An Alternative: North-South Suite / One-Way Streets

The Wellington Street Extension is the City of Kingston’s solution to a perceived traffic congestion problem on downtown streets running north and south.

It is this writer’s thesis that the entire Extension concept, as it currently stands, is not only terrible urban design, but largely unnecessary, and far too expensive. Furthermore, there is a plausible alternative available that has been entirely neglected so far. We can move traffic in and out of downtown more fluidly by making two of the existing north-south streets one-way. This is cheaper, and it takes a plausible and practical approach of distributing traffic rather than funneling it.

Kingston already has such a one-way street system operational in its downtown. Princess, Brock, and Johnson Streets were originally all two-way streets, but in the 1960s, this suite of streets was transformed into a one-way system, which is still in place. It is well established practice that one-way street traffic can increase flow by 10 per cent, 20 per cent, 30 per cent, or even more, without increasing the number of cars on each street. The existing one-way streets have been accepted by Kingstonians and no protest has been made in the nearly half-century since installation.

We could do something similar with Rideau, Bagot, and Montreal streets.

All three currently carry two-way traffic.  Under my concept,

  1. Montreal, the busiest of the three, would remain two-way from the north to the corner of Rideau / Railway. It would then convert to one-way, running SOUTH, all the way to its end at Brock Street / Hotel Dieu.
  2. Bagot, likely the second-busiest of the three, would remain two-way.
  3. Rideau, likely the quietest of the three, with a 40-km/h speed limit between Barrack Street and the area just at the last housing before the parks on its west, would be converted to a one-way, running NORTH from downtown. It could keep its existing speed limits.
  4. Russell Street would be reconnected to Rideau Street.
  5. River Street would be reconnected to Rideau Street, providing access from / to the Davis Tannery site. Access off Rideau into the Davis site is potentially available a block south of Russell, just as Rideau curves to the west.
  6. A Variant: Some people who favour this ‘North-South Suite’ concept substitute Division Street for Rideau Street.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 2.36.37 PM

Under my plan, the different segments of the WSE would receive independent analysis as to their worth and cost.  The plan does not preclude certain northern elements of the WSE from being developed.

I propose that the North-South Suite plan be further discussed and detailed, and that it be taken to the Environmental, Infrastructure, and Transportation Policies (EITP) Committee in early November. Before the City goes any further in its planning for the Wellington Extension, it is only responsible — for fiscal, environmental, and political reasons — that it investigate plausible alternatives.

— Frank Dixon

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