By Len Gillis
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Accessibility activist Dan McKay of the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC) convinced Timmins city council this week of the need to increase the timing for pedestrians crossings on Algonquin Boulevard, by adding an extra 10 second to the traffic crossing cycle.
TIMMINS – If you’re a motorist in Timmins, city council is adding just 10 seconds to that stoplight on Algonquin you might be stopped at.
If you’re a pedestrian in Timmins, that additional 10 seconds could save your life.
That’s the thinking behind the decision of council this week to extend the timing cycle for the traffic signals on Algonquin Boulevard and indeed along Highway 101 throughout the city, from the crossing light at Porcupine Mall all the way to Riverside Drive and Shirley Street.
This follows a presentation to council by Dan McKay of the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC), asking the city to consider the concerns of pedestrians, especially those who have mobility challenges.
“It has been brought to our attention at MAAC since as early at 2007 and 2008 by residents, many residents, coming to us asking, ‘Can you get the timing of the traffic lights crossing Algonquin increased?'” McKay told council.
He said he is aware the time to get across Algonquin at most intersections in the minimum standard of 24 seconds, as set by the MTO (Ministry of Transportation Ontario).
“But that’s the bare minimum. We’re talking life and death here,” McKay said.
He was able to recite the exact times for traffic signals on Algonquin from Brunette Road through to the Theriault/Cameron intersection. He said in most cases the full signal cycle is 90-seconds long. In most instances, he said, the lights favour traffic on Algonquin with 66 seconds dedicated to the east-west traffic flow and only 24 seconds dedicated to motorists and pedestrians crossing in a north-south direction.
McKay described the 24 seconds as having the solid colour “walk” sign for a period of nine or 10 seconds, followed by nine or 10 seconds of flashing “don’t walk” signal, followed by four seconds of solid “don’t walk”.
After that, pedestrians do not want to find themselves still in the intersection, said McKay.
He said the problem is too many drivers do not notice the pedestrians. Instead, he said, they focus their attention on the traffic lights.
“They’re looking at the light standard. When it hits green, so does their foot hit the metal. The pedal to the metal. I’ve been there,” said McKay, who is visually impaired and walks with a white cane, or a seeing-eye dog.
McKay also noted the population in Timmins is aging, and people have any number of disabilities which, he said, affects their mobility. He said the 10 seconds of a green walk signal is not enough. McKay said by adding 10 seconds, Timmins pedestrians would have a full 20 seconds to cross the road, which would be followed by the nine or 10 second flashing “don’t walk” period as a buffer.
“Why we are stuck on this 24-second standard is not justified any longer.”
McKay and Coun. Joe Campbell, a fellow committee member, relayed the story of a MAAC member who recently visited Orillia where many of the downtown traffic signals had the green walk signal on for a full 26 seconds more than double the time allowed for pedestrians crossing Algonquin.
McKay said this request had been sent to city hall previously and the concern was included in the Connecting Link study carried out by AECOM Canada Ltd.
McKay said the AECOM study noted the 24-second crossing time was in place in most intersections and the report itself said that was sufficient.
“It’s still not good enough,” said McKay.
McKay noted that if the traffic sequencing was slowed down, it might back up some of the traffic on Algonquin Boulevard.
“Which would probably be a good thing in the end because those 18-wheelers wouldn’t be rolling like they do,” McKay quipped.
He said the current traffic flow system on Algonquin has been in place since 1991 and it is time for a change. McKay said more family members now have more cars and there are more heavy trucks that come through Algonquin as a connecting link from Highway 144 through Timmins to the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 11).
“When you’re walking that sidewalk, which I often do, you’re rumbling with the truck when it’s going by. They’re flying,” said McKay.
He reminded council that MAAC has a mandate to see that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is adhered to.
“Our role is to identify, remove and prevent barriers,” said McKay adding that the minimum times for crossing Algonquin is “an absolute barrier” for people with mobility challenges.
Several members of council congratulated McKay and endorsed his request. At the end of the evening, council went into a special meeting to pass some other bylaws. At the same time, council decided to take action and passed an amended motion to add 10 seconds to the traffic timing cycle for north-south traffic crossing Algonquin; along with adding 10 seconds to the traffic timing cycle for eastbound and westbound traffic lights, all along Highway 101-Algonquin-Riverside from the Porcupine Mall to Shirley Street.
The idea to add extra intersections followed a presentation by Coun. Rick Dubeau, who said he had checked out the Porcupine Mall crossing and found that college students were barely getting across on time.
Coun. Noella Rinaldo agreed on the need to increase the minimum crossing time, saying she was tired of seeing minimum standards. She said it was time to shift the priority to something better.
City engineering director Luc Duval said he would act on the motion as quickly as possible and consult with Porcupine Electric, the contractor for traffic lights, to see how quickly the changes could be made.