Dig Down the Barriers

Graphic representing three people in a diagonal row (the 'people' look like playing pieces from a board game)

As a member of the Town of Midland Accessibility Advisory Committee I’ve been tagged on social media regarding complaints people have had about the accessibility in the Town of Midland and heard the complaint that “the town doesn’t care”.

I have some good news to report, but first a little note. The town is very definitely listening to the concerns and where actually aware of them takes action when the town has the capacity to do so. Further, besides responding to public input / complaints, the town does make an effort to proactively identify potential issues and therefore prevents some problems). In addition, even where there is not jurisdiction the town will work with and encourage developers to listen to the concerns, especially of committees like the MAAC. In general the town attempts to work collaboratively rather than taking a ‘big stick’ approach, even where there is a legal requirement involved.

So the good news is the King Street Rejuvenation has created an opportunity to improve the accessibility of the downtown. In collaboration with the BIA, previous MAAC, other interested or affected people and groups, and the company that won the contract, the “Big Dig” when complete (quite possibility substantially so before the snow flies!) will include a number of improvements to accessibility for downtown.

At a recent MAAC meeting the following points were provided by staff as examples:

Below is a list of features that have been included in the design of King St to help improve the accessibility of the street as well as meet the AODA requirements. Let me know if you need any additional information for the committee meeting. Attached is part of the landscape drawings which I think shows the surface details the best. These drawings are also marked up for the potential accessible parking locations which I’ve
discussed further below.

  • The street has been designed with a flexible cross section to allow for changes in use of certain areas and also allow for a more accessible pedestrian walkway.
    This cross section results in using a mountable curb and gutter system which means there is very little traditional barrier curb throughout the street. What this means is essentially the entire street is accessible however there are a select few locations where traditional barrier curbs were still used.
  • The new street design has also allowed for reducing the length of each
    pedestrian crossing by widening the pedestrian walkway areas and reducing the road width.
  • The new pedestrian crossing are now all 4.0m in width as well as construction out of contrasting unit pavers and concrete to help delineate the crossing from the roadway.
  • New traffic signals are being installed at the Dominion Ave and Elizabeth St intersections. This change allows for much more control of the intersections for cars but more importantly the pedestrians.
  • The new road and intersection design promotes traffic calming by narrowing the lanes slightly and eliminating dedicated left and right turn lanes with the goal of ultimately slowing traffic down on King St which is ultimately safer for all pedestrians.
  • The traffic signals that are located at Dominion Ave, Hugel Ave and Elizabeth St will be programmed so that all three lights will never be green at the same time there keeping vehicles speeds lower. For example if a vehicle is travelling through the Elizabeth intersection heading north with a green light the Hugel intersection will have a red light and Dominion will have a green light. There should never be a time where all three intersection are green at the same time.
  • All intersections on King St are receiving state of the art pedestrian crossing push buttons, signals and audible signals. These pedestrian buttons are fully customizable to meet and exceed current AODA standards they will include locator tones, standard audible crossing signals (chirp chirp and cuckoo sounds). These APS tones are currently programmed to activate after the button is held of 3 seconds which is typical across municipalities.
  • Some locations require two pedestrian buttons to be on the same pole and in these situations the audible signal will verbally call out the crossing direction so it is clear which direction has the right of way (for example it will call out “King St. The walk sign is on to cross King St” this will repeat 3 times and go off and the APS tone won’t be used in the scenario.)
  • The volume control of the audible tones is constantly monitoring the ambient noise and the volume is adjusted to ensure that it can be heard through traffic and it will adjust to not be as loud during the night time when the streets are quiet.
  • The pedestrian buttons also have Bluetooth capabilities to help with both accessibility and also it will help for scenarios like we are currently seeing with Covid-19. There is an app that can be downloaded and used to communicate with the pedestrian push buttons. This app can do a number of things including help with the locator tones, show you where the nearest crossings are and it can even actuate the crossing for you so there is no need to touch the buttons. This is a bonus considering the current times with Covid-19.
  • We have also included mid block crossings in all blocks between the signals to allow for more spaces for pedestrians to cross. It should be noted that the mid block crossings are considered courtesy crossings and vehicles still have the right of way. These crossings will be signed accordingly to notify both the vehicles and the pedestrians of the restrictions of the crossing.
  • All crossing have very large curb depressions with very large tactile plates.
  • We have also attempted, within reason, to eliminate any small trip hazards or steps that lead into buildings to try and make some of the building etrances more accessible. There is a limit to what we can do and we cannot eliminate all the steps but we can take care of some small ones.
  • We have increased the amount of reserved accessible parking stalls that are located on King St. … We are trying to keep the parking signs in the flower beds so we don’t have to install the sign in the unit paves. Since we have taken this approach the flower beds will need to be located in front of the parking stall so that the sign is visible from the driver seat of the vehicle.

By Daniel F. Dickinson

See https://www.d-f-d.ca/about/