Last Tuesday night, residents, the Champlain Park Community Association and I met at the field house to discuss the potential to close the stretch of Pontiac between Cowley and Carleton. It was a very well-attended meeting with dozens of residents, and I appreciated the respectful and productive discussion. I’ll take this opportunity to provide an update on what I’m thinking, and some follow-up steps I’ve taken.
I’m continuing to receive emails, supportive and not, about the proposal. Opinion is split on the advisability of proceeding. I’m getting a sense now that there is fairly broad support for joining the City park to the NCC park by extending the greenspace contiguously from the field house to the Parkway. It’s a lot of real estate that could eventually be de-paved, providing more room for play, exploration of the scrub and forest, room for gardens and planting, and uninterrupted access to the park from the winter and summer paths. While still paved, it could be a very attractive place to play road hockey and basketball, learn to bike, and more.
But, there are also some very legitimate concerns being raised about where traffic currently using that street would go, and whether that would constitute an undue burden on the alternative streets. Longer-time residents have already seen extensive pressure on neighbourhood roads from the march of infills and Tunney’s Pasture parking. And, there are infrastructure concerns arising from the downward slope from east to west. If and when the stretch was to be de-paved, drainage should actually be improved. But, while it’s still asphalt, we need to understand how meltwater would flow into the existing drains.
I want to understand the traffic implications better, so did some quick counts on Thursday and Friday.
On Friday, I was out from 3:15-5:05 and counted on Pontiac in the stretch we're floating closing:
15 cars westbound that came from Northwestern
4 cars westbound that came from Carleton
17 cars eastbound from Cowley. My impression is that these were almost all Tunney's parkers.
17 cars eastbound from Keyworth, including 7 that had a child visible in the car (my assumption is that these are pick-ups from the school), and 3 buses
10 cars eastbound from Patricia, including 6 that had a child visible in the car (again, I’m making an assumption of pick-ups)
2 bikes eastbound, and 15 bikes westbound
14 pedestrians eastbound, and 25 pedestrians westbound. As you might imagine, a very large number of these westbound pedestrians looked like they were headed to their car from Tunney's Pasture.
As an observation, the school rush lasts for about 10 minutes immediately after the bell. Traffic is extremely light outside of that period.
On Thursday morning, I did a count from 7:30 to 9:15 am.
On Pontiac westbound I observed:
From Northwestern: 9 vehicles, of which 8 had kids visible
From Carleton: 14 vehicles, of which 10 had kids visible and one bus
On Pontiac eastbound I observed:
One vehicle – a resident of the Keyworth/Cowley block
One vehicle from Cowley
12 vehicles from Keyworth, of which 4 were buses
7 vehicles from Patricia, of which 1 was a bus
I’ve got some first impressions from these numbers.
First, if this initiative went ahead, there are fewer than 20 parents who would need to find an alternative route. A significant number of these are already using two different routes for afternoon and morning pickup, with fewer heading east on Pontiac in the afternoon. This traffic is all, from what I observed, concentrated into a roughly 10-minute period around the school bell, and I cannot reasonably come to the conclusion that the addition of that traffic would have any meaningful impact on residents’ experience of their neighbourhood. It is, of course, just a snapshot.
The other major contributor is Tunney’s Pasture parkers on Keyworth and Cowley. I’ve had some great follow-up discussions with residents about some creative parking restrictions to try to discourage that behaviour. I’m hopeful that we could implement some of these in conjunction with a potential road closure. Morning time restrictions on those two streets and increased enforcement could eliminate a big chunk of the traffic in this part of the neighbourhood.
Outside of these two groups, there is almost no traffic, except for bicycles. The popularity of Pontiac for cyclists either using the Tunney’s or NCC bike path speaks strongly to the need to maintain that access. It’s worth noting that I observed a number of conflicts between cars, bikes and pedestrians during both counts. The speed at which a small number of cars travel along this stretch led to at least one pedestrian/car near-miss, and I observed conflicts between fast-moving cars and left-turning bikes in the AM peak. Closing the road to traffic would, I consider, significantly reduce speed on Pontiac and improve pedestrian/cycling safety.
I am still leaning supportive on this potential closure, but continue to gather your feedback. I’ve spoken both with the school bus authority and at length with one driver, and there continue to be no concerns expressed on their part. But, I need to follow up with the school itself. I also need to speak with parking at the City about how much wriggle-room we have to find a creative solution to parking on Keyworth and Cowley. We don’t yet have a cost for depaving the space, and I need to discuss this at greater length with public works and the City infrastructure folks to determine what considerations they would have. I’m looking forward to those continued conversations with you and the City in the weeks to come. Thanks for your engagement with the community association and my office on this issue.