The Transit City plan as approved would effectively eliminate car lanes on Eglinton in Scarborough—however, the lanes marked for removal are high-occupancy-vehicle (a.k.a. carpool) lanes and, as such, the effect on motor traffic would not be as drastic as feared.
Yesterday, I wrote a post in which I claimed that Forum Research had been misleading in its claims that Eglinton East would be reduced from six to four lanes of car traffic under the surface-rail plan put forward in David Miller’s Transit City and in the new spin-off plan bandied about by centrist and leftist councillors. I pointed to claims by defenders of surface rail and journalists that, under the surface-alignment scheme, no lanes of car traffic would be lost. Given that Eglinton Avenue is almost absurdly wide in Scarborough, with medians in the middle of the road and broad boulevards on each side—and acres of parking lots beside those—it certainly seems possible to add dedicated LRT lanes without losing car lanes, either by widening the road or by adjusting lane widths and turning lanes.
However, as people pointed out to me in the comments and on Twitter, the completed Environmental Project Report—the approved plan, essentially—for the Eglinton Crosstown project under David Miller’s Transit City does appear to call for reducing Eglinton to four lanes in Scarborough:
Two lanes of traffic will be maintained in each direction along Eglinton Avenue. Where two lanes of traffic in each direction currently exist from Martin Grove Road to Weston Road and from Black Creek Drive to the west portal, Eglinton Avenue will be widened by one lane in each direction to accommodate the LRT. Where three lanes of traffic currently exist from Weston Road to Black Creek Drive and Brentcliffe Road to Kennedy Road, one lane of traffic in each direction will be removed to accommodate the LRT. [Boldface emphasis mine.]
Furthermore, in the section on impacts on traffic operations, the report says:
The removal of one through lane in each direction along the east section of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT may displace some vehicular traffic. Current drivers could use other roads or could be converted to transit users.
This appears to be a fairly cut-and-dried vindication of the veracity (if not the neutrality) of Forum Research’s question.
So why are there so many claims that Eglinton would not lose traffic lanes? As it’s been explained to me, the lanes that would be lost in Scarborough under the plan would be High-Occupancy-Vehicle lanes, currently reserved for buses, taxis, motorcycles and cars carrying three or more people. So what are now carpool and transit-only lanes would become strictly transit-only lanes. Which means that viewed from a certain perspective no “regular traffic” lanes would be lost.
Still, high-occupancy or not, some lanes now available to cars would be lost, which is a reasonable factor to consider in the debate.
Proponents of surface rail also point out that it is possible, if we’re considering options (as we clearly are if we’re talking about burying the LRT in Scarborough) to change the design plan in order to avoid losing lanes available to cars in Scarborough. Indeed, the Star‘s Queen’s Park columnist reported that the McGuinty government had offered to do exactly that in order to dissuade Ford from putting the whole line underground:
Too bad he didn’t give more thought to a tantalizing offer dangled during closed-door negotiations last year: For any car lanes taken over by LRT rails on the surface, the province would expropriate adjoining land to widen Eglinton Ave. proportionately.
So clearly, the flow of car traffic on Eglinton under a surface-alignment plan is to some degree negotiable—if the city is making a decision on how to proceed, it could go with the Ford underground plan, the approved Transit City Plan or some variation on either of those that would address concerns about traffic lanes, intersections or anything else.
But it’s important to note that the original plan did call for eliminating two HOV traffic lanes along the Scarborough section of Eglinton, which is clearly the reason Forum Research included this information in its original question. While I still have concerns that the responses could be unfairly shaped by including this particular piece of information—and the comparison to the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way—in the question without including other information, say, the cost or projected ridership numbers, it is not a false claim. And I am happy to set the record straight here.