Taking A Walk Down Jasper Avenue

Both my office and my favourite pub are located on Jasper Avenue. And because I really like beer I find myself walking the nine blocks between the two probably at least once a week. Because of the rehabilitation work that was being completed on Jasper Avenue and below street level on Central Station there was an element of surprise to the walk for more than a year. Which side would be open? Would I have to cross Jasper multiple times? Where would the crosswalks be? But now that construction is complete (mostly) at street level those questions are a thing of the past and now I can enjoy the last three blocks of the walk in a friendlier pedestrian environment with much wider sidewalks.

For those that might not know, the Jasper Avenue rehabilitation work included reducing the portion of the right-of-way that was being used by cars and using the newfound space to widen the sidewalks. A cross-section that previously included on-street parking and two driving lanes in each direction has been shrunk down and is now just two lanes wide with the curb lane designated for parking during off peak hours. In terms of providing a space for pedestrians projects like this are fantastic in that they provide an attractive, pedestrian friendly corridor. In this case with that added benefit of having very little impact on those who drive Jasper Avenue since there is the same capacity available during rush hour – provided nobody parks on the street when they shouldn’t. Toss in a pedestrian scramble intersection at 100A Street and this is the kind of project that I can’t help but like.

And I do like it, but I’d like to suggest something if I could: Change the signal timings just a little bit, please. 

Timing traffic signals is a tricky thing to do. You need to deal with the traffic volumes at each individual intersection while at the same time trying to provide reasonable flow along the corridor avoiding a situation where you have stop at every single light. And even when you get it right something will inevitably change the traffic patterns – usually a new development – and those signal timings are no longer as ideal as they once were. From my experiences I think the signal timings along Jasper Avenue are really well done provided that you’re in a car. If you happen to be walking they’re terrible.

When I leave my office I like to play a game that I call “How far can I get before I have to stop for a red light?” My personal best is from 109 Street to 106 Street. I play this game because I’ve figured out that as soon as you stop at an intersection along Jasper Avenue that you will also stop at the next intersection. And the intersection after that. And the intersection after that. And so on and so on. To up the frustration level of this scenario you also arrive at each intersection just as the north/south green phase starts so you get to wait for the longest time possible on each street corner. On a warm summer day you can take the time to enjoy your surrounds, on a day like today you might freeze to the sidewalk waiting for the light to change.

The signals along Jasper Avenue have been optimized to move vehicles, let’s take a step back and reconsider those timings and this time factor in those who are walking along Jasper Avenue as well. The City has already shown a desire to balance the needs of all of the users of Jasper Avenue by narrowing the roadway and providing more space for pedestrians. Taking it one small step further would make actually walking on Jasper Avenue a more enjoyable experience.