Some drivers travelling in and out of the city through Eastern Avenue and the Don Valley Parkway are dangerously turning into streetcar tracks at Cherry Street because of apparent design and signage issues.
The streetcar right-of-way is directly against the curb where a right-turn lane for vehicles usually is, instead of being in the centre of the road — as is the case along St. Clair Avenue.
“Drivers continue to be confused by this. We saw this at Queens Quay as well,” said Pam McConnell, the local city councillor who wants to see changes to the area.
“Rather than wait for a small sign and someone hit, I’d rather have a bigger sign in their face that they need to do something. So we have talked to the transportation department and we’re working daily with them.”
The right-of-way is approximately the same width as a vehicle lane and looks similar from a distance. Within the span of two hours, three vehicles veered onto the streetcar tracks and then dangerously maneuvered off of them.
“There’s also the bikes that go that way too. The streetcar has almost hit them a few times,” said Mario, a service technician who was working in the area.
“Whoever is coming from east to west, it is confusing. A lot of people will look at the right-turn lane and stop and then go forward. Yesterday there were almost a few accidents.”
The TTC says the city’s transportation department oversees the signage in the area according to provincial standards. The TTC simply follows the rules of the road and have trained their staff to be extra cautious.
“If a driver were to see anything on the track they would know how to deal with it,” said spokesperson Stuart Green.
“Our crews are trained to watch for anything on the track, whether it’s a car or a pedestrian or cyclist.”
“The road signage that is currently in place follows provincial standards,” Toronto’s Department of Transportation Services said in a statement. “With this newer design, we have implemented ‘DO NOT ENTER’ signs above the transit way as well as on the poles to get the attention of drivers.”
The current design – chosen with community input – also includes “tracking/hatched” pavement markings on the road to guide drivers into the appropriate lanes.
McConnell said most of the time vehicles veer into the wrong lane, it’s when streetcars are not on the tracks and their visible presence deters drivers from wandering into the right-of-way.
The councillor hopes that as drivers become accustomed to the new design of the intersection, they’ll be more cognizant of the proper turning lane.
Craig Lametti, partner with Urban Strategies Inc., says the intersection is actually well designed, but could use a few improvements for clarity.
“They might actually change the texture of the streetcar right-of-way to make it a bit more obvious that this isn’t a place where you might want to drive,” he said.
“You could also use a thicker striping to make it clear to drivers that this is not a place where you want to be pulling into.”
So far the TTC says they don’t believe there have been any accidents in the area.