Beachers vent traffic and parking frustration

Parking in the Beach a problem? You don’t say so.

Balmy Beach Club was the site of a meeting organized by Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon on Feb. 4, which focused on traffic, transit and parking. To answer questions by the 80-plus attendees, the councillor invited representatives from Toronto Police Parking Enforcement, Toronto Parking Authority, Toronto Police, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), and Transportation Planning.

Sergeant Gary Olson of 55 Division’s Traffic Response Unit started things off by offering his support to the residents and expressing his willingness to work with the community on any traffic enforcement issues.

Parking Enforcement representatives were faced with many questions from the audience, ranging from parking permits to grace periods on Queen Street. It was explained that the Parking Enforcement officers are allowed to offer a five minute grace period on expired parking slips, and the City of Toronto allows for another five, for a total of 10 minutes. The officer may write the ticket after five minutes of the expired time, and the driver would be required to attend a parking enforcement office to have their ticket discharged if within the 10 minute grace period.

The conversation focused primarily on the stretch of  Queen Street from Woodbine to Neville Park. One resident said that “we’re not moving people, we’re moving vehicles,” and that a vision for the whole area is required, which should include bike lanes.

Some believe the parking restriction times should be extended, as rush hour seems to now begin at 3 p.m. This is a move that the Beach Business Improvement Area (BIA) has concerns with as it would limit parking for shoppers for a longer period of time.

“The result of less parking [will] mean a lot of empty storefronts and dusty, empty businesses,” said Adam Smith, a BIA representative.

Area development was raised as the main issue and how the City and developers plan to accommodate the influx of new residents and their vehicles. It was agreed by all, residents and the panel, that there will be a need to improve parking in the area to deal with condo buildings expected or proposed along Queen Street.

The 1960-1962 Queen St. E. (aka Lick’s) development will have 27 parking spots for 29 units in a stacked, elevator controlled parking lot. McMahon said the City does not require a one to one ratio of parking spaces to units in a development.

One resident felt strongly that developers should “shoulder” some of the burden in respect to parking by creating not only enough parking space for their residents, but also additional spaces for the community. Others were concerned that even though new condo residents are given a parking spot in their building, they will still park on the surrounding streets, which are over capacity in terms of street permits.

Residents wishing to change the parking rules on their streets are asked to get the support of their neighbours and present their proposals to the city, said McMahon. Normally one would need 60 per cent of the residents on board with the proposal.

Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) President Lorne Persiko emphasized the need to for his organization to be involved from the onset as it comes to new development. The issue in the Beach, he said, is that the developments do not have a large enough footprint for the building of additional parking spaces. The Bellefair development was at one point a candidate for a Green P lot, but it would have required more land, and was therefore not pursued.

“We know there is a need for additional public parking in the area,” said Persiko.

But some residents feel that the addition of parking will only attract more traffic, which in turn will affect public transit and slow it down.

“We have to decide what we want to do. Do we just ‘drive’ our lives away?,” asked one participant. Another resident was concerned that the parking lots would take over some of the residences. Persiko was quick to explain that TPA cannot purchase properties for the purpose of building lots.

Nigel Tahair of City Planning explained that the City has policies in place to maintain a balance between parking and business stimulation on retail strips and although complex, the goal is to provide shoppers with enough parking.

TTC’s Manager of Planning Mitch Stambler talked to the residents about plans to change the Queen Street route. With the new streetcars being introduced next year, two or three of the stops will be eliminated, said Stambler. This is a result of the length of the new streetcars.

Stambler also admitted that less streetcars will run along Queen Street because of its increased capacity. Cost of operation and studies related to ridership will dictate how many and how often the new streetcars will run.

One resident who lives at the east end of Queen Street expressed concerns with streetcars stopping idle near the Neville loop. Stambler said he hopes that with the decreased frequency of the bigger streetcars the issue will be eased.

The Q and A format of the meeting allowed for many residents to search for solutions to problems that have been brought up in the past. Many felt they still do not have a concrete vision for Queen Street’s traffic and transit issues. Frustration was sensed by some as a result of not having answers or being given vague answers.

“We’re looking for some kind of a plan from the City…I have no feeling that the City has any insight into the concerns or the uniqueness of our neighbourhood or that any changes are going to occur,” directed one resident to McMahon. “We already have a horrible parking situation on our street and now it’s going to get worse and the City doesn’t really seem to care. And I’m not getting a feeling from you that there’s going to be any changes.”

Martina Rowley, of Greening Ward 32, offered to organize a “hands-on visioning session” in hopes of coming up with ideas to improve traffic and parking along Queen Street. She hopes to develop a concrete set of solution proposals that would ease the traffic along the street.

Many felt this is the job of the City – and should have been done prior to new developments being approved.

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There does need to be a serious conversation on this. Traffic and parking are a mess in this area. Moving the parking time restrictions to reflect an earlier rush hour is a good idea. It is not a logical conclusion to say a business will close as a result of a slight change in on street parking. Eliminating a couple stops along a 12 stop route (from Woodbine) will have minimal effect. Benefits of the new streetcars are also limited during rush hour when the maximum number of vehicles will be used regardless. I would like to know what effect running the new double length arctic buses through this area would have, as that would at least eliminate the mandatory stopping of all traffic that the streetcar produces at stops. The city should be looking at how to best deal with this situation. If the official City Plan is going to dictate intensification of the area, then they need to come to the plate and answer for how to deal with the traffic and parking issues it brings. Community meetings and/or studies are great in theory but are starting to feel more and more like deferrals and stall tactics to avoid taking action.

Ariculated buses will not work anywhere in the downtown core as well as this area. There will be no lane for them as the curb lane is now a parking lane. There will be no way it could pull in and out to service stops and thus be forced to drive and service stops in the only moving lane as streetcars do now. This still forces all traffic to stop. Not to mention carry less people then streetcars and create a switching or transferring point from streetcars to buses that may just run in and out of that stretch somewhere on the route. We all know that transfering will not go over well.

Love the folks with two or three cars who buy a Beach house with no parking and then complain that condo developers are causing a parking problem!

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