Slowing down of traffic in neighbourhoods is consistently one of the top issues brought up by community associations all across the City. The City has a program for neighbourhoods to request the City to study traffic speed issues in their areas however that program has such a long backlog of study requests that it could be years before any action could be possible. Details can be found at this city webpage.
To partially alleviate this situation, in the 2014-2018 period Mayor Watson allocated 30K$ per year to every single ward councilor to be used as they saw fit to address traffic speed issues in their ward. In the 2018-2022 period, Mayor Watson increased this annual allocation to 40K$ per ward.
Speed Boards: The most common uses by ward councilors of this funding was to increase the use of ‘speed boards’ which are the signs we see mounted on poles which flash the speed at oncoming drivers.
Centreline Flex Stakes: The second most common use of these funds was to start implementing installation of flexible stakes mounted in the middle of streets. These have been shown to have a mild effect on slowing traffic. These stakes are installed every spring and removed for winter. As a footnote, a street is generally required to be at least 9m wide or more in order to be considered for installation of these flex stakes and there are some streets in Sandy Hill which do not meet this minimum width requirement (eg. Range Rd, Chapel, Besserrer, some sections of Russell Ave).
4-Way Stops: Adding 4-way stops at intersections is also sometimes effective at slowing traffic on busier streets. Residents can request such a stop to be considered at an intersection. This will result in the city performing an 8hr daytime traffic measurement at that intersection and the intersection will need to meet certain criteria in order to qualify. There are several criteria that need to be met but an example of one of the key criteria is that the total combined traffic volume of all approaches to the intersection must exceed 200 vehicles per hour on average (one vehicle every 18 secs) and with an average of at least 80 or more per hour (cars + pedestrians combined) on the street with the lower volume. Sometimes intersections not meeting this criteria can be changed to be 4-way stops if the City councilor brings the issue up at Transportation Committee and the proposal is supported by a majority of other councilors on the committee.
Alternating Sides Street Parking: Another ‘low cost’ way of calming traffic on a street is sometimes accomplished (where possible) by alternating on-street parking from one side of the street to the other either within a single block or on alternating blocks. In order to effect this change on a street in a neighbourhood interested residents are required to file a petition and to receive positive support for the change from 66% of the addresses on the street. This is often difficult to achieve.
Lowering Street Speed Limits: Requests can also be made to lower the speed limit on a street. Once again the City has a process for responding to these requests which involves conducting a traffic study on a street and if the street meets certain conditions then a lowering of the speed limit can be implemented. It is not clear however that posting a lower speed limit on a street has any measurable effect on slowing down driver behavior and City staff are generally not enthusiastic about making such signage-only changes!
Lowering Whole Neighbourhood Speed Limits: Starting in 2018 a change in provincial legislation was implemented that allows cities to lower the speed limit across a whole neighbourhood rather than having to make such a change on a street by street basis. This was done by amending the Highway Traffic Act such that it no longer requires posting of 40km/hr signs on every single street but instead via a process of installing ‘gateway speed signage’ only at the entrances of any streets leading into the neighbourhood. City council decided subsequently that it would begin the process of making this change throughout the city with each ward having one neighbourhood speed reduced each year. Sandy Hill (south of Laurier Ave) was chosen to be the first such neighbourhood in ward 12. Accordingly in the fall of 2018 ‘40km/hr area’ signs were posted on every street turning south off Laurier and East off King Edward indicating drivers were entering a 40km/hr zone.
In 2021 a new initiative by Councillor Fleury resulted in speed limits being lowered in the north of Laurier section of Sandy Hill as well. By this time the traffic department at the City had been convinced that it was acceptable to drop speed limits to 30 km/hr on residential streets and this became the new posted speed limits in both the north and south of Laurier sections of Sandy Hill.
Street Geometry Changes: Other traffic calming measures that involve physical changes to the street such as narrowing the street, adding narrowing ‘bulbouts’ at intersections, or speed humps are considerably more expensive to implement and are rarely added using the councilor’s annual funding. These measures are usually only added when a street is being reconstructed for other reasons, most usually via renewal of sewer and water infrastructure.