Engagement report: fall 2023
The City of Kingston is undertaking a study focussed on updates to the multi-modal transportation network within the Williamsville area. This includes: a design and operational review of Princess Street between Bath Road/Concession Street and Division Street, plans for expansion of the existing area-wide cycling network, and the potential to implement green street concepts when modifications are made to a street. These design alternatives are being explored at the request of the public, as discussed below. All three components of this work are being captured under what is being called the Williamsville Transportation Study.
In 2020, a transportation operations study was completed to assess what changes would be required to support intensification within Williamsville without requiring road widening. The operational study identified the need for significant improvements to pedestrian, cycling, and transit facilities to shift the preferred travel mode away from private vehicles. One of the key recommendations from that study was to reconsider how the limited Princess Street right-of-way is currently being used. Princess Street has been the subject of several studies in the past and is identified as an arterial road, cycling spine, and transit priority corridor (Kingston Transportation Master Plan (2015), Kingston Walk n’ Roll (2018), Kingston Official Plan (2022)). Pedestrian facilities along the corridor also need to be compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and address the volume needs associated with the adjacent land uses. The limited Princess Street right-of-way makes it very challenging to simultaneously meet all of the objectives set forth for the corridor.
In 2022, the City contracted Dillon Consulting Limited to complete a study to identify constraints, potential operational improvements, modal priorities and feasible alternative cross-sections for the Princess Street corridor. One of the alternative cross-sections was presented at a Town Hall meeting in March 2023. The presented cross-section and associated plan view design prioritized pedestrians, improved streetscaping, and included transit-priority features. It did not include dedicated cycling facilities. One of the overarching themes expressed during the Town Hall was a lack of clarity in the design selection process and missed opportunities for public engagement which could have led to the development of more alternatives. The Williamsville Transportation Study aims to address these concerns by providing the public with more information and opportunities to weigh in on various design elements before Council identifies a preferred way forward. Additional information on the March 2023 Town Hall is included in the spring engagement report.
Design feedback received at the March 2023 Town Hall meeting generally fell into three categories. The first was related to cycling. The public expressed a strong desire to keep bike lanes on Princess Street and to improve cycling throughout Williamsville through the implementation of a neighbourhood bikeway network. Attendees requested that additional traffic calming measures be introduced on local streets to encourage vehicles to drive slowly and share the roadway with cyclists. The second category of comments included support for a widened pedestrian realm and landscaping of the corridor. The third primary category of comments included concerns about the removal of on-street parking along Princess Street. The public suggested it may result in additional vehicles parking on local roads adjacent to Princess Street with already limited spaces.
The current study includes a comprehensive analysis of alternative cross-sections for Princess Street between Bath Road and Division Street Corridor in response to the 2023 Town Hall feedback. It also includes public consultation on two short-listed design alternatives so that a preferred design can be identified that best reflects the desires of the local community and their mobility needs.
This study also considers alternatives to improve cycling throughout Williamsville by implementing neighbourhood bike routes on local streets. This additional layer of cycling infrastructure would provide improved connections between existing and already planned dedicated cycling infrastructure. To encourage and enhance these neighbourhood bikeways, the City is also planning to implement ‘green streets’ which would encourage active modes of transportation on local roads. The City solicited input on the desire for a neighbourhood cycling network during the March 2023 Town Hall. Attendees were also asked to identify preferred neighbourhood bikeway corridors in the Williamsville area.
The City hosted an Open House engagement session on Oct. 26, 2023, at St. Luke’s Anglican Church to solicit feedback on the various components of the Williamsville Transportation Study. The Open House allowed the public to review and comment on two short-listed alternatives for Princess Street, as well as alternative designs for the proposed neighbourhood cycling network. Information on the implementation of green street design concepts in Williamsville was also available for the public to review. The format of the Open House included information boards with roll plans laid out on tables, illustrating the two short-listed alternatives, as shown in Figure 1 below.
The City also provided the public with opportunities to provide feedback on the design of Princess Street, the neighbourhood cycling network, and green street design concepts through Get Involved Kingston.
The City of Kingston residents and businesses were notified of the Open House 10 days prior to the event through the project website, the Williamsville Bikeway project website, the City of Kingston’s Event Calendar, Facebook events page, and through e-mail notices to various community groups. Business cards with the Open House date and details were also given out on Oct. 5 at the Councillor’s Town Hall.
Purpose of the October 2023 open house
The purpose of the October 2023 engagement session was to collect feedback on updated design and cross-section alternatives for Princess Street, the neighbourhood bikeway alternatives, and preliminary feedback on the Green Streets concepts. Development and consultation on these elements of the Williamsville transportation network were requested during the April 2023 Town Hall.
The fall open house materials summarized past studies that have been completed to date for the Williamsville neighbourhood, including the policy direction guiding decision-making processes, the rationale behind the design alternatives, as well as mapping for the proposed neighbourhood bikeway networks. In response to the Spring 2023 Town Hall comments, a comprehensive list of alternatives was presented in October. Details included restrictions on the pedestrian realm, mitigation measures, and the two short-listed alternative options that aligned best with the strategic goals and objectives of the City. Preliminary roll plans for the short-listed alternatives were also presented at the Open House, illustrating trade-offs required to fit the desired facilities within the limited right-of-way.
A comprehensive neighbourhood bikeway map was also presented. The bikeway map included several local roads identified in the previous engagement session as well as additional local roads that would help complete the network. The City also introduced Advisory Bike Lanes as a potential design alternative for the local bike network, accompanied by preliminary cross-sections that included traffic-calming options such as bump-outs at midblock and intersection locations.
What we heard
At the Open House, attendees were encouraged to review the boards and ask any relevant questions to staff. At various points throughout the event, attendees were encouraged to provide comments on specific “Tell us what you think” boards, using a mix of dots and sticky notes as shown below in Figure 2.
The City also provided feedback opportunities through the completion of a physical survey or a virtual Google Form. The physical forms were deposited into a comment box to maintain anonymity while the virtual feedback forms were completed online.
Other feedback options included completing online surveys on the Get Involved Kingston webpage. Surveys were posted for Princess Street (under Williamsville Transportation Study), the neighbourhood bikeway designs and network (under Williamsville Bikeways), and green streets (under Frontenac Green Street Concepts).
In both the physical and online Google forms, attendees were asked for their feedback on the following:
- Lived experiences with the existing configuration of Princess Street;
- The features they believe are most important on a re-imagined Princess Street;
- Their opinions on advisory bike lanes, neighbourhood bikeways; and
- Whether there are any additional routes they would like to see explored for the neighbourhood bikeway network.
In addition to topic-specific questions, the feedback forms included open-ended questions, which allowed attendees to provide their input on the design of Princess Street and the neighbourhood bikeways.
Princess Street design
The cross-sections for the two shortlisted alternatives were presented to residents at a Town Hall in April 2023 and a second Open House in October 2023. The feedback received about the design of Princess Street between Bath Road and Division Street was focused on cycling infrastructure and pedestrian realm improvements. These two design elements are the primary design differences between the two short-listed alternatives shown in Figure 3. The following sections provide more details under these two category headings. An online survey was also posted on Engage Kingston’s website to collect feedback about the presented cross-sections.
As discussed in the purpose of the October 2023 open house section, one of the key messages received at the previous engagement session was a strong preference to keep dedicated bike lanes on Princess Street. The option that was presented in April 2023 had removed bike lanes in favour of a wider pedestrian realm with the intent of encouraging pedestrian activity on Princess Street and improving transit travel times. However, the public indicated that their preference would be to keep the bike lanes on Princess Street with the removal of on-street parking used to enhance the bike lanes and make residents feel more comfortable cycling through the corridor. A total of 42 comments were received stating that bike lanes on Princess Street should be kept or improved. An additional fourteen (14) comments noted concerns with the proposed plan to shift cycling traffic to alternative routes including Brock Street and Johnson Street.
Many of these points were re-iterated amongst several attendees at the October 26th, 2023 Open House who continued to express a preference to keep bike lanes on Princess Street with the understanding that it would restrict the ability to improve the pedestrian realm. Referring to Figure 5, most Open House attendees believed that cycling lanes would be the most important feature of Princess Street in the future. Similar sentiments were shared through the feedback forms, which highlighted support for the cycling lanes, as well as the emphasized need for separated cycling infrastructure. Of the 38 total online survey responses, 20 responses were received that placed cycle lanes as the most important feature to include in a reconstructed Princess Street (see Figure 4). On the physical boards, 19 attendees left dots indicating that cycle lanes were the most feature on Princess Street compared to only three dots left for wider sidewalks and one for transit priority.
The sticky notes received had several recommendations involving the bike lanes, including the desire to provide additional physical separation between the roadway and the bike lanes; combining the transit queue jump lane with the bike lane; and one note expressing that the removal of bike lanes on Princess Street would only be acceptable if bike lanes were provided on alternate routes. Similar sentiments were expressed through the feedback forms, where 30 of the 38 respondents (79%) noted that they do not feel comfortable biking on Princess Street. Pedestrian realm
Through the Open House engagement questions, the City was interested in understanding the pedestrian experience along Princess Street. Only two attendees indicated that they felt like the street was inviting, while several others indicated that this section of Princess Street is not a pedestrian-friendly corridor. Similar sentiments were expressed through the Open House feedback forms, with 31 respondents (81%) indicating they did not find Princess Street inviting from a pedestrian perspective.
The design alternative which included the removal of bike lanes and the introduction of wider sidewalks on Princess Street received minimal support at both the Town Hall and Open House engagement sessions. The Town Hall received 10 comments supporting the decision for wider sidewalks, compared to 42 comments received regarding the concern of losing bike lanes along Princess Street. Many of the comments about this alternative indicated that there was uncertainty around individuals utilizing the wider pedestrian amenities and felt that bike lanes should be a higher priority. There were also concerns that if cycling infrastructure was prioritized, the available space within the public right-of-way would not be sufficient to make sidewalks accessible. Other attendees appreciated that by prioritizing sidewalks, the roadway may be able to fit street trees or other greenery to enhance the pedestrian realm along Princess Street.
One of the concepts explored during the 2022 Williamsville Main Street Study was the development of a neighbourhood bike network. Neighbourhood bikeways are meant to be shared cycling facilities installed on local streets to promote cycling on alternate routes while enhancing the overall network in Williamsville. At the April Town Hall, feedback was received for potential neighbourhood bikeway routes which informed the creation of a preliminary network map, illustrating the draft neighbourhood cycling path. During the October Open House attendees were asked to provide comments on the routes, facilities and traffic calming measures that were proposed. The Get Involved page included a survey where the public could provide comments between October 13 and November 17th, 2023 where a total of 169 comments were received.
Since the April Town Hall, the draft cycling network and preliminary cross-sections were revised to help attendees envision what the future cycling network would look like. The future cycling network map from the Open House is shown in Figure 6 below.
The design for alternative shared cycling facilities, such as advisory bike lanes, was also considered for some of the routes identified. Renderings of both the neighbourhood bikeway and the advisory bike lanes are shown in Figure 7 and Figure 8.
As part of the Open House and online engagement survey, the public was asked to consider the routes, facilities, and traffic calming measures being proposed. The following sections provide an overview of the feedback that was received.
One item that was raised in a few written comments and verbally by attendees was the idea of having more robust vehicle restrictions on local roads. Two online comments and three physical comment forms were received which identified modal filters to improve the cycling experience on the local roads surrounding Williamsville. Options such as traffic diverters and removable barriers or bollards were brought up as potential traffic diverters on local roads.
Five comments left on the online survey noted that it would be ideal to widen sidewalks on local streets, specifically those that intersect with Princess Street. An additional physical comment was submitted which indicated that sidewalks should be widened on local roads. This was brought forward first from a mobility perspective, as attendees believed that most individuals on local streets would prefer to walk, and second, as an accessibility concern, indicating that local street sidewalks could be wider to accommodate mobility devices.
Advisory bike lanes
Advisory bike lanes are relatively new in Canada and have not been adopted by many municipalities at the time of writing this report. Advisory bike lanes were considered as an option for both MacDonnell Street and Alfred Street, providing a north-south connection that prioritizes cyclists over vehicles. Overall, attendees had strong support for the advisory bike lanes with thirteen (13) of eighteen (18) attendees providing comments on the boards that they approved of the concept of advisory bike lanes. Similar sentiments were shared through the online forms with 26 of 33 respondents indicating that they are appropriate for the roads they have been proposed on. In the comment forms received, some attendees indicated that they would like to see advisory bike lanes instead of neighbourhood bikeways on other proposed routes. Attendees voiced that advisory bike lanes promote cycling as the main mode of transportation on local roads, noting that the dedicated space given for cyclists would help them feel more comfortable while cycling through local roads.
One comment was received requesting that the proposed neighbourhood bikeway on Victoria Street be converted to an advisory bikeway, suggesting that it may be better suited to the needs of cyclists.
As part of neighbourhood bikeway designs, traffic calming and reduced travel speeds are recommended and were presented at the Open House. The existing posted speed limit on these roads is generally 50 km/h, which is greater than what is recommended in best practices and cycling design guideline documents.
There were generally negative responses to using bump outs as a traffic-calming measure from the online survey. Three comments were received that believe that it would help reduce vehicle speeds and provide more accessible crossings. In contrast, 18 comments were received that stated that bump-outs would make the neighbourhood bikeways more dangerous from a cycling perspective as it would push cyclists to the center of the roadway and share space with vehicles. In addition, concerns were raised about snow clearance on roads as snowplows may not be able to sufficiently clear the snow around the bump outs, making them more difficult to see during the winter months.
The final item presented at the Open House involved concepts for green streets developed for the local roads in Williamsville. The concept of green streets and the alternative designs for Frontenac Street were originally presented on Oct. 5 at the Councillor’s Town Hall. The public was also invited to provide feedback through the completion of an online survey on the ‘Frontenac Green Streets Concepts’ page of Get Involved Kingston between Oct. 2 and Nov. 17, 2023. Additionally, printed copies of the cross-sections and renderings were available for attendees of the Oct. 26, 2023, Open House to collect additional feedback. Three alternatives were brought to the October Open House:
- Green ‘Lite’;
- Green ‘Mid-Level’; and
- Green ‘Heavy’.
The alternatives increase in vehicle restrictions and additional greenery from the ‘lite’ to the ‘heavy’ alternative. These cross-sections and renderings can be seen on the Frontenac Green Street concept page. A total of 213 survey responses were received either at the in-person events or through the online survey.
Definition of green streets
Participants were generally familiar with the concept of Green Streets with only thirteen (13) respondents noting that they were not familiar and an additional 42 were unclear about how the City of Kingston defines Green Streets.
Respondents were asked to rank the following design features for Green Streets to better understand the priorities of the community:
- Reduced Parking;
- Tree Planting;
- Curb Bump Out;
- Narrowed Lanes;
- Conversion to One-way;
- Speed Humps; and
- Wide Sidewalks.
Tree planting was the most preferred design feature with 74 responses indicating it is the top choice for the proposed Green Streets while Wide Sidewalks was the second most requested feature with 40 responses.
Participants were also asked to rank their preferred alternative. The Green ‘Heavy’ alternative was ranked most preferred with 136 respondents indicating that it is their most preferred alternative. The Green ‘Lite’ alternative was the least preferred with only 31 respondents ranking it first.
Overall, participants were receptive to the idea of Green Streets and the received responses indicate that the preferred design should involve wide sidewalks and tree planting. The preferred alternative also indicated that participants were most interested in the greatest level of infrastructure change which results in the greatest level of additional trees and fewest on-street parking spaces.
Additional bike routes
One comment recommended the introduction of infrastructure on York Street between Alfred Street and Barrie Street as an alternative to Princess Street. After discussions with attendees and City staff, it was noted that Concession Street, Division Street, and York Street are used as alternative routes for vehicles to reach downtown and that they may also serve as appropriate alternative routes for cyclists. The City has plans to introduce cycling infrastructure on Concession Street and Division Street. This infrastructure will need to be appropriately connected to the proposed cycling routes on Alfred Street to allow for the expansion of alternative routes. Based on online feedback collected from Get Involved Kingston, respondents also suggested that bike lanes should be added on Pine Street, Albert Street, Mark Street, Bath Road as well as on Brock Street and Johnson Street.
One significant concern was raised for people with disabilities. Several existing intersections along Princess Street do not have accessible elements such as tactile plates or audible cues. Other concerns raised were about the short crossing times, which are not suitable for individuals with accessibility concerns. One concern that was raised asked whether intersections along the street will be accessible and account for vulnerable road users. The removal of the right turn lane at the intersection of Victoria Street and Princess was also requested.
Apart from Princess Street, attendees noted that with the removal of on-street parking on Princess Street, persons with disabilities would have to park on side streets, which generally do not have accessible parking spots. Additionally, concerns were raised about crossings on local streets for persons with disabilities and noted that the proposed bump-outs are beneficial as they shorten the crossing distance on local streets. As part of alternative design options, there were several locations where the width of the sidewalk would be less than 2.0 metres, getting as narrow as 1.4 metres in some locations near Victoria Street. To mitigate these impacts, one comment noted that it may be preferable to have at least one side of Princess Street with 2.0-metre sidewalks by shifting the road centreline.
The Project Team has reviewed the comments received alongside the design options presented at the Open House. At present, the feedback indicates a clear preference for keeping the bike lanes on Princess Street over providing a wider pedestrian realm throughout the corridor. The proposed neighbourhood bikeways were positively received and most attendees understood and approved of the concept of advisory bike lanes. The implementation of advisory bike lanes on Victoria Street was also recommended.
There were some concerns with the bump-outs that were recommended as part of the traffic calming on neighbourhood bikeways. Concerns included cyclists colliding with them or challenges for snow removal with these in place. Alternative traffic calming measures such as modal filters or speed bumps were also requested by attendees.
Finally, accessibility concerns were raised as both Princess Street and the surrounding local roads were described as inaccessible for persons with disabilities.
- Explore ways to incorporate feedback raised at the Open House to arrive at the preferred design;
- Review the feasibility of maintaining cycling lanes while also achieving AODA-compliant sidewalks on Princess Street;
- Review traffic calming measures on neighbourhood bikeways and along proposed advisory bike lane routes;
- Review Princess Street design to improve accessibility, where possible, and improve intersection crossings;
- Additional review of connections between neighbourhood bikeways/advisory bike lanes and other cycling infrastructure is seamless; and
- Explore opportunities to introduce green street concepts along additional corridors throughout Williamsville.