Special Report: Light Rail

City Abandons Two-Way Conversion in LRT Plan

Staff need to muster up the vision and ambition to build LRT to its full potential, and not cripple it with compromises to entrenched (and empirically failed) ways of thinking about traffic and transformation.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 02, 2010

Jillian Stephen, the director of the City's Rapid Transit office, has confirmed in an email that the proposed two-way conversion of Main Street and King Street have been dropped from the City's Light Rail Transit plan for the east-west B-Line.

Previously, the City's LRT proposal included the two-way conversion of Main and King, a coupling Metrolinx affirmed in their Benefits Case Analysis, which stated:

The one-way system typically supports longer cross town trips rather than the shorter trips encouraged by the two-way streets. ... Furthermore, the two-way street system is more supportive of the City's objective to create a healthy, more pedestrian-friendly downtown. ...

In addition to the merits of the two-way conversion, the ability of the rapid transit system to compete with the automobile and generate travel time benefits is directly related to the operating speed of the rapid transit system.

Despite this, City staff have decided to abandon two-way traffic conversion, though the LRT itself will still run two-way on King Street through the downtown.

This is a major decision that requires a full explanation from City staff and justification for going against the Metrolinx BCA as well as the overwhelming direction and empirical best practice from city redevelopment efforts across North America.

In an email response to RTH, Ms. Stephen wrote:

The current version of the design includes two-way LRT on the Main West, King, Queenston corridor, but does not include two-way general purpose traffic on streets where traffic is currently one-way. It does include a diversion of through traffic away from King Street, leaving King to serve local traffic only.

As you can imagine, we have heard from many people who love the idea of two-way traffic on King Street, and we have heard from many others who do not want the network changed. We have taken all of the public comments received to date, along with the technical information, the operational requirements (LRT and otherwise), the Benefits Case and the Vision Statement and have analyzed a number of alternatives in order to come up with a workable solution that meets the intent of why we examined the feasibility of LRT in the first place. The narrow right-of-way on parts of King makes providing all of the amenities that people what to see very difficult, and therefore choices have to be made.

There may be a case for leaving King Street one-way to vehicular traffic through a short stretch of the downtown core between Wellington Street and Gore Park, but that should have no bearing on the two-way conversion of Main Street.

If anything, reconfiguring King Street for local traffic only strengthens the case for two-way conversion on Main to accommodate westbound traffic and allow motorists more direct access to whatever destination (including destinations downtown) they're trying to reach.

As the Metrolinx BCA notes, our one way streets function as de facto expressways that funnel traffic across the downtown but are remarkably poor at allowing people to reach micro-destinations in the downtown.

This has been well-understood since the late 1950s, when downtown business owners decried the one-way conversion and then started slowly dying off - as they have in cities all across North America that made the same mistakes we made.

Still Maximizing Traffic Flow

Looking at Hamilton, since the total number of lanes would remain effectively unchanged in a full two-way conversion, the real issue is the rate of traffic flow on one-way streets, i.e. their continued ability to function as de facto expressways.

It is incomprehensible that the perennial obsession of Public Works to maximize traffic flow at all costs continues to dominate the city's planning process at the expense of allowing Main Street to function as a destination in itself and produce a real economic uplift.

We know that two-way streets provide a far superior pedestrian experience that attracts customers to the businesses that would invest downtown if a market existed. Abandoning two-way conversion on Main undermines the potential for LRT to drive investment in the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) corridor.

We also know that people are more likely to walk to an LRT station if their walking environment is pleasant, attractive and feels safe. People won't walk to an LRT on King if they have to navigate a dangerous, hostile pedestrian environment on Main.

We further know that maintaining streets that maximize traffic flow reduces the comparative advantage of LRT as a viable transportation mode and undermines is capacity to attract new riders out of their cars.

A Huge Step Backwards

How can the narrow, neighbourhood-smashing objective of maximizing traffic flow trump all of the well-understood, abundantly demonstrated livability and economic development benefits that accompany two-way conversion?

This is a huge step backwards that will undercut the benefits of building LRT and weaken support for LRT from those people who already understand its potential.

At every transportation workshop and lecture sponsored by Public Works that I've attended, every expert speaker has repeated the exact same theme: Build LRT, and convert your downtown streets back to two-way traffic.

Ms. Stephen has not yet responded to our follow-up request for a more detailed explanation of how the net benefits of retaining one-way traffic flows will justify the lost potential for urban revitalization.

Raise the Hammer calls on Public Works and the Rapid Transit office to muster up the vision and ambition to build LRT to its full potential, and not cripple it with more compromises to entrenched (and empirically failed) ways of thinking about traffic and transformation.

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 oldcoote (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 12:49:28

I don't like where this is heading.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 12:53:37

So, what's the point of doing LRT if it's still going to be more convenient for people to hop in their car and blaze down Main and Cannon like it's the QEW??

The conversion of Main and eventually Cannon is essential to seeing neighbourhood retail, street use, vibrancy and safety return to our lower city neighbourhoods.

Is there any way city residents can be refunded for all of the useless 'mayors luncheons', 'economic summits', 'downtown renewal seminars', 'special guest speakers on livable cities' etc...... who ALL say the SAME THING every year - "convert these streets to two-way tomorrow!" As we've seen on James and John and now York, our former barren, dead streets spring back to life once human beings feel comfortable being there.

Let's just get someone to stand at the parking lot of the next economic summit with a cardboard sign that says "Summit cancelled today because the city won't follow through on the vision and grand ideas anyhow".

I want a refund on my tax bill for all of the wasted meetings and hosting experts from around the world the past 30 years just so we can ignore them.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 12:57:04

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! From now on I'm going to refer to Hamilton as the place where good ideas go to die.

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By Muahaha (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 12:58:45

In a secret underground lair somewhere, Hart Solomon is twirling his moustachio and laughing maniacally.

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By H mag (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:19:32

Muahaha said "In a secret underground lair somewhere, Hart Solomon is twirling his moustachio and laughing maniacally."

This just made my year!

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:22:29

Just for a bit of balance. I think this is good news. As misinformed as all of you may find it, that is my opinion. I can see a point to be made about two way conversion being good between Dundurn and Wellington. I think that may actually be a good thing. However, east of Wellington, I think things should be left as is. My opinion is just as important (or unimportant) as all of yours. All I've done is state my personal belief. No need to call me names or downvote me in haste please.

I was actually driving along Main today from Wentworth to Centennial and was keeping an open mind about things and trying to think of solutions to things and trying to make note of road/sidewalk width, tree placement, types of vehicles on the road etc. I don't just want Hamilton to have LRT, I want Hamilton to have an LRT system that will work and be good for everyone.

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By Dan Jelly (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:26:03

Good job Hamilton, way to cave to uneducated, narrow interests... again.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:33:32

This is the kind of thing that really bugs me: "Good job Hamilton, way to cave to uneducated, narrow interests... again".

Why can't people just state what they personally believe without calling into question the intelligence or education of others. Someone could just as easily say the reverse of what you're saying Dan. I don't think you're wrong for believing what you believe. Rather than replying in such an uneducated way, why not ask questions about why the city chose to do what it did. Perhaps there are great reasons (perhaps not) that we're unaware of. Lets all keep an open mind and work together instead of making it seem like a war between opinions.

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By Nords (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:36:19

I agree that the conversion is the best way to go and that there may be some negative implications on ridership should Main Street still be the freeway that it is. However, if this concession would make it more likely for us to get Rapid Transit and not have the decision bogged down because of the issue then it might be a necessary evil. If Metrolinx was figuring out where to put the money and saw Hamilton fighting over this issue I wouldn't want to be bypassed because of it. Still, it is disappointing.

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By Trevor (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:40:20

After reading this I immediately voiced my concern to my Ward Counselor. Everybody do the same! Seems so backwards to not (at least) convert Main Street. It's a freeway! Crazy.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:50:34

Perhaps there are great reasons (perhaps not) that we're unaware of.

The reason is what the reason always is, the Traffic Engineers run the show and all they care about is moving cars as fast as possible. They've been strangling the downtown for over 50 years so suburbanites can race through it. See any one way streets on the Mountain, Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Stoney Creek? Of course not, the people living there would never put up with that shit in their neighbourhood. Only the poor shit-upon downtowners (how many times have I heard people on the Mountain tell me "I fliush my toilet on your head") have to deal with this every day and you're damn right we've had enough and have a right to be angry.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:51:01

Trevor, Main St is not a Freeway. It is a street on which cars, trucks and buses maintain a steady speed of roughly 57km/hr.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:54:29

However, east of Wellington, I think things should be left as is.

Yea, it's such a bustling metropolis down there. Who in their right mind would dream of changing anything down there?!

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 13:59:44

I can't think of any better way to welcome in our new council than with an inbox full of steamed residents ticked off at the prospect of their neighbourhood being dumped on again, and being left with poor quality of life, danger for children and closed for business just so joe blow from ancaster can fly through downtown once a month when needs to.

RTH just updated their 'contact city council' form. Please use it and voice your displeasure over this decision.

I was at the last rapid transit open house and vibe, energy, excitement and enthusiasm for the project was downright amazing. Something happened behind the scenes since then (probably what nobrainer said - traffic engineers) and made a huge shift in thinking, DESPITE the wishes of those giving valuable input to the decision. Bratina just said that his 'chain' is actually the chain of the people and his power is from the people to make good decisions for their city. Let's make sure we remind the new council who they are working for. None of them would dare suggest their neighbourhood road be converted to 5-lane, one-way, designated transport truck route, with timed lights and skinny sidewalks. So, let's not allow them to treat us like second class citizens just because we choose to live in the lower city.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 14:00:32

@SpaceMonkey,

To me, an average speed of 57 km/h within a built-up area pretty much indicates that the street is a de facto highway. It's very rare for traffic to attain a speed of 50 km/h for any sustained period of time on most arterial roads. Particularly in older parts of cities, with street-fronting homes and businesses.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 14:16:18

Nobrainer, Most cities have one way streets. Especially the ones with successful LRT systems. Take the time to have a look at:

Calgary's road system (7ave is one of their LRT lines) http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&sourc...

Portland's http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&sourc...

Baltimore http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=baltimore+m...

Monterrey Mexico (one of the highest ridership LRT systems in the world) http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=monterrey+m...

Boston http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=boston+ma+m...

Los Angeles http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=los+angeles...

San Diego http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=san+diego+m...

Amsterdam (everyone can agree it's great to walk and cycle there) http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=Amsterdam+m...

San Francisco http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=san+francis...

New York (holy one ways) http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=new+york+ma...

Paris http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=Paris+map&a...

Rome http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=rome+map&am...

I suppose I could go on, but that should get the ball rolling. I think the above illustrates that one way streets don't choke or strangle a downtown. In fact, I think the above links shows pretty clearly that an extreme number of one way streets are one of the things which almost all great cities share. Most of the cities above actually have a much higher proportion of one way streets than Hamilton.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 14:22:53

Jason responded to me by saying "Yea, it's such a bustling metropolis down there. Who in their right mind would dream of changing anything down there?!"

I was, obviously, talking only about the streets. I wish people would stop trying to make it look like I'm saying things that I'm not. I would love to see things there improved and it would be great if certain things were changed. I am just of the belief that the one way streets in that area are the way to go.

I shouldn't have to state this, because we're getting sidetracked (not my doing), but Jason, I feel the need to respond to you. The only streets which are one way East of Wellington, with few exceptions, for a relatively short distance, are Main and King. The rest of the streets are almost all two way. Where as, in the downtown which is not as in bad shape, there are a higher percentage of two way streets. So, again, I shouldn't have to point this out, but using your own logic, I think you've argued against yourself.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 14:25:13

I may have to register so that I can edit my posts. The above should read "there are a higher percentage of one way streets" (in the downtown).

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 14:30:45

I don't think one way streets are necessarily evil. I like being able to get to and from Stoney Creek or the QEW quickly and easily. Some people here are talking like without two-way streets we may as well cancel the project. Honestly, I don't think it changes things that much.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 14:31:32

John, I think you raise a good point. I'm not saying that cars SHOULD go 57km/hr on downtown streets. My intent was to keep things truthful. I offered facts to counter the exaggeration that Main St is a Freeway. The one way streets could be left as is and the timing of the lights could be used to encourage slower speeds. I think that people sometimes confuse the one way issue with the speed issue. Ryan, (im saying this with a friendly smile on my face) I think it's time for you to write the jingle about association and causation ;) I would love to sing it to John right now.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 14:51:35

Wasn't this already the plan? I thought the city had already settled that Main and Cannon were going to remain a 1-way coupled corridor.

King staying 1 way makes sense for the business owners along King street - considering the cramped streetwall of King, losing street-side parking really isn't a realistic option for those businesses, and much of King is narrow enough that you can't fit 2-way traffic + LRT + street-side parking, so one of those things had to get the axe.

If Cannon and Main remained 1-way and King became 2-way, then you'd have drivers taking Cannon/York all the way to Dundurn and then cramming onto that residential street. With King staying 1-way between the 403 Bridge and Bay St, this means drivers heading west will move to the gradually-widening King St. before that last-second crawl at Dundurn, at more traffic-appropriate streets like Queen (wider and less residential than Dundurn).

I think council has realistically identified the 1-way corridor as a sad necessity of Hamilton's geography. The so-called "ring road" is completely disconnected from the lower city and RHVP was meant for commuters in the mountain suburbs and nothing more.

I'd focus more on making the 1-way corridor safe. Lighted crossings at every intersection. Photo radar. Wider sidewalks on the left and all-day street-side parking to keep the fast traffic away from the pedestrian area on the right. Running a highway through downtown should not be done on the cheap.

And get every other street 2-way. There's no good reason for things like Herkimer or Bay or Charlton or Wellington or Victoria to be one-way streets.

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 14:52:24

Not meaning to beat on a dead horse, but I posted here a year ago that the true motive for placing LRT along King rather than Main was to preserve one-way traffic along Main and King.

If Jillian Stephen is truly interested in a compromise that would be satisfactory for all parties involved, then consider routing the LRT entirely on Main/Queenston, allowing the remaining lanes of traffic on Main to be one way, and convert King to two-way local traffic.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 14:59:56

FYI to anyone thinking that this will result in King having it's street parking remain, don't bet on it. It will likely have one lane westbound, then 2-way LRT, then 1 lane westbound. The only way there could be parking is if the LRT lanes are moved to the south side of King and ALL unsignalized cross streets will need to be dead-ended so that they don't cut across the tracks. this would leave one traffic lane and one parking lane on the northern lanes.

Also, Wilson and Cannon are one-way east of Wellington along with many north/south streets.

One-ways like King William and Hess are different than what we're talking about here.
I PROMISE you, the traffic engineers aren't sitting at city hall saying "let's try to give Main St the 'King William feel'. It'll be the freeway feel.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-12-02 14:00:54

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By LoveIt (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 15:00:29

Just let them do at least one thing at a time. They can convert Main st to two way anytime later. LRT itself is much more important.

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By G-M (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 15:01:41

I do not like what I am reading. I was thinking that here in Hamilton we would follow a more European way of living in terms of transportation. But thanks to the City Staff, we took 2 steps forward and now 1 step back. We should all bombard the next Rapid Transit open house and push two-way traffic. This is NOT just the City Staffs project, ITS OUR PROJECT! We are the ones who are going to use it and we are the ones who want to use it since looking for parking is HELL in Hamilton.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 02, 2010 at 15:17:36

@nobrainer

It's not like the mountain suburbs are any friendlier to pedestrians... well, they have little boulevards to keep the traffic spaced a little further away... but it's not like you see a lot of people walking along Stonechurch. Same goes for 2-way Main St. in Ainsliewood.

Dundas, Westdale, and Ancaster, I'll grant you, get all the benefits and none of the mayhem... they get nice local streets with expressway/Cootes Drive access to downtown, and don't have housing along those. But most of the mountain's main arteries don't seem any safer than Main and Cannon except for better setbacks.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-12-02 14:21:16

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 15:24:45

G-M Which European Cities are you thinking of? Most of the cities that I've been to in Europe are dominated by one way streets. Especially the ones that I enjoy walking in most (eg. Amsterdam and Paris). If we take away the city's one way streets, it would be less "european" than it is now.
G-M, do you realize that making the streets two way would allow for fewer parking spots?

Comment edited by SpaceMonkey on 2010-12-02 14:28:25

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By onaghighwayto... (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 16:03:54

Did I just hear "Ta Da"?

Since I'm a cynic, I'd say the LRT has been nothing but a distraction to keep the talk away from two-way conversion. Their next trick will be to make the LRT disappear. Now everyone (its already started above) will start saying, I guess forgoing the 2-way conversion for the LRT is still okay. Then, mark my words these guys are master magicians, the LRT disappears.

Status Quo reigns supreme.

Poor Aaron Newman, all that investment, all that risk and he'll still be located on a highway.

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 16:09:15

Jason, regarding King Street, Jillian Stephen said all roads that are currently one-way will remain one way for general purpose traffic. Under this 'vision' LRT will be two way on King but general purpose traffic will be one way westbound as it is now.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 16:26:16

yup. King St is 4 lanes. 2 for LRT and the other 2 for cars westbound. Unless anyone thinks they'll shave it down to 1 traffic lane and have 1 lane of street parking (which I doubt).

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By Ty Webb (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 18:35:40

Richmond and Adelaide in Toronto are both one way across town and they both have many thriving businesses and expensive condos all the way up and down them.

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By Tecumseh (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 19:24:18

My impression of Richmond and Adelaide in Toronto is that they are pedestrian dead-zones in an otherwise relatively vibrant pedestrian-friendly downtown. In fact I always used Richmond and Adelaide as examples for people who know Toronto about the vibrancy-stifling and pedestrian repelling effects of one-way streets through a downtown (to illustrate how traffic on King, Main and Cannon repel pedestrian traffic). Along Richmond and Adelaide it seems to me that any vibrancy and pedestrian activity comes where calmer two-way streets intersect them.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 19:26:12

LoveIt: "Just let them do at least one thing at a time. They can convert Main st to two way anytime later. LRT itself is much more important."

Agreed. Maybe not ideal but the sky isn't falling.

Gotta say, I'm not super surprised by the decision to maximize traffic flow – both for consistency with track record but also since LRT could conceivably command a dedicated route that would presumably displace around two lanes of traffic for a fair distance. But mostly the former.

Anyway, this is the thing about lobbying and advocating: It's not a hands-free exercise. This "negotiation" will in all likelihood continue through 2016 or 2020 or whenever.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 20:37:31

I personally have dreams of seeing Hamilton's downtown streets compared to Queen and College in Toronto. Not their two deadest streets. We can do better than another city's worst.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 22:24:15

Re: Richmond and Adelaide - I work on Adelaide, and I can tell you that it is pretty much a pedestrian dead zone. Compare it to King West, or Queen West, and the difference is night and day.

Boarded up bars on Adelaide, and thriving restaurants and shops on King and Queen.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 22:55:47

Ryan, when is that jingle of yours about association and causation going to be ready? This talk about Adelaide and Richmond is getting way off topic.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 23:12:26

actually, it's right on topic. Even in Canada's biggest city, the multi-lane, high speed, one-way streets are dead zones compared to the surrounding vibrancy and bustle of Canada's busiest and most vibrant streets.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2010 at 23:29:45

Alright, so having consulted the city's website, I'm confused as to how staff could, in good conscience, make this recommendation without significant explanation.

In addition to the Metrolinx Study above, some previous quotes:

March 2010 rapid transit newsletter: "Based on the results of numerous studies undertaken to date, and the Metrolinx BCA results, the Rapid Transit Team is recommending two-way rapid transit on King Street with the introduction of two-way traffic within the same corridor. Several key factors support this alternative to run rapid transit two-way on King Street, including safety, conveninence for commuters to get on and off the rapid transit sysem within one corridor, less impact on traffic flow and a greater opportunity for economic uplift."

Spring 2010 FAQ: "Why are we recommending two-way traffic on King Street?
In conjunction with the recommendations of the Downtown Transportation Master Plan, once it was determined that two-way transit was the preferred configuration for rapid transit, a review of the one-way/two-way operation of Main Street and King Street was also undertaken. By maintaining one-way traffic, within the same ROW corridor as two-way transit, contra-flow operation between traffic and transit would be introduced. Primarily, from a safety perspective, this is not desired. In addition, contra-flow operations would not be desired as the location of the two-way transit operation would result in a curbside transitway. As mentioned previously, curbside transitways restrict access to all driveways and cross-streets on the side of the curbside transit corridor."
...

"The Downtown Transportation Master Plan supports two-way traffic, identifying King Street and York Boulevard as two-way pairs, and Main Street and Cannon Street as one-way pairs."

How can they do a 180 now, and discard their concers for safety, convenience, impact on traffic flow, economic uplift, and convenience for transit users? Are they no longer concerned about curbside transitway restricting access to all driveways and cross-streets?

This is a major departure from their stated position and needs to be communicated, explained, and opened to significant public feedback ASAP! Not in January when their "Draft B-line" proposal is unveiled, but now, before their draft is "finalized" and it's too late to do anything about it.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 01:58:36

Any of you who thought you were going to see LRT or the conversion of the two main East-West arteries in this city to two way are either nieve or just fools.

There is no will to do so in this city. I have been saying all along that this would happen and now we are seeing the beginning of the end to your LRT dreams.

It is not going to happen and if it does it will look totally different from what you expected it to be. It will not be on a main street. It will be on a secondary street where it will cause the least disruption of traffic patterns.

Whether you like it or not cars still rule the roads in this city as with most other cities and everything will be done to accomodate them and their drivers. They are still in the majority and will continue to be for a long time to come.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 03, 2010 at 06:27:52

How can they do a 180 now

I strongly suspect the LRT plan is a casualty of the Reality Distortion Field produced by the city's Traffic department, but I'm still digging to try and get a clearer answer than Jillian provided.

Whether you like it or not cars still rule the roads in this city

The problem with your defeatism is that it's self-fulfilling.

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By onahighwayto... (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 07:33:58

Robert D, "Ta Da"

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 08:35:53

The current version of the design includes two-way LRT on the Main West, King, Queenston corridor, but does not include two-way general purpose traffic on streets where traffic is currently one-way. It does include a diversion of through traffic away from King Street, leaving King to serve local traffic only.

As I've said many times before, dumping even more traffic on Cannon Street is not an acceptable consequence of building LRT on King. This proposal is going to harm pedestrian accessibility and public health in some of Hamilton's poorest and least healthy neighbourhoods. And none of pxtl's suggestions:

Lighted crossings at every intersection. Photo radar. Wider sidewalks on the left and all-day street-side parking to keep the fast traffic away from the pedestrian area on the right

does very much to mitigate against that. Besides which the city has shown no desire to implement any of those measures so far.


Maybe we should build LRT along Barton. It carries less traffic and is already two-way. Then we could save the one-way/two-way fight for another day. If LRT is built along King with one-way traffic, it will be very hard to re-engineer traffic patterns in the future.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 08:41:45

What's cheaper and easier to implement? This:

Lighted crossings at every intersection. Photo radar. Wider sidewalks on the left and all-day street-side parking to keep the fast traffic away from the pedestrian area on the right

Or a painted yellow line? The lengths people will go to, to avoid converting one way streets to two way makes me think something other that reason is guiding their opinions.

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By Tnt (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 09:48:17

Hey speaking of thriving two way low speed arteries through the city: When is the Barton master plan coming to fruition? I'm sure the development of tax break shops/art galleries and street cars should be here by 2013 right? What? No, plan failed in 1994. Thanks Mike Harris and Bernie Morelli

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 09:48:28

Robert D, thank you for finding those quotes regarding safety, economic potential etc..... of two-way streets. The transportation 'engineers' clearly value non-residents more than local residents. And they clearly favour suburban business development over urban development. I've been getting some great replies from some councillors since emailing them all yesterday. Some of them are shocked by this 180 and are going to look into it.
Unlike a so-called engineer, the councillors seem to actually want business development and safe quality of life in our city. Keep contacting them.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 10:26:09

Nobrainer, Did you give any thought to your idea of simply painting a line to change from one way to two way? Before you accuse others of not using reason, make sure that you do the same. By simply painting a line down the middle of the road you are doing nothing to change the width of sidewalks and there sure will be a lot of accidents without any traffic lights facing the other way. In order to reduce speed, I believe a much more effective (and cheaper) way to do things would be to simply adjust the synching of the traffic lights to encourage slower (and safer) speeds.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 10:55:21

This is what I know...

I live downtown and work downtown. I walk, cycle or bus it most places I need to go. (Sometimes I rent a car to go out of town.) I walk on lots of different streets, some of those streets are one-way and some are two-way. Here's what I see: the streets that are two way (yellow line down the middle) with curbside parking are nice to walk on, even when the sidewalks aren't all that wide, they even have lots of businesses doing well. The streets that are one way, even with wide sidewalks are not nice to walk on and aren't doing that well. King Street in International village isn't that bad but it may as well be two way, cars have to move slowly so there's no point in it being one way any more.

So I know what I see and what I feel when I walk around my beloved downtown, and I remember when James was a nightmare and there were no businesses and I see and feel how healthy it is now and for me (see my username) it really is a no brainer.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 03, 2010 at 11:17:32

Whether you like it or not cars still rule the roads in this city as with most other cities and everything will be done to accomodate them and their drivers. They are still in the majority and will continue to be for a long time to come.

Self-fulfilling prophecy dude. As long as we design our city to cater to automobile traffic, people will choose to drive. These choices are influenced by major geographical and infrastructural choices made for the city as a whole. It doesn't take a lot to make transit or cycling unreasonable as a lifetyle - one or two regular stops in your routine that can't be made easily, and you're stuck wondering if all that cab fare would be better spent on a used car.

The choices made which privilige driving as a transportation option go well beyond one-way streets. There's the enormous amount of land, urban or suburban which is dedicated only to surface parking. There's the relocation of employment to suburban, highway-side office parks. There's been decades of pushing housing out of the inner-city. And there's the blatant disregard for local concerns in residential areas, as we've seen here lately from the North End to Aberdeen.

Compared to this obscenely expensive and dangerous road network, LRT seems like a bike ride in the park.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 11:34:55

This is what I know...

I live downtown and work downtown. I walk, cycle or bus it most places I need to go. (Sometimes I rent a car to go out of town.) I walk on lots of different streets, some of those streets are one-way and some are two-way. Here's what I see: the streets that are two way (yellow line down the middle) with curbside parking are nice to walk on, even when the sidewalks aren't all that wide, they even have lots of businesses doing well. The streets that are one way, even with wide sidewalks are not nice to walk on and aren't doing that well. King Street in International village isn't that bad but it may as well be two way, cars have to move slowly so there's no point in it being one way any more.

So I know what I see and what I feel when I walk around my beloved downtown, and I remember when James was a nightmare and there were no businesses and I see and feel how healthy it is now and for me (see my username) it really is a no brainer.

Can we introduce a motion to fire all of our traffic engineers and hire you instead? You make so much sense, it's dumbfounding to think our paid staff can't figure this stuff out in 2010.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 12:37:00

"The problem with your defeatism is that it's self-fulfilling."

Not defeatism, just reality. I have been involved as a citizen in this city and at city hall longer than most of you have been alive. I have seen plans for various things come and go, some of them announced as sure things. I know how this city and city hall work. Just because things are announced or planned for in a certain way doesn't mean they are going to happen that way or happen at all.

As much as you or I may want something for this city, the reality is this is a democracy and the majority will rule. While the original polling shows that LRT is a popular concept, the majority of the population in this city will not support it if it means they will be inconvienienced. Destroying one major artery, King St. and turning another, Main St. into a two way road will inconvienience too many people to make it acceptable.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 03, 2010 at 12:59:24

@nobrainer - think how many traffic-lights you'd have to add to convert a 1-way street to 2-way. Now think how many uncontrolled intersections you could secure using the same number of traffic lights.

And "2 hour parking 7am to 3am" costs exactly the same as "no parking" signs. Hell, with meters it actually makes money. The only thing I listed that would cost more money than a 2-way conversion is photo-radar and widened sidewalks... and just taking those first two steps would still be a humongous improvement. If widening the sidewalk isn't an option, how about some kind of barrier along the left-hand side of the street, like the fences at Gore park?

Either way, my point is that the city managers and council have made it clear that they believe Hamilton needs a downtown highway, and that we cannot change this. Accepting that, we need to remind them "a highway through downtown is dangerous to pedestrians. What are you doing to protect them? Damned little that I can see".

If there were lighted crossings at every Main street intersection, that poor guy in the rascal scooter who got mowed down last summer would still be alive. The woman on the e-bike who got hit at Ray St. would not have been hit last month.... well, in both cases assuming they waited for a green.

Those extra lights would not slow down traffic because of the "green wave" but they also would protect pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.

If the city is going to run a highway through down town, then it is absolutely essential that they don't cheap out on it.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-12-03 12:02:21

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By HamiltonRT (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 15:04:14

Plesae visit www.hamilton.ca/rapid-transit for Jill Stephen's response to this article.

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By LearnedHowToUserTheInternet (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 15:52:55

> **General Response from Jill Stephen (Director, Rapid Transit) to emails received in response to Ryan McGreal’s Raise the Hammer article “City Abandons Two-Way Conversion in LRT Plan”, by Ryan McGreal, published December 02, 2010.**

> The posting on this subject on Raise the Hammer has generated lots of discussion in the community. We have received lots of emails and telephone calls on this subject since the posting went up. I hope the following will help clarify the current proposal.

> Staff investigation of LRT on the B-Line corridor began in 2007, following the MoveOntario 2020 announcement. As the studies and design work has progressed from the feasibility stage to the preliminary design stage, the plans have become more detailed and some proposals that had been put forward in earlier stages have needed to be changed. At all times, the LRT investigations have been driven by the Vision Statement (developed Corporately by the Corporate Working Team, endorsed by the Public, and approved by Council) and the Benefit:Cost Ratio. That is, staff have worked to ensure that the B-Line meets the goals of stimulating the economy, improving quality of life, revitalization, providing environmental benefits and connecting key destination points in a way that ensures that the benefits received are greater than the costs incurred.

> The Downtown Transportation Master Plan (updated in 2008) was endorsed by Council in August 2008. A basic premise of this Plan was that Main Street and Cannon Street would be paired as the primary corridors for through traffic, and that York/Wilson and King Street would be paired as routes for traffic destined to stay in the Downtown. The original Downtown Transportation Master Plan (2001) included recommendations for 2- way conversions of York/Wilson and King; however, given the ongoing studies regarding rapid transit, only the two-way conversion of York/Wilson was moved forward to implementation stage (now nearing completion) in 2008. A decision on the conversion of King Street was deferred until the completion of rapid transit design work.

> In 2009, the proposal to convert King Street to 2-way traffic was brought forward as part of the ongoing rapid transit studies. At this stage, our work was still very high-level; more detailed than feasibility work, but not detailed enough to be called preliminary design. The proposal for LRT was for centre-run, two-way LRT, with one traffic lane in each direction in the majority of the corridor. At the eastern and western ends, there would be two lanes of general purpose traffic in each direction, as well as 2-way LRT down the centre of the road. This premise was included in the Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis work.

> In community consultation in 2009, we heard from many businesses and residents that they did not support the removal of their ability to turn left mid-block. Centre-run LRT would require left turns only be allowed at signalized intersections. The downtown-area businesses were also concerned about way-finding and the loss of on-street parking and loading that would result from two-way conversion of King Street. Furthermore, residents and businesses were concerned about the removal of rubber-tired traffic from King Street in International Village and the provision of access to buildings in that area with underground parking.

> We had cross-sections of the corridor drawn up based on optimal (greenfield) lane and sidewalk configurations and based on existing right-of-way widths, in both cases with two-way traffic. We found that, because the right-of-way is so narrow in some places (as narrow as 15m), we could not fit everything in without significant property acquisition and demolition. This would have significant costs on many levels: socially, environmentally and economically.

> Furthermore, we recognized that there are some everyday operations that are critical to the success and livability of our City. These include emergency response, waste collection, local bus service, deliveries, sewer and watermain maintenance and utility works to name just a few. A two-way traffic, two-way LRT cross-section in the narrower sections could only allow these day-to-day activities to occur if:

> - Property was acquired to widen the right-of-way and provide more space for operational and delivery vehicles to pull over and traffic to pass without going onto the LRT tracks; or
- It is deemed acceptable for all traffic to wait behind buses, garbage trucks, etc. while they stop and start along the corridor; or
- When work is ongoing in these corridors, the streets are closed and all rubbertired traffic is diverted to other streets; or
- All operational activities are conducted at night when traffic levels are lower (still requires diversion of traffic or traffic queues behind operational vehicles); or
- LRT operates in mixed traffic like a TTC streetcar.

> None of the above options meets the intent of an efficient, reliable, comfortable alternative to private automobile use.

> The B-Line corridor ranges from about 15m wide on King Street East to over 40m wide at in front of McMaster University. The characteristics of the corridor, including land use, also vary along the corridor. There are sections with residential and businesses right to the front property line, and other sections where buildings are set a fair distance back. There are schools and institutions, parks and open spaces, homes, places of worship and businesses. There are areas where there is two-way traffic today, and areas where it is one-way traffic. Some spots rely on on-street parking and loading because there are no other alternatives, while other businesses have dedicated lots or rear accesses. There is no “one-size-fits-all” cross-section that can be applied all along the corridor, nor would we want to do this. A key component of the B-Line work is building on strengths that are already there. We are also aiming to make improvements where we can.

> The B-Line is currently in the planning, design and engineering stage. This stage will bring us to a point where we know what the corridor will look like, how wide the lanes and sidewalks can be, where the stops are, how the LRT and traffic will move, where parking and loading can still occur on the road, what the land use will be, where we make changes, and where we leave things as they are.

> A misconception that is evident from the emails I have received in the last 2 days is that people believe the move from two-way traffic on King Street is based on maintaining it as a free-flowing street for cars and trucks. This is not the case. In many places between Dundurn and Parkdale, we will be reducing the number of lanes from 4 to 2. One lane will move traffic and one will be for loading, parking and local bus service. The use of bump-outs in some areas will slow traffic, as will volume, and lane configurations. Drivers will be able to get to Downtown, but King Street will not be their preferred route for driving from end-to-end across the City. In some cases, we will reduce the number of through lanes to one, a wider lane that includes space for vehicles to pull over or park or to pass stopped buses or garbage trucks. This approach to LRT and roadway design achieves many of the objectives of two-way traffic advocates, without eliminating loading space for businesses, without eliminating local bus service, without removing all traffic from International Village, without running LRT in mixed traffic for long stretches (it is proposed to be in mixed traffic in International Village), without forcing maintenance activities to take place at night, and without costly (socially and economically) land acquisition.

> In a greenfield situation, we would want provide 3.5m wide traffic lanes and LRT lanes, plus wide sidewalks and platform areas. However, we are working within an existing corridor and are not proposing to widen the right-of-way to provide for LRT. Typical rights-of-way are 20m wide. If we were to provide an eastbound traffic lane, an eastbound LRT lane, a westbound LRT lane, a westbound traffic lane, a single parking/loading lane, sidewalks wide enough for urban Braille and a centre LRT platform, we would need almost 26m. Reducing the lane widths to 3m each takes us to 24m. Eliminating parking/loading takes us to 21m. Narrower sidewalks are then required to get to 20m wide. This is not a desirable cross-section.

> At the Sherman stop, we have less than 20m, and will be working within the right-of-way to fit the necessary elements in. This means some compromises. We are proposing a 2.5m walk, 3.7m lane, 3m platform, 6m LRT (2 lanes) corridor, and 4m combined platform/walk. Not ideal, but it works. Cars will not go speeding along King Street, but they can get through. Wider sidewalks would be great, but we are providing enough space for walking and wheelchairs. LRT will operate in dedicated lanes.

> We are not currently proposing to convert Main Street to two-way traffic. There is still a need for some traffic to move easterly across the City, and Main Street fulfills this role. This does not preclude future discussions about conversion, however. It also does not preclude future discussion about lane reductions to provide wider sidewalks. Either could be reviewed again in the future.


> Kind regards,
> Jill

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 16:27:49

Let me state first that I realize plans change, and considerations might arise which result in a difference between initial plans and the final outcome. However, in the face of the overwhleming evidence cited in Hamilton RT's own documents, I would like similalry substantial evidence demonstrating that we now need to head in a new direction.

It's difficult to track this response, because while Jill begins her timeline with dates (2008 and 2009) the timeline abruptly stops in 2009, leavinv me still unclear as to what exactly transpired in 2010. Additionally as there are no references to the documents I quoted, including the Spring 2010 FAQ, the March RT newsletter, and the Metrolinx study, I can't try and construct a timeline either.

I'd still like to know more about why there was a change in opinion between March 2010 and December 2010. This can't be the first time they looked at the corridor widths. I seem to remember them having cross sections of various parts of King drawn up back when LRT was first being seriously proposed, and I'm sure Metrolinx would have had these for their study - I doubt they would support something that was going to be technically impossible.

All in all, I still feel unsatisfied with the explanation. I understand the corridor has constraints, but city staff understood that too, from day one (or they should have), and they still recommended, as late as spring 2010, two-way transit and two-way traffic. If we accept Jill's response above, the only conclusion we can come to is that Hamilton RT did not take all the relevant facts into consideration when they recommended, in spring of this year, two-way transit with two-way traffic (a setup which they now tell us is not feasible). This is a serious oversight in my opinion, and leaves me with concerns about the rest of the planning process going forward.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 17:28:52

I was told at the open house that King was preferred over Main for the LRT for two reasons. One was that King was the traditional main thoroughfare of Hamilton and gives the city better investment opportunities. The second reason given for King was that Main was the best choice for converting to two way traffic with a possible turning lane. I can understand not converting King to two way, I still do not understand why they will not change Main.

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By Leftofcentre (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 17:37:33

Hmmm, 4m platform/walk at Sherman. Does that mean centre run LRT is out as well? I'm reading this on a mobile, and can't see if that was mentioned above.

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By Tartan Triton (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 06:39:52

Well, at least we'll always have York/Wilson.

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/298987--city-says-no-way-to-two-way

"The city is abandoning plans to convert King and Main streets to two-way car traffic to make way for light rail transit.

It is also giving up on the idea of closing King Street to vehicle traffic for four blocks downtown.

The plan had been to run LRT vehicles in both directions down the centre of most of the 16-kilometre route, surrounded by car and truck traffic moving in each direction on either side. Downtown, it would have left the narrow stretch from Wellington to Mary with no room for two-way traffic and the plan was to close King to traffic through that stretch.

The change represents a major shift for the city's LRT plan and some transit advocates think it's a step backwards.

The regional transit authority, Metrolinx, based its benefits case analysis supporting LRT on the premise of two-way traffic on King and Main. But Jill Stephen, the city's director of rapid transit, says it became clear during detailed design and engineering work that plan wouldn't work.....

The move also doesn't mean the end of an opportunity to convert Main Street, west of the Delta, to two-way traffic, said Stephen. But that decision should be made after LRT is running and its impacts are known, she said."

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