Special Report: Truck Routes

Open Letter to Council: Rethink the Truck Route Master Plan Study

Will the city's decision on Truck Routes help make Hamilton the best place to raise a child, or will it reveal our real priorities?

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 27, 2010

Dear City Councillors,

I urge you to rethink the Truck Route Master Plan Study's neighbourhood-smashing recommendations. Given the challenge to balance the logistical needs of trucking companies moving goods through the city and the economic, social and environmental considerations of the city, the Study sacrifices the latter for the former.

Taking Dundurn St. N. as an example, the Study recommends leaving it as a truck route despite the fact that Dundurn is a residential street and children have to cross Dundurn, with no stops or traffic signals between King St. W. (itself a dysfunctional intersection for pedestrians) and York Blvd, to go to and from both Strathcona School and Victoria Park.

The perverse reasoning is that if trucks are taking this route, it's because they need to take this route so it should be allowed.

Even if we ignore what we know about dynamic network effects and accept this outrageous conclusion, it still follows that the absolute needs of truckers passing through the city are regarded as inviolate while the absolute needs of families living in the neighbourhood are regarded as expendable.

Network Effects

The underlying assumption is that reclaiming urban communities from the din, pollution and peril of through truck traffic is unrealistic because removing truck routes would simply relocate truck traffic to other routes.

This is a false assumption. This static model of traffic assumes the number of trucks is fixed and their operators' choice of routes is unaffected by road capacity. (It's the same reasoning the city has used for decades to build out our road capacity much faster than our population growth rate.)

The model fails in real-world use because it ignores the well-understood network phenomenon that traffic tends to increase or decrease to meet the available supply of road space.

The fact that you can drive through Hamilton in ten or 15 minutes is a major incentive for through truck drivers to pass through the city rather than around it.

If it took, say, 45 minutes to an hour to drive through the city in narrower, two-way streets with wide sidewalks and street trees amid local residents actually spending time on their own streets, those truck drivers might decide it makes more sense to take the ring highway.

At the same time, businesses would have an economic incentive to innovate so as to minimize the number of truck trips their businesses require - like every other city on the planet. Businesses in dense urban markets with people-friendly streets manage to survive without having five-lane highway access to their front doors.

Best Place to Raise a Child?

Imagine if the logic of the imperatives in the Study was reversed - if the Chamber of Commerce was asking to have Dundurn established as a truck route but was told: "Sorry, but we need to retain Dundurn as a safe residential street due to the lack of viable alternatives for pedestrians."

If the city goes ahead and approves the truck routes in the Study that harm neighbourhoods, we have no ethical choice but to attach a rider to the decision to drop the goal of being "The Best Place to Raise a Child".

If we are trying to be the best place to raise a child, we must determine the best practices for making a city child-friendly and then follow them - with no excuses.

Will the city's decision on Truck Routes help make Hamilton the best place to raise a child, or will it reveal our real priorities?

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

24 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 27, 2010 at 12:14:07

I just received this reply from Councillor Bob Bratina:

Thanks for your message and its unassailable logic. The 2005 Hamilton Goods Movement Study data showed truck trips through, from and to Hamilton. "Through traffic is MUCH higher than traffic to or from Hamilton." (IBI).

I've attached a photo taken last week showing a tractor hauling the extra long trailer turning off Hunter onto Walnut South, blocking two lanes on Hunter and two on Walnut.

We are not aggressively ticketing these kinds of infractions. It was determined that enforcement and fines to out-of-town, -Province or -Country operators would not be effective.

The fact is for the greatest percentage of truck trips our return is pollution, damage to roads and streets, and congestion.

Downtown Truck

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-05-27 11:14:39

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted May 27, 2010 at 12:54:22

great letter Ryan, and bravo to Councillor Bratina for his response. That photo says it all - street facing century old homes with a transport truck out front. Now, just speed up the truck by 60km and add in hundreds more per day and you get the picture of life on Queen, York, Cannon, King, Main, Wilson etc.....

Ryan, I applaud you for your inclusion of the 'best place to raise a child' stuff. I threw that slogan out a long time ago due to the fact that it's nothing more than a cute phrase on some letterhead, but in reality it's no more a goal than 'being Canada's garbage dump capital' would be. Oh wait. We're actually making big progress on that second one. Anyhow, you get the point.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By moylek (registered) - website | Posted May 27, 2010 at 13:01:33

I repeat myself and reference my earlier comment about the 18-wheelers parked outside of the Westdale subway: that should only happen at the back of strip malls; it's not normal at restaurants in residential areas or in downtowns. But it happens in Hamilton because we designate such streets as truck routes.

As Ryan points out, if it were not allowed, truckers would find other routes and shippers would use smaller trucks.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted May 27, 2010 at 13:06:20

Just last night I was stopped at King & Queen for a good 10 minutes as a huge truck was attempting to back out of La Luna and head back towards the 403.

I have to wonder if all the food was for La Luna or if that truck was making multiple stops.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By anonymouse (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2010 at 13:33:07

"We are not aggressively ticketing these kinds of infractions. It was determined that enforcement and fines to out-of-town, -Province or -Country operators would not be effective."

Sounds like it's time to issue some wireless credit card terminals, and give people the power to impound vehicles.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By TD (registered) | Posted May 27, 2010 at 14:05:31

Maybe we should raise the stakes. Violations by transport trucks on residential streets where children live should be considered reckless endangerment. It would be nice if drivers were actually afraid to use Hamilton as a throughway. Besides, if the 407 can charge out-of-province drivers, why can't our city?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted May 27, 2010 at 14:46:24

As Ryan points out, if it were not allowed, truckers would find other routes and shippers would use smaller trucks.

Yes, but if we followed Ryan's suggestions, that would make those downtown streets more desirable for businesses to locate there and surely the Chamber of COMMERCE doesn't want that. They've made it abundantly clear.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted May 27, 2010 at 15:32:13

Thanks Ryan. I had Dawn Graham (of the SCC) in for tea the other night, and she mentioned the amazing work that her and Jenn Dawson are doing standing on the corners of Dundurn and various intersections counting trucks. Their findings are enlightening, and I think they, and everyone who has taken up this cause in such a tangible way, should be applauded. This is a game changer for my neighborhood, and council's decision will clearly prove to everyone just how serious Hamilton's leadership is about making this city not even 'the best place to raise a child', but at least 'somewhere you could raise a child without a serious risk of them getting mowed down by a 10 ton transport truck while on their way to to their first day of Grade 4 at Strathcona school." Thanks again.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2010 at 15:36:58

Why is it that there isn't a single Community Safety Zone (at least not that I have seen) anywhere in our fair city.

It seems that nearly every other community has these zones that allow for the doubling of fines within them. You need only drive out Plains Rd. to find one nearby.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 27, 2010 at 16:22:13

I've made lengthy comments before about the purpose of a truck route master plan, and how the current truck route master plan fails for being overly inclusive. Nearly every major street, both above and below the mountain, are listed. The truck route master plan should be aiming to funnel truck traffic onto certain "preferred routes" only permitting trucks to deviate from those routes to make their final deliveries. Having an overly inclusive truck route only gives them free reign over the city.

Concession street is my personal top candidate for removal from the truck route. It's two lanes for most of the street, has on street parking in some cases on both sides, is supposed to be a "shopping district" and has an public elementary school on the street. It is congested enough without permitting truckers to use it as a highway. There is no good reason it should be on the list.

The same is sadly true of about half the streets listed. We're just giving truckers a carte blanche to take any road they want. Let's have our truck route plan mean something and actually have some meat to it.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted May 27, 2010 at 16:23:17

a) It is abundantly clear that we use much more in the way of trucks than we need. From "just-in-time delivery" to the absurd distance our food/goods travel and the excessive packaging on them. Even the Mike Harris Conservatives understood that a good chunk of this traffic could easily move onto rails with little or no effort (other than confronting trucking associations).

b) I have been all over this country, continent and the western world. Virtually everywhere I've been (except perhaps Buffalo and Sudbury) has far more vibrant pedestrian areas downtown and elsewhere than us, with much busier stores, all of which having far less truck access. I've worked delivery: I know what it looks like.

c) Trucks are, because of their sheer size, and absolute nightmare for traffic of all sorts, highway, rural and otherwise, and contribute heavily to our congestion problems.

d) All of this represents a massive net of externalized costs which subsidize some of the worst industries we have. We've made it so cheap to cart goods here across the continent (if not planet) that many local producers simply can't compete. Economic situations this ludicrous only turn up when you have a massively distorted financial system underlying it.

It's time to stop wasting all this public money putting highways through our parks and neighbourhoods.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 27, 2010 at 16:25:11

Great comments, everyone! Be sure to take a minute and forward your comments to City Council. They need to hear this message loud and clear.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted May 27, 2010 at 18:38:30

(except perhaps Buffalo and Sudbury)

Ouch. This hurts. Not because I think it's a cheap shot, but because it's true.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jelly's tailor (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 19:04:13

great letter, ryan!

i like the way you used dundurn as an EXAMPLE of the problem facing the city as a whole as opposed to some earlier narrow minded, short sighted, exclusive articles which saw dundurn as the focus of the problem.

truck traffic problems in residential areas is an issue we should all get behind!

(cue the downvotes...)

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By z jones (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 20:25:22

(cue the downvotes...)

Troll carefully lays flame bait, waits to catch his prey. Heady stuff. Where's David Attenborough when you need him?

Comment edited by z jones on 2010-05-28 19:25:36

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Nice Try (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 23:57:01

>narrow minded, short sighted, exclusive articles which saw dundurn as the focus of the problem

I read that article and it said nothing of the sort. The article was not about the truck route plan, it was about DUNDURN, and the way the truck route plan affects it. You're being dishonest.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By TreyS (registered) | Posted May 29, 2010 at 20:18:00

Best place to raise a child, only to have him/her move to another city for a career.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted May 30, 2010 at 21:09:08

My letter:

Dear Council member,

I am writing to voice my displeasure at the long awaited truck master plan study giving Hamilton more of the same old outdated thinking and low quality of life in our urban neighbourhoods. Back when Red Hill was being debated, downtown residents were lied to (and we knew it at the time) when we were told that through trucks and traffic could use Hamilton's new highway system once completed instead of cutting through downtown neighbourhoods. I regularly follow transports to/from my neighbourhood (York/Locke) and so far I've never followed one that had a local origin or destination. They have all come from the far northeast industrial district, sometimes right next to the QEW and are simply cutting through the city to reach the 403. I've also driven the routes and compared travel times with the highway times. Using either the QEW/Skyway/403 route or Red Hill/Linc/403 route my travel times were shorter by a few minutes than cutting through downtown.

I would urge you to think of the safety of our children and the health of our downtown and central city neighbourhoods. Economic Summits and Code Red series' are completely useless if we are going to just turn around and keep making the same mistakes that have landed us in such a mess. This is one of those issues.

I would furthermore ask that our lower city freeway network - Main, King, Cannon, York, Wilson, Queen, Bay etc..... be converted to two-way streets with street trees, parking and bike lanes as soon as possible. I believe that this alone would send the trucks onto the highways. They won't traverse typical city streets when fast moving highways are at their doorstep.

Perhaps someday Hamilton will have a Chamber of Commerce that actually understands urban economies and urban neighbourhoods, but in the meantime I'm calling on you, the leaders and watchkeepers of our great city to send this plan back to the drawing board. It has no business being city policy in the twenty-first century.

Thanks for your time, and for your hard work on behalf of Hamilton.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-05-30 20:10:55

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 22:59:45

just received this email update about Dundurn truck route. Great job Jen!

Howdy neighbour!

This email is a quick update on the status of Dundurn St. N. as a truck route.

At the Public Works Committee meeting today, 50 letters were presented and entered into the public record from concerned residents of Strathcona (or parents of children at Strathcona School who live outside the neighbourhood) requesting that Dundurn St. N. be removed from the city's truck route network. This was an absolutely astounding feat--it was incredible to see the thick stack of letters that was handed to each councillor on the committee. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to write and for your articulate words.

Five people presented in person on the issue of removing trucks from Dundurn North. You were fantastic! Some children from Strathcona School were featured in a wonderful video made by Kathy Garneau--they spoke about how the trucks on Dundurn affect their lives. It was a beautiful and very moving thing to behold. (Except for the trucks roaring by in every shot. That wasn't beautiful...but it made our point better than words ever could!)

The recommendation that is going forward to the next city council meeting (June 9, 2010) is for Dundurn St. N. to be removed as a truck route for 18 months. All members of the Public Works Committee voted in favour of this recommendation, except Bob Bratina. (Bob was upset that the recommendation going forward kept trucks on downtown streets in Beasley neighbourhood, so he didn't support the motion.)

This is a partial victory, made more sweet only by the fact that, according to our councillor Brian McHattie, bylaw states that once a truck route has been removed it is considered removed permanently until such time as it is officially reinstated. This means that council will have to make a special effort to make Dundurn N. a truck route after the 18 months are up--and I know we are ready to fight if the city were to bother to do this.

Brian feels confident that council will ratify the Public Works decision and we'll see trucks off Dundurn N. I'll let you all know the outcome of the June 9th council meeting, as well as the timeline for implementation.

Until then...keep on truckin' (not!)...

Comment edited by jason on 2010-05-31 22:00:38

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Maggie Hughes (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 10:54:50

Approaching the overall Trucking Business one street at a time is one way to get people involved. Nobody cares unless it affects them. It is the way we have approached our economy, by letting business dictate over the people that has lead us to this point.

I am so tired of hearing the same old slogans that the economy must grow if we are to survive. Bull Crap to that literally. We have this pollution problem from decades of that mind set and who knows what our children will have to face.

If most of us cannot breath today because some Corporation wishes to make a "profit" then I do not hold much hope for the future generations.

Trucking food, and goods was just an idea to make money. Yes it employees people, but people will find other ways to be employed, or as we in Hamilton are finding, other ways to eat.

We are now down to the basics of survival and continuing to operate a society that needs Trucks to cart things around is suicidal. We must learn or re-learn how to live locally. Operate locally. Make what we need, locally.

If you cannot grow your own food, there must be something you are good at. Basic barter and trade is how we started out on this Continent - the New World. Now we are out of space and there isn't any other world to run to.

While the Gulf fills up with Oil, and the entire eco-system is destroyed, we stupidly continue to march around as usual.
How many of you out there will make the big change in your life?
I doubt very few.

There are many of us that have tried to change, but society isn't letting us find a way out. So we must change society. If that means street by street then ok, at least we are slowly doing the right thing.

My fear is we are not changing fast enough, and many of us are locked out of change because we are forced to wait for others to catch up. The sick cannot be expected to lead the change, but they are the result of how we have been doing business. As many of us age, we become sick. That too is a direct result of our polluted society.

So another way to look at the Truck situation is to get out of our cars and feel what it is like to stand on a side walk inches from a Transport. It will affect each and everyone of us eventually. So do you make the change in society now? Or do we wait until we are too ill to make change.

Unless it affects each of us personally - we will not make change.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 11:15:42

Preach it Maggie! This is bang on:

There are many of us that have tried to change, but society isn't letting us find a way out. So we must change society. If that means street by street then ok, at least we are slowly doing the right thing.

To turn around (as some have done) and criticize residents of a neighbourhood for trying to make it less sucky just lets the Powers That Be keep on dividing and conquering. Bravo to the Stratchona organizers -- and also to the East Mountain organizers -- for fighting to make their neighbourhood safe for humans again one street at a time.

Edit getting links right in markdown is hard. :(

Comment edited by nobrainer on 2010-06-01 10:16:11

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 11:38:17

@ nobrainer

The link syntax for Markdown is:

[link text](site you want to link to)

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 12:53:35

@UrbanRenaissance Thanks. I get it eventually but I always have to edit my comment a couple of times before it works right. :)

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2010 at 20:27:19

People love making economic arguments they don't understand about urban design and traffic planning. Both the spectator and many local politicians deserve a fair bit of blame for this.

But really, if a fast and efficient network of urban freeways like York and Cannon actually did anything beneficial for the economy, Hamilton would be one of Canada's most prosperous cities.. And yet it certainly isn't, And if urban congestion, lack of parking spaces or two way streets were anywhere near as bad for the economy as these pundits claim, downtown Toronto would resemble a refugee camp.

Urban freeways and parking spaces compete directly with anything worth parking for or driving to.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds