experience, if its beneficial people will adjust.” he said.