Special Report: Truck Routes

We Need Livable Neighbourhoods, Not More Studies

We don't need more studies to tell us what we already know about the corrosive effects of through trucks on city neighbourhoods. What we need is a real commitment to making our city livable.

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 08, 2010

Daniel Rodrigues, a member of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce's transportation committee, wrote an op-ed in today's Spectator calling on Council not to pass changes to the Truck Route Master Plan Study without full consideration of their implications.

An important decision affecting the lifeblood of jobs and prosperity in Hamilton will be voted on by council tomorrow.

Last-minute changes that were recently introduced and not thoroughly researched may literally derail years of effort in establishing safe and viable truck routes through Hamilton.

He's referring, in part, to the public works committee decision last week to remove Dundurn Street North, Kenilworth Access, Upper Ottawa Street and Concession Street from the Truck Route on an 18 month trial basis.

Rodrigues points out that the truck route was developed over a long process in which staff consulted closely with various stakeholders.

Members of the [Chamber's] transportation committee were pleased to see staff had done a thorough job, given the parameters that they were working within. Despite an obvious omission of an Origin-Destination Survey, it appeared by April 26 that an acceptable Truck Route Network had finally been reached, subject to committee approval.

When the public works committee approved changes to the Truck Route last week, it was "in response to citizen concern alone, absent of business or user input."

Rodrigues argues that at this point, the city should table the recommendations and ask staff to "conduct a proper cause-and-effect data study on the proposed changes", working with the McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics to apply "a comprehensive 'Goods Movement' study tool".

Over-complicating a Basic Livability Issue

I respect Mr. Rodrigues' considered approach; but in this case he's over-complicating a very straightforward issue. Through truck traffic is simply incompatible with urban vitality.

It's impossible to have a healthy neighbourhood - either a mostly-residential neighbourhood like Strathcona around Dundurn St. N., or a more mixed commercial neighbourhood like the downtown core - when transport trucks are passing through it.

The Strathcona Community Council understands this. The East Mountain Community Association understands this. The Downtown BIA understands this. (In fact, the downtown businesses already understood this 54 years ago). The truckers themselves understand it.

All you have to do is watch this documentary video, produced by Kathy Garneau, co-owner of the Staircase Theatre on Dundurn, to see how corrosive trucks are for livability.

Lest anyone accuse me of the fallacy of Won't Somebody Think Of The Children, I invite you to disregard what the people interviewed on the video are saying and concentrate instead on how the passing transport trucks affect the people standing on the curb. Notwithstanding the insights of the interviewees, the trucks themselves tell us everything we need to know about whether they belong on city streets.

I asked Staircase co-owner Hugh McLeod, who is interviewed early in the film, about all the trucks droning by while the interviews were going on. He burst out laughing and assured me that the segments were all shot in one take.

My own experiences walking and cycling on Dundurn St. North abundantly confirm this - trucks rumble up and down the street constantly.

Hamilton Business Doesn't Need Urban Truck Routes

Rodrigues argues that Hamilton is "recognized as a transportation gateway" with rich links across its marine port, rail connections, airport, and connections to major highways. These connections are setting the stage for Hamilton to "lead the country as a major multimodal gateway".

He insists, "Effective truck routes are critical to the growth and economic success of companies within Hamilton" and that "short-sighted decisions" on our truck route "will hinder how Hamilton companies compete in the global market."

It makes me wonder how other cities - dense, busy, economically successful cities all around the world - manage to get by without allowing their downtown streets to be used as through truck routes.

Why is Hamilton so different from those places that we can't afford the luxury of safe, livable streets?

The people who sold us on the Red Hill Valley Parkway as the last piece in a ring highway that would take trucks out of our downtown streets sold us a false bill of goods.

Now we're being told that Hamilton companies cannot "compete in the global market" unless we optimize our urban street system for eighteen-wheel trucks passing through the city.

The bottom line is that there's no reason a multimodal transportation system requires trucks to drive through residential and mixed-commercial neighbourhoods. We don't need more studies to tell us that through trucks belong on highways - and that truckers will adjust their routes in response to the options available to them.

We need to retain our city streets as safe places for pedestrians and welcoming places for business, due to the lack of viable alternatives for residents.

Committing in substance to safe, livable neighbourhoods will not only provide the best environment for our own residents, but will also create abundant opportunities for businesses whose investment and production strategies are based not around easy access to highways but around easy access to dense pools of compact infrastructure, healthy workers and safe customers.

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.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 09:44:20

Interestingly, the byline on the article by Daniel Rodrigues says that he is "a member of the transportation committee of Hamilton Chamber of Commerce."

But that is not all that Rodrigues does. Perhaps more importantly, he is the owner of Rodrigues Consulting, a consultancy providing services to the "Transportation/Trucking/Railroad industry", according to his LinkedIn profile.

Given Rodrigues' ownership of this consultancy, it is reasonable to assume that the position he puts forward in this article is one from which he stands to gain financially. However, this financial connection is not disclosed in the article.

To me, that is a straightforward contravention of standard editorial guidelines. I hope that the Spectator clarifies this in tomorrow's newspaper.

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By arcadia (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 09:48:09

here's his blog: http://hamiltonbusinessmatters.blogspot.com/

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By frank (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 10:36:27

Just finished writing this back to the editor...

It's quite interesting that Mr. Rodrigues is a member of the Chamber of Commerce doesn't understand who the "users" of the roads in our fine city are! In case he doesn't understand let me lay it out: the users of the roadway network in our city are the public! You know, the ones who aren't happy with nearly every single road in the city being labeled as a truck route! Mr. Rodrigues, would you like to take a stroll down York as trucks barrel down the street past neighborhood? Or maybe you'd enjoy a wait on the sidewalk at the corner of Main and John as trucks fly by? When was the last time you actually set foot outside and spoke with the taxpayers in the city about what they wanted? Sure I understand that you have to maintain a good environment for business however with the ring roads we have built around our city (Burlington Street, RHVP, Linc and 403) trucks can very easily get to their destinations without using residential streets. Main Street, York Street, Bay Street, John Street, James Street they're NOT truck routes.

As a member of the Chamber of Commerce, let me invite you to tour other large cities in the world chiefly Europe where you'll find a thriving city nearly devoid of 18 wheelers which you call the lifeblood of our city! It's not necessary for large trucks to be traveling through city streets. You won't find that happening in Paris and it's not what I would call a lack lustre city, would you? So then why is it SO necessary that our neighborhoods be sullied by 18 wheelers in order to keep your buddies happy? Why aren't you championing the building of a large warehouse style truck hub up by the airport or down on the harbour that can be used as a distribution hub for smaller trucks into the city? That's a business opportunity isn't it??

Let me explain something to you...the lifeblood of this city ISN'T the 18 wheeler driving down the street, the lifeblood of this city is the people who have to duck out of the way as it flies by!

Interesting connection Adrian... I wonder if someone will call The Speculator and complain about that...

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By Dave Kuruc (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 10:56:11

I always wondered about what his connections were...hmmm. Makes sense now...I've always said this about the guys in power in Hamilton don't want things to change...they are making money off the city being in the state it is in. They think - why change it?

I have a weird feeling that we are in for a very bumpy ride in Hamilton as two very different viewpoints clash in the middle.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 11:11:16

To me, that is a straightforward contravention of standard editorial guidelines. I hope that the Spectator clarifies this in tomorrow's newspaper.

Yea, that'll get a lot of attention buried in the back of the classified section somewhere.

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By John Dolbec (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 11:27:17

To be absolutley clear, Dan is in fact speaking for the Chamber in this matter, not himself personally. On this issue, he is fully authorized by us to do so; i.e. there is no conflict of interst - he is represneting us.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 11:29:49

To be absolutley clear, Dan is in fact speaking for the Chamber in this matter, not himself personally. On this issue, he is fully authorized by us to do so; i.e. there is no conflict of interst - he is represneting us.

And that's kind of the problem....

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/1758/down...

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/1759/public_works_won't_remove_through_trucks_from_downtown

Who exactly do you guys represent??

Comment edited by jason on 2010-06-08 10:35:26

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 11:33:16

Last-minute changes that were recently introduced and not thoroughly researched may literally derail years of effort in establishing safe and viable truck routes through Hamilton.

I'm still baffled by this line.

Are all of our freeways ringing the city going to be closed down tomorrow? Or he is really suggesting with a straight face that Main, York and other downtown streets are 'safe and viable truck routes'??

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 11:39:47

On this issue, he is fully authorized by us to do so; i.e. there is no conflict of interst - he is represneting us.

This doesn't change the fact that he also works for the trucking industry and the Spectator should have made that fact known.

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By Dave Kuruc (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 13:08:57

Good to see you are reading all this Mr. Dolbec. I hope you understand why everyone thinks the Chamber's stance on neighbourhood truck traffic is wrong and out of date. Healthy, strong and safe neighbourhoods are more important than out of town trucks having convenient routes.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 13:15:51

Healthy, strong and safe neighbourhoods are more important than out of town trucks having convenient routes.

Here's the kicker Dave. The truckers DO have convenient routes - QEW/403/Linc/Red Hill/Burlington St

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2010 at 13:24:29

That Hamilton is debating this at all is just mind-boggling. I'm so glad I'm 60 clicks down the road.

Really, this is embarrasing

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By MORE TRUCKS, HELL YEAH! (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 13:24:59

> The truckers DO have convenient routes - QEW/403/Linc/Red Hill/Burlington St.

Those routes do not go *through* the city. Rodrigues wants safe and viable truck routes THROUGH Hamilton. These roads would take them AROUND the downtown which I'm sure you'll agree is totally unacceptable when there are plenty of pleasant, shady, tree-lined streets lined with houses and children to blast through instead! TRUCKS, HELL YEAH!!!

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 13:35:16

That Hamilton is debating this at all is just mind-boggling. I'm so glad I'm 60 clicks down the road.

60 clicks and worlds apart.

It's cool driving into Toronto and seeing tower cranes on the skyline building something other than a social services tower. Hamilton should be ashamed of itself. Set within the heart of Canada's most prosperous region and we continue to enjoy being the centre of the donut.

Enjoy TO Ben. You're not missing much (unless you enjoy social service towers).

Comment edited by jason on 2010-06-08 12:36:04

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By DanielRodrigues (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2010 at 16:44:42

Thank you Ryan for the article. I just wish I had a heads up about it so that I could comment on some of the perception of my intentions. I will try to address or clarify as best as I can.

To 'adrian': Yes, I do Consulting work. But no, I have no direct or indirect connection with the transportation industry on this matter. My role is the current Chair of the Transportation Committee, and the submission is in part from our Committee, and that of the Chamber Board. As I have been involved in the process from almost Day 1, it seemed only natural that I represent the group accordingly. My time on this as been 100% volunteer.

To 'arcadia': My new website is www.dansdiatribe.com I haven't posted to the blogspot site for quite some time now.

To 'frank': You asked: "Why aren't you championing the building of a large warehouse style truck hub up by the airport or down on the harbour that can be used as a distribution hub for smaller trucks into the city? That's a business opportunity isn't it??" We have been championing for such transloading facilities. The hiccup here is that Hamilton's definition of a 'truck' includes the smaller trucks you are referring to, thereby making this suggestion an impossibility under the current practice.

Ryan addresses a key question that seems to get overlooked in this whole discussion: "It makes me wonder how other cities - dense, busy, economically successful cities all around the world - manage to get by without allowing their downtown streets to be used as through truck routes. Why is Hamilton so different from those places that we can't afford the luxury of safe, livable streets?"

The answer is simply that Hamilton differs because it doesn't apply the same bylaws as those successful cities. Instead, old & dated practices are injected into a new and modern era of goods movement.

Why can the City not set a policy differentiating truck sizes? Hamilton's definition of a truck is a commercial vehicle over 4,500kg gross vehicle weight (GVW). That puts every delivery vehicle about the size of a cube van into the same class as an 18-wheeler. Some cities resolve this by increasing the GVW in their definition of a truck.

Why do we not classify our road network to identify 'through' truck routes versus 'destination' or 'local' truck routes? With Hamilton's simplistic approach to truck movement, a truck delivering to a store on King St. is look on as negatively as the truck who's just using it as a shortcut.

Why is our 'part-time' route from 7am to 7pm? Recognizing the growth in the distribution logistic industry, encouraging overnight deliveries would certainly benefit the streetscape during the higher pedestrian, cycle, vehicle use without trucks impeding the view.

The other issue at hand, is that with the proposed closures, assumptions are being made as to where or how these trucks will reach their destination. Oddly enough, no one seems to know who, where or why these trucks are there in the first place. There have been no discussions with the freight carriers, even though the Consultants said they would do an "Origin-Destination Survey", none was completed.

The Chamber is simply asking for more time to allow a recognized entity (MITL) to engage in a 'cause and effect' study, in order to establish a better truck route policy, other than the current "No Trucks Allowed" simplistic approach. MITL has the tools and the resources of the industry to properly gage changes, and can ascertain what recommendations are better suited for the overall viability of protecting neighbourhoods while engaging the goods movement industry in and around Hamilton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 08, 2010 at 17:45:56

Daniel, thanks for the great response. You should send that into the Spec as an op-ed. As far as I know, this is the first time that I've heard anyone from the Chamber suggest that 'through' trucks and '18 wheelers' could in fact be barred from shortcutting through city if only the appropriate designations are put in place. Well, let's put them in place!! Why the heck are we wasting money on a multi-year truck route study if the terms of reference are flawed, and why has nobody mentioned this until now??

How hard can it be for the Chamber to get with city council and say "through trucks need to get out of downtown streets and 18 wheelers need to be moved to highways". THAT'S ALL WE ARE ASKING FOR. I don't mind a smaller sized truck making LOCAL deliveries in my neighbourhood. RTH has been consistent on this. If I'm hearing you correctly, it sounds like the definitions need to be changed. So, why don't we change them instead of implementing a new truck route that will probably be in use for decades more to come.

I'm tired of trucks from Steelcare at Eastport Dr and the QEW roaring past my front door at York and Locke. I have no problem with the milk company delivering milk to Goodness Me on Locke Street.

I realize my solution might be simple and not cost millions in useless studies, but perhaps the Chamber and council could sit down and hammer out some new terms that will benefit our city and our downtown core, while still allowing local deliveries.

Cheers

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2010 at 07:35:36

Add me to the "startled that delivery vans and 18 wheelers are in the same category" chorus. Granted that they're both big rumbly trucks, the experience of sharing King St. W. in Westdale with the Hewitt's cube van is very, very unlike sharing it with the Sysco transport truck:

  • the former doesn't block three shop fronts,
  • nor does is make anything like so much noise,
  • nor does it make me feel especially vulnerable on my bike (frankly, 18 wheelers on city streets can make me feel uncomfortable in my truck).

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-06-09 06:37:15

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 07:51:38

Thanks for the evening keel Mr. Rodrigues and I hope you don't mind if I wrap that redirect of yours into a HYPERLINK for ya, complete with a title of course.

What sort of a committed clean city liason are you? Are you getting caught up in a few conflicts of interest? As a WC2010 fan, I would expect you to be more involved in our stadium chatter as a Chamber of Commerce matter, man.

Still, I am thrilled to see some of our city's big gums spare a glance at us now and again. Although I'm sorry I didn't see him February 25th with Pat Quinn, I tore up the rug with Sam instead, so he win.

Cheers! to Dan and all of us trucked off, mixed up and oh so colourful, social media folk.

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By frank (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 08:29:25

Thanks for the response Daniel. I am still with Ryan though. Why are studies being proposed if we know what needs to be done? Publish your response as an op-ed and I think you'll bring some clarity to a lot of people. I, for one, didn't know that our fine city classified small delivery trucks in the same way as 18 wheelers. I'm also a huge proponent of night time deliveries. Perhaps it would be possible to reach a solution if someone had the nads to say, "Here's what's wrong with the definitions as we have them and here's what they should be" rather than accusing people who don't want trucks in their neighborhood as NIMBYs

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By Anders (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 15:33:04

Dan, good response, you made me disagree with Ryan's byline that we don't need new studies on this. When I read your Spec piece I too got the impression you were an industry voice trying to suppress those very weak modifications a few citizens were able to get on the plan. Mostly there you write about goods movement and the need for empirical research, which to me sounded like a championing of the narrow concerns of transportation engineers over the wider concerns of citizens.

Then you wrote your response above, which made me re-read your Spec piece and find the following paragraph:

"To further assist in arriving at a sound Truck Route Network, expansion or re-evaluation of the truck route definitions would encompass some of the concerns raised by residents on the risks involved for those mixed use/populated streets. The current recommendations were developed on existing parameters, which hold risks of impacting developing solutions that other communities incorporate into their truck route solutions (like small-vehicle freight deliveries for core areas, or designated "through" routes versus "local" routes)."

Now that you've clarified this it makes a bit more sense, but it's still hazy. Who are the 'other communities' here, what are the "existing parameters"? Will the MITL include the concerns of citizens in a new Truck Route plan, and if so how?

I certainly hope Council does table this, and in future I hope to see the points you brought up above (truck definitions, through vs local routes, and overnight deliveries) as central components of a new plan.

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By frank (registered) | Posted June 10, 2010 at 08:22:02

At the same time there are areas in this city (like the Kenilworth Access and area around it that do not require any truck traffic. It's not like there are any businesses at the top of the access that require deliveries, it's completely residential...

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