Monday, September 19, 2011

Deadly design flaws at Eagleson Park and Ride

Looking back, there was never really any questioning if someone would be struck by a car at the Eagleson Road Park and Ride; it was simply a question of when it would happen.

Sadly, tragedy struck last week, when a 17-year-old girl running across the six lanes of high-speed traffic to transfer from one bus to another was fatally hit by a truck.

As it stands today, Eagleson Station is broken down into two stations: Eagleson East and Eagleson West, which each have parking lots for commuters and are separated by the fast-moving traffic of Eagleson Road. It's not uncommon for a rider to be dropped off on the Eagleson West platform and have to cross the street to catch their next bus at the Eagleson East platform. The traffic light at the intersection can be an agonizingly long wait, and can frequently be the reason for a missed transfer--made especially frustrating when you're stuck standing at a red light while the bus pulls in and then leaves the station you should be at, and the 15-20 minute wait for the next 96 bus. It's enough to drive lots of people to cross on a "don't walk" signal, despite the inherent dangers.

These design flaws are a matter of infrastructure failing to keep up to growth in the area. Even though it was opened in 1995, the Park and Ride was conceptualized in 1986, when Kanata was a much smaller area than it is today, and car traffic on Eagleson Road was significantly lower.

The only preventive measure currently installed along Eagleson Road is an eight-foot-tall chain-link fence running along the median between north- and southbound traffic. But rather than prevent people from crossing, the fence just funnels people toward a small section of median along the nearest intersection, and reduces visibility for both pedestrians crossing as well as automobile traffic driving.

That reduced visibility is significant, as cars barreling down the road can barely see people crossing the street, and pedestrians almost need to step into oncoming traffic in order to see where the nearest car is (along with the fence at the intersection is a large traffic light post, with traffic signs on it which further impede visibility).

The point of the fence is to encourage people not to cross, but it doesn't, and there's next to nothing the city can do to stop people from crossing. It's an example of infrastructure built to impede or block human nature, when the key to designing functional walkways is making it pedestrian-oriented. We need the crosswalk to fit human tendencies, not attempt to shape them.

The city must do something to improve the current configuration of the Eagleson Road Park and Ride. As it stands today, with parking lots and drop-off points on both sides of the street, people are almost encouraged to jaywalk despite the danger of six lanes of very fast (usually greater than 60 km/h) car traffic.

The simplest and most immediate measure costs nothing but time: Have every route traveling in any direction head into the larger station on the northbound side of Eagleson Road. It might add five minutes to a bus trip, but that's not what matters here.

Another choice is a pedestrian underpass or overpass, and some have called for a footbridge in the aftermath of the accident. A footbridge, though, would also take longer than crossing the road itself (so you may still see people jaywalking), and would likely be more expensive than what I think would be the best solution.

The best, and most long-term, option is a bottom-up redesign of the station. An easy comparable is Baseline Station, where buses traveling in either direction turn into the station, rather than dropping people off on one side of Woodroffe (which, like Eagleson Road, is six lanes wide). It's a fairly easy fix, and, although we need to do something regardless of the cost, it would not be terribly expensive. It might require a few parking spots in the already-overstuffed parking lot to be sacrificed, but that's a sacrifice worth making.

The design below (pardon the low quality) is one option for the redesign. Basically, the idea is that the three current drop-off/pick-up points (one on the west side of Eagleson, two on the east) are amalgamated into one larger station. This would be safer and simpler for riders catching their buses, and also for those waiting for their buses: In December of 2009 a man waiting at the park and ride was robbed at knifepoint, and a larger station would draw more people and likely offer a more secure place to wait.

The bottom line is something needs to be done, and quickly. Lives could be at stake.


WJM said...

There's another Bad Thing: pedestrian access to and from Eagleson via the bridge over the Queensway.

Right now, your choices are often:

(A) wait a long time for the bus that will take you to the north side of dismal Kanata, or

(B) take your life into your hands and try to walk across to the north side of dismal Kanata.

Once you're across, you're as safe as can be. But getting there is one of the most hellish pedestrian experiences in Ottawa. And it was all designed that way. On purpose.

zilla said...

I agree with WJM's post. The Eagleson overpass is probably the worst pedestrian environment in the entire city.

Anonymous said...

WJM makes a good point about the Eagleson overpass.

Anonymous said...

That bridge looks to be in desperate need of an overhaul. Perhaps pedestrian access concerns will be addressed?

Marie said...

All buses should be able to go in and out of eagleson park and ride. Other issues are the traffic lights, at times when true light is green to cross eagles on the don't walk sign shows up so thwnen you are waiting for another green light to show up to cross and pedestrians get tired of waiting so they jay walk and at times when you are allowed to walk, cars coming out of the park and ride try to turn left and at times get close to the pedestriana, which is frigtnenig, I know fit happen to me and the lady in the car just laugh at me. Another issue is that cars are dropping off riders in the bus lane and it is hard to turn right into the parking lot to park and could be prone to accidents for which came close a few times for me. Don't people understand Ethan its the bus lane and not a drop off area.

Thank you for your understanding