Special Report: Light Rail

LRT Plan Needs Two-Way Main and Cannon Streets

Leaving Main and Cannon as one-way streets undermines LRT by resulting in lower levels of investment within the transit corridor, as well as lower rates of ridership growth.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 03, 2010

I sincerely appreciate Rapid Transit office director Jillian Stephen taking the time to prepare a detailed explanation of why the Rapid Transit office decided to drop two-way traffic conversions from its east-west Light Rail Transit plan.

Most of her letter explains staff reasoning with regards to King Street. I can appreciate the decision with respect to King Street, and in fact I recently acknowledged, "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".

However, staff have also decided to leave Main Street as a one-way thoroughfare, and Stephen's letter provides much less justification for this move. She notes that the 2008 Transportation Master Plan designated Main Street and Cannon Street as "the primary corridors for through traffic". In closing, she adds, "There is still a need for some traffic to move easterly across the City, and Main Street fulfills this role."

It seems clear that the only reason to leave Main as a one-way street is to preserve its current function as an expressway for eastbound traffic, with Cannon as the westbound expressway.

Transportation Oriented Development

As we have argued on RTH for years, a major objective of LRT is to promote new investment and intensification within what is widely understood as a walkable distance to each transit stop - a 400m corridor on either side of the line, assuming a stop at least every 800m. Transportation planners call this the Transit-Oriented Development or TOD corridor.

Both Cannon and Main Streets are within the TOD corridor for LRT on King Street. Main is well within it, ranging between 100m and 150m from King through the downtown.

Leaving Cannon and especially Main as one-way streets seriously undermines the LRT plan in two ways:

The Transportation Master Plan was developed and approved before LRT was in serious consideration - before the potential existed for LRT to transform both land use and transportation patterns through the lower city from the status quo of economically depressed streets funneling high-speed automobile traffic through the core.

Leaving Main and Cannon as one-way streets was already a bad idea in 2008, but it's a positively terrible idea today.

Both can be converted to two-way traffic flows. The total number of lanes would remain approximately the same, but the speed of traffic would be much lower and the streets would have a chance to function as actual urban destinations instead of just through-routes.

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. Several of his essays have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. Ryan also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on twitter.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 19:36:31

It seems clear that the only reason to leave Main as a one-way street is to preserve its current function as an expressway for eastbound traffic

THIS. I just knew the Traffic department would never give up their deathgrip on Main Street. This truly is the city where great ideas go to die.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted December 03, 2010 at 19:59:05

I don't get it. Main is two way east of Gage/Ottawa, Cannon is two way east of Sherman. What's the dillio?

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 20:18:04

I was confused by the lack of reasoning for the Main Street 2-way flip flop in Jillian's letter. It seems like internal politics and control issues in the Traffic Department are the reasons. Deathgrip indeed.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 03, 2010 at 21:06:17

@mrjanitor

I didn't realize they'd ever suggested they would be going 2-way on Main and Cannon at all. I thought they had said they were flexible on pretty much everything but those two streets.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 03, 2010 at 22:36:08

I think Jillian did a wonderful job of explaining the decision and I think it makes good sense.

Ryan, I'm not trolling here. I have to strongly disagree with most of what you wrote though, as well as how you wrote it. I think Ryan is really pushing it to suggest that LRT 'needs' two way Main and Cannon. I think it hurts his credibility and suggests ulterior motives to the facts he presents. Those are my thoughts, I'm not trolling. I would completely agree with you Ryan if you said something like "LRT needs to consider pedestrian safety", but when you say it needs two way streets, it sounds like heavy spin to promote your personal biases.

There is definitely a NEED for traffic to move eastbound. It doesn't have to be at freeway speeds as so many of you try to wrongly exaggerate things, but there is a need for Main to carry a lot of easterly vehicular traffic. There are not many lanes to carry high levels of traffic in our city. We must make the best and most efficient use of our roadways. For cars that means one way. It can also mean one way for pedestrians. As I've pointed out in other threads, most of the most successful cities in the world are dominate by one way streets. Especially pedestrian cities such as Paris and Amsterdam. In fact, in that thread of cities that I listed which are dominated by one way streets, they rank #6,7,8,9 as the safest cities for pedestrians (fatalities per capita) in the world http://www.smartplanet.com/business/blog...

If we had streets wide enough to accommodate something like this (a street view of Stockholm - the safest pedestrian city in the world, which has many, but is not dominated by, one way streets) http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=stockholm+m... then I would whole heartedly back a two way conversion. But, we don't and we are forced to work with what we have. And, given what we have, the best use of our space from an altruistic perspective is to maintain the one way streets and improve them to the best of their potential.

Now, as to the specifics of what I really take issue with in your writing Ryan is when you say things like "It retards the capability of these streets to attract new investment in dense, mixed-use facilities" and "the streets are still inhospitable to non-drivers".

That's just not true. Our streets aren't perfect, but it's not like there is some massive flaw with them that will be instantly and drastically changed by converting to two way. Are the predominately one way streets of Paris and Amsterdam inhospitable to non-drivers? People might counter by saying "they are hospitable to non-drivers, but they don't have 'freeways' running through them like Hamilton". My point is that the direction of a car's travel is much less important than the speed at which the car is traveling. We can keep the streets one way, reduce their speed using various methods (light synching is my favourite), and help to ensure that we don't create unnecessary grid lock while also increasing pedestrian safety.

It's also not like converting to two way will magically attract new investments that wouldn't have been there with the one way set up either. Whether or not new investment comes to downtown Hamilton has more to do with a lot of things other than which way the traffic flows.

I can't help but wonder if this article is about making things better for pedestrians, or if it's really about making things worse for drivers. I believe, as noted before, that both parties can be accommodated using one way streets where consideration is given to taking steps in order to maximize pedestrian safety. This would include things like speed reduction measures and many cross walks. Conversion to two way is very costly and I don't see an overwhelming benefit compared to a well thought out one way street.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted December 04, 2010 at 01:15:37

The Rapid transit office and Jill Stephen have changed focus because they have seen the writing on the wall and they want to preserve their jobs. They are attempting to salvage the idea of LRT by making it more palatable to the general public and city council, therefore making it more likely to get approved. I am sure there will be many more changes before this ever comes to a vote.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted December 04, 2010 at 06:46:25

Ryan, I'm not trolling here.

"I'm not trolling...blah blah blah...I disagree with the way you write...blah blah blah...you have ulterior motives...blah blah blah...I can't help but wonder if this is about making things worse for drivers..."

It doesn't matter what Ryan writes, you'll disagree with it, and when you do so, you'll also impugn his motives and take issue with the "way" he writes. There's a word for that kind of behaviour.

In any case, since Paris and Amsterdam are apparently your preferred cities as models for Hamilton, I'll tell you what. We'll retain the one-way streets in Hamilton in exchange for all of the other stuff in Paris and Amsterdam that makes them great cities:

  • dense networks of dedicated bicycle paths
  • subways
  • light rail transit
  • mandated street wall architecture (no strip malls, no big boxes)
  • green spaces
  • elimination of surface parking lots in favour of underground parking and reduced parking overall
  • reduction in overall road size and expansion of sidewalks
  • multi-use sidewalks supporting patios and cafes
  • car-free areas

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By Brian C (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2010 at 07:51:32

I am quite relieved to read Ms Stephen's rationale and the decision to keep Main and Cannon one way streets. Yes, it is obvious that the speed of vehicles is too fast on these two streets but that can be remedied with a click of a few computer keys at city hall. (Why they don't is beyond me) Slow down the light synchronization speed to about 40kph from the current 57kph! One way streets are not inherently unfriendly to pedestrians but they sure are at the current high speeds. In fact there are many reasons why one way streets are better for pedestrians. e.g. Fewer stops and starts by vehicles reduce air pollution. Fewer turns across oncoming traffic. Crossing a street when having to look only in one direction is much safer. Has any one noticed the number of car/pedestrian collisions since John and James were converted? One sign of a healthy street life is the number of jay walkers. Crossing James St. North is now much more difficult and more dangerous. The new vitality on James St. North has nothing to do with two way traffic but everything to do with people like Dave Kuruc, Bryce Kanbara and Glenn Crawford putting their passion and money on the line for their vision. In his famous study/text on urban planning and architecture "A Pattern Language" (a must read if you want to learn how cities should operate) Christopher Alexander outlines, in chapter 23, the ideal major road pattern in a downtown urban city: A pairs of parallel roads, about 200m-400m apart, each going one way and connecting to ring roads about 2-3 miles either side of the downtown core. Does this sound familiar? Hamilton currently has the ideal road pattern! But the timing of the lights on those roads must be reduced from current speeds.

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By Steve (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2010 at 07:56:19

I've said this before and I'll say it again, if the one-way system is so great, let's turn Upper James one way and West Fifth the other. As a matter of fact, let's turn the entire mountain one way!

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 04, 2010 at 08:38:48

I posted this in the other thread, but I'll reprint it here:

I can buy her logic for King Street and as we all know, many cities have one-way streets that are very pedestrian-friendly and with street parking, trees etc.... Montreal comes to mind right away. The thing that I am completely against is retaining these freeways on Main and Cannon. If King is going to have 1 lane for vehicles with a maximum of 2 in some stretches, why not have Main 2 lanes each way and Cannon two lanes each way as well?? Local bus service such as the 1-King, could be changed to the 1-Main and run both ways on Main. The 3-Cannon route could actually run both ways on Cannon. Perhaps the westbound curb lane of Wilson could be turned into a contra-flow bike lane to link up with the bike lanes on York now. King would be a slow, local street dedicated to LRT, people, patios, trees and street parking with these other streets being easier for vehicle travel in both ways.

Nobody can argue that my above plan is a 'war on cars' or somehow eliminates cars from the equation. It's merely taking the same number of lanes on Main, Cannon and Wilson but giving two-way option on all 3 streets instead of forcing people to drive one-way. I am only proposing to reduce Wilson by 1 lane in order to accommodate a two-way bike lane. York in front of the market is now 1 lane west bound, so I don't see the problem in having 1-lane westbound all the way from Sherman.

Councillors need to get with staff and demand that these 5-lane freeways be done away with during this process.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 04, 2010 at 08:43:00

my reason for reprinting the above comment is to inject some semblance of logic and common sense into the Main/Cannon discussion. For the life of me I can't figure out why people like being forced to drive in circles and only have 1 option when you can have 2.

Look at James and John now. When there is an accident on one, you can jump to the other. Next time your stuck behind a jack-knifed transport truck on Cannon, take a look at how empty and high speed Main is a few blocks south. Normal alignment would allow travel in both ways on both streets and give us more options, not less.
Furthermore, as I said, it would make transit more user friendly and easy to follow instead of having to walk between King and Main or Cannon and Wilson for the same bus.

Councillors are getting involved in this process as we speak, and the second I hear complaining from Ferguson or one of the other suburban councillors I'm going to revive the "one-way campaign" that Ryan successfully used a couple of years ago. As another poster mentioned, if one-ways are so desirable and so cache, let's plaster the Mountain and downtown Dundas, Ancaster, Stoney Creek with them.

http://www.raisethehammer.org/blog/1060/...

One final point, since construction and 2-way conversion have happened on York I've noticed a HUGE dropoff in the number of transport trucks coming eastbound on York from the 403. Perhaps they finally discovered our fabulous ring highways and are using the QEW to access the NE part of the city. I'm willing to bet that the Chamber of Commerce and trucking companies have bent the ear of staff behind the scenes and complained that we're actually trying to revitalize our downtown, making it more difficult for trucks to use a shortcut. As we all know, this is a good thing and we need to push for more conversions. Downtown is for a lot of things. High speed, short-cutting transport trucks should NEVER be one of them.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-12-04 07:46:21

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2010 at 11:52:21

6-lane 1-way streets in the downtown have the densest traffic during a short while in the morning and then one more time in the afternoon. However the lanes are still fast moving for the most part even at these peak times. For the other 22 hours of the day, these streets function as raceways through the heart of the downtown. Most times you can get from one end to the other in a ridiculously short amount of time. How does this benefit anything except for those who don't pay any property tax in the surrounding area along these streets?

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 04, 2010 at 12:22:31

Adrian you're wrong to say that I'll disagree with anything that Ryan writes. There are things I'm sure I would agree on with him. No need to make false assumptions about me.

All of those bullet points that you listed are great. I agree with you on all of them.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 04, 2010 at 12:40:53

The issue here is that the methods used to optimize auto mobile traffic aren't good for other aspects of urban space. It's no surprise that stretches of Main, Cannon and other streets like them tend to be largely devoid of any businesses which require steady foot traffic, while streets like King and James are filled with small shops and restaurants. Nor is it any surprise that the stretch of King where this happens ends quickly once the narrowed part ends (going to Hess or Queen before it looks like a stretch of Main).

I drive through cities, small towns, industrial areas and major highway junctions all the time. None move fast enough for my tastes, though most could with enough expropriations and added lanes. But would it be worth it? How much of the rest of our life and geography needs to be permanently sacrificed to ensure the fast movement of cars? At what point are we simply cutting commute times (barely) by sacrificing enormous amounts of space? Roads, especially "efficient roads", are not good neighbours. All they do is 'induce demand' (a process well understood by urban geographers) since they make driving a more attractive option, and walking and cycling less attractive.

It's not a matter of whether we're willing to sacrifice our urban freeways, it's a matter of what we're sacrificing for our urban freeways.

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By Another Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted December 05, 2010 at 12:51:52

Agree with the need for two way streets, stupid idea in the first place.

Disagree with the direction of LRT.

If anything it should go north to south. Mountain to Bay. IMO it would bring more people downtown. The Bee Line should be expanded East to West.

My Two Cents

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By realfreeenterpriser (registered) | Posted December 05, 2010 at 23:41:04

I'm a proponent of LRT and an opponent of one-way streets but it seems that some people refuse to acknowledge that Hamilton has two physical barriers that we just can't ignore; the bay and the escarpment.

In reality, rather than one big urban circle, we have two long, narrow, parallel cities running east and west, one above and the other below the mountain. I believe getting people up and down the mountain should be the first step in improving transit. Modern, high speed "inclines" should be our first priority because joining the mountain to the bay would bring broader acceptance of LRT, allow more people to cycle or simply walk, invigorate the downtown and promote greater access and use of our most valuable asset, the bay.

Our second priority (and many on this site won't agree) should be joining Burlington Street (east of Wellington) with York Boulevard via Wellington North and the CN right-of-way, a corridor that would have virtually no residential impact and that would allow the traffic currently using Main and Cannon to get from east to west and vice versa and allow greater access to downtown. Trucks aren't on Main, King, Cannon or Wilson because they want to be but rather because there's no viable way to access the businesses in lower Hamilton. There is no "ring road" in the lower city.

If these two improvements had been on the books, I believe we'd be turning the sod on a west harbour stadium right now.

If you want LRT, you need two things; people on the mountain on board and two way streets.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2010 at 06:52:23

I think it hurts his credibility and suggests ulterior motives

Okay, you got me. I need to fess up. I'm actually a highly-paid lobbyist for 2WayStreetCo, a shadowy transnational corporation that makes its money by buying up shares in yellow paint companies and then pressures aging rustbelt cities into converting their downtown streets to two-way traffic. All I care about is the bottom line - as long as that line is yellow.

There is definitely a NEED for traffic to move eastbound.

As Undustrial notes, this comes down to a matter of priorities: do we continue to prioritize through-traffic at the expense of local livability, as we have been doing for over 50 years, or do we choose to prioritize local livability at the expense of through-traffic, as cities that are actually enjoying urban revitalizations have done?

We can't have both. Either we have a sparse, traffic-friendly city in which you can easily drive from one end to the other, or you have a dense, slow-moving city in which you can easily get what you're looking for within a reasonable distance of your home. It is impossible for downtown Hamilton to thrive as long as it remains easy to drive through it quickly.

This is why I've argued for a conceptual shift in our thinking. This is why every urban planner, architect and transportation engineer who comes to the city tells us to convert our streets to two-way. It's why academic researchers warn that Hamilton's one-way streets are 2.5 times as dangerous for children as Hamilton's two-way streets.

We already understand the network effects, like induced demand, that come into play: when it's easier to drive long distances, more people drive longer distances more frequently.

This creates all sorts of knock-on effects, including shifting the equilibrium between driving, transit, cycling and walking; reducing the premium value on proximity, increasing demand to build on artificially cheap land on the fringe of the built area - all of which in turn feed back into demand for even more road throughput capacity in a vicious circle that is literally flying our city apart.

Designing streets to carry cars more efficiently also results, ironically, in higher overall air pollution because more people drive longer distances more frequently.

Getting people driven across the city in a timely fashion isn't the solution, it's the problem.

In all of the cities you cite, the common theme is that they have comprehensively de-emphasized through-traffic as a priority. To take just a couple of your examples:

  • Paris: The city proper has a uniform building height of six storeys (plus mansard roof) that was mandated in the mid-19th century by Haussmann and a population density of 20,807 people per square kilometre, or a bit over 20 times as high as downtown Hamilton. There are many one-way streets in Paris, but they are mainly narrow medieval streets for local use. The boulevards and thoroughfares are mainly two-way.

    In the past several years, Paris has built a commendable network of bike lanes as well as restricting access for non-local traffic to drive through the downtown core. Combined with ubiquitous curbside parking, wide sidewalks and a comprehensive Metro system, Paris is absolutely not designed to accommodate through traffic.

  • Amsterdam: That city actually contemplated imposing a stricter one-way street system to reduce automobile congestion. Instead, they decided to reduce congestion by significantly reducing the number of commercial parking spots downtown to discourage car trips.

    Amsterdam also decided to reduce lane capacity across all its streets to spread traffic through the city rather than channeling it through major arterials. Like Paris, Amsterdam has narrow streets that were built centuries before the automobile. Many are one-way, but they do not function as thoroughfares.

    And of course, Amsterdam also has its celebrated network of bicycle routes. Bicycles carry more trips than cars - even if you include the larger metro area. Combined with the city's streetcars (with up to five articulated sections per vehicle), LRT (built in the last ten years) and metro commuter lines, Amsterdam definitely relegates automobile through traffic to the lowest priority. (Note for squelchers: Amsterdam has built all of this in the past 25-30 years, after a conscious decision to make the city more livable.)

Even London is giving up its one-way thoroughfares after decades of evidence that they sacrifice too much for the convenience of motorists.

I'm with Adrian: if downtown Hamilton had medieval streets, a population density ten or twenty times as high as it has today, multiple LRT lines, a comprehensive bike lane network, wide sidewalks, thriving neighbourhoods and a modal split in which significantly less than half of trips were by car, I could live with narrow one-way traffic flows on some of our local side streets.

In the meantime, Hamilton is a dynamic system and we need to bootstrap our way toward vibrancy. We know that two-way conversion works at recalibrating a city's priorities between throughput and vitality.

And by the way - your link to a Stockholm street view could easily fit on our five-lane Main street.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-12-06 06:20:25

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2010 at 08:28:58

Our second priority (and many on this site won't agree) should be joining Burlington Street (east of Wellington) with York Boulevard via Wellington North and the CN right-of-way, a corridor that would have virtually no residential impact and that would allow the traffic currently using Main and Cannon to get from east to west and vice versa and allow greater access to downtown.

All this talk about us having no alternative to main/cannon for E/W traffic is utter BS.

I have timed it - to drive from QEW @ Burlington to 403 @ Main is 13 minutes whether you do it through the city or around it via the Skyway.

13 minutes. Try driving around any city in the world in 13 minutes.

If we create a livable downtown by slowing down the traffic, whether by de-timing the lights (A free solution we could implement overnight) or by converting the major streets back to two way (a slightly more expensive but still affordable solution which could be achieved within a few months), we will STILL be able to get from stoney creek to dundas in the same amount of time. We would just have to choose a different path. A more appropriate path - using the highways we have already built.

Trucks aren't on Main, King, Cannon or Wilson because they want to be but rather because there's no viable way to access the businesses in lower Hamilton. There is no "ring road" in the lower city.

The trucks that are making deliveries to and from the local businesses are not the problem.

Please pick a spot on cannon, set up a chair, sit with a coffee for an hour and watch the traffic. The majority of these trucks are not local traffic no matter how thinly you want to stretch the definition.

Trucks are on Main, Cannon (and to a much lesser extent, King and Wilson) because we have made those streets more viable than the highways around the city.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 08:39:13

We were promised that if we spent half a billion dollars closing our ring highway system, the downtown would benefit because all that through traffic wouldn't have to go through the city any more. Obviously we were being lied to, because when we asked for trucks to stop going through the downtown the Chamber of Commerce said no way, the trucks need to have shortcuts through the city. The ring highway is complete, you can drive a 360 all the way around the city in about half an hour and I still have to dodge 40,000 roaring cars coming down Main Street every day. There is NOT a "NEED" to move traffic through the city, there's a NEED to STOP moving traffic through the city.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 08:45:16

nobrainer and seancb,

  1. yes we were lied to about the trucks. No surprise looking at who made those promises
  2. Sean, you're right. It's 13 minutes and now with the Linc open, I"ve timed going the other way. I have a friend in the Greenhill area and from the 403/King it's 14-15 minutes via Linc/Red Hill. No chance I'm getting there in 15 minutes through the city, even with the Main St expressway.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 10:02:06

I'm enjoying following this debate and learning about the urban traffic issues from both sides.

Gotta say how much I really love nobrainer's post and this succinct conclusion to it, " There is NOT a "NEED" to move traffic through the city, there's a NEED to STOP moving traffic through the city."

A very convincing post!

I tend to agree with him. I live near King and Centennial parkway and I can easily get downtown via RHVP/QEW/Burlington st. It's a great route.

Also, when I was travelling regularly to downtown Dundas, RHVP/LINC/Old Ancaster road was 20 minutes, 10 minutes less than going through downtown Hamilton.

There are ways to get around the city. I'm all for slowing down downtown and making it much more people and pedestrian friendly.

As a recent regular to the art crawls, I can also see the benefits of converting James st. N. to 2 way. James st. N. now has a wonderful vitality that is still emerging.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 10:35:35

I accept Jill Stephen's point that in sections of King Street where the current road allowance would only permit two lanes for automobile traffic, it may make sense for them to be unidirectional. Two unidirectional lanes would permit a left turn lane at intersections and a parking/loading lane in between. These are design elements that favor local uses. If there are continuous sections of King Street where the road allowance permits two lanes for automobile traffic, it would seem best to have bidirectional traffic in those sections. Short stretches of two-way traffic facilitate local uses more than short stretches of multi-lane traffic facilitate long-range travel.

What I (like Ryan) really object to in the new proposal is the absence of two-way conversion on Main Street (and, by extension, Cannon Street.)

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 10:59:09

Re: King St. Despite my earlier post explaining how King could still be wonderful as a one-way, I chatted with a business owner on King, east of downtown, on the weekend who was livid at this switcheroo. Their main point was simple - two way King makes it very easy for people to access their business by bike, car or LRT from the west end. Forcing people to drive one-way then take a guess at where they need to loop around is not very business friendly. It's a good point and one I thought I'd re-post here.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2010 at 11:05:03

Forcing people to drive one-way then take a guess at where they need to loop around is not very business friendly.

I'm not sure it's possible to overstate this. I can't stand cycling or driving to a destination downtown, especially if it's on King and I'm coming from the west. Two-way streets are better for drivers who are trying to reach destinations downtown, even as they slow things down for drivers who are just passing through on their way to somewhere else.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 11:22:31

The corollary to my earlier post is that if the road allowance on King Street really doesn't permit LRT plus bidirectional traffic, that fact really ought to have been taken into account when King Street (rather than Main Street) was chosen as the preferred route.

I also ought to have mentioned earlier that one lane in each direction ought to be sufficient on King if there is no longer any expectation that King Street will be used as a thoroughfare, which kind of negates the point of my previous post. And a twenty-metre cross-section (with 3 m lanes and 2.5 m sidewalks) would permit one traffic lane and one LRT lane in each direction plus an extra 3 m that could be used for turning lanes at intersections, LRT platforms just back from the intersections, and parking/loading on one side in the middle of the blocks. There's no need for LRT platforms directly opposite each other, or in the same cross-section as a left-hand turning lane.

Does anyone know the road allowances on Spadina or St. Clair (Toronto, not Hamilton)?

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By bottomline (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 11:37:57

1) fast car traffic is incompatible with pedestrian feiendly streets.

2) if cars can't go fast, there's NO POINT in making the street one way.

Therefore Main should be two way unless we don't really care about making it ped-friendly.

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By realfreeenterpriser (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 13:30:45

"The trucks that are making deliveries to and from the local businesses are not the problem. Please pick a spot on cannon, set up a chair, sit with a coffee for an hour and watch the traffic. The majority of these trucks are not local traffic no matter how thinly you want to stretch the definition."

Seriously, unless you actually knew what these trucks were carrying and specifically where they taking it to or bringing it from, how can you possibly make such a statement?

When, exactly, does "to" become "through"? Do you really believe that trucks are leaving the QEW and driving all the way through the city to get to the 403 or vice versa? A quick search of google maps shows me that it actually takes about 5 minutes longer to go through the city than around and that's by car not truck.

I'm all for getting trucks out of downtown but if Hamilton is going to have an industrial area on its harbour then there has to be a viable way for trucks to access it when they're coming from, or going to, the west.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 13:39:32

When, exactly, does "to" become "through"?

When you start outside the downtown on one side and end outside the downtown on the other side. I've talked to lots of truck drivers and they all tell me they love driving through Hamilton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 13:49:13

Do you really believe that trucks are leaving the QEW and driving all the way through the city to get to the 403 or vice versa? A quick search of google maps shows me that it actually takes about 5 minutes longer to go through the city than around and that's by car not truck.

Bro, don't get me started. LOL. This is EXACTLY what they do! I've followed several trucks over the year and so far, not ONCE have I followed a truck on York Blvd whose final destination wasn't the NE industrial district down by the QEW/Burlington St area. I've noticed a dramatic drop-off in transport trucks on York during road construction by the market. I'm hoping the new two-way street will be slow enough to keep them on the highways (I presume that's where they've all gone) when construction is done.

Further to my earlier point about King St being two-way, if you read the old Spec articles from the 50's, downtown businesses were livid that their west end customer base could no longer come in on King St to shop. It can't be understated (I don't mean to offend anyone) that Hamilton's most affluent population lies west of James Street. Think of the demographics from James St all the way to Dundas and Ancaster. Making King two-way suddenly makes life a whole lot easier for these folks to drive downtown. No wonder businesses were livid in the 50's. Hamilton's most affluent residents were effectively shut-out from King and James, our main retail streets and instead tossed onto the Main St Expressway with no retail and no reason to stop. I'm fine with LRT running in mixed traffic through the International Village in order to maintain street parking through there. Curbside parking could also be added on the south curb of King Street even with a 20 metre right of way. I would recommend putting the parking on the south curb so folks coming in from the aforementioned west end could have easy street parking access on King Street. Two-way King, Main, Cannon and Wilson is such a nobrainer I can't believe we even need to have this discussion again.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2010 at 14:06:58

@realfreeenterpriser

If it's carrying steel, odds are they're going to the industrial parks in the northeast end (close to the confluence of Burlington St, the RHVP, and the QEW) and you frequently see steel trucks downtown... and there is no steel industry downtown. By definition, those trucks are crossing town, entering the city from the west end (or transloading material from trains there).

Here's the thing: downtown traffic is never choked up. It's often slow, you often have to worm your way around construction or a FedEx truck making a drop-off in a clearly-marked no-stopping-zone... but it's always moving. And if something goes really wrong, you're only an intersection away from a back-up option.

The expressways are not like this. One bad accident and you're stuck spending an hour at 10kph... and there's no way to leave. If it happens westbound on the QEW, there's no escape anywhere between the QEW/407/403 ramps to Westdale, since getting onto Highway 6 will just lead you on a wild goose chase (perhaps the work they've done there has made it easier though). The fact that N. Service Road does not connect to Old York Road can not be accidental.

The 403 to the Linc has a similar vast expanse going down the mountain where if one guy makes a mistake, you'll be stuck waiting for a year before you see the Westdale ramp.

Plus this is all part of the main commuter path to Toronto. A truck jacknifes in Oakville and Hamilton's whole ring road is down.

Yes, under optimal conditions these are much faster than going through downtown, but optimal never happens. So it's no surprise that drivers go through the city.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-12-06 13:49:36

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 15:25:39

I'd be more than happy to put all trucks on our freeways other than the 7 times a year when the 403 has a major accident and people need to be re-routed. 358 days a year with no roaring transport trucks in our urban neighbourhoods is much better than 0.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2010 at 17:21:29

Seriously, unless you actually knew what these trucks were carrying and specifically where they taking it to or bringing it from, how can you possibly make such a statement?

Sit out there and look. These are industrial strength trucks carrying industrial strength loads. Tandem trailers, etc. I actually called out to a driver once to ask where he was heading... answer? "Windsor!"

Do you really believe that trucks are leaving the QEW and driving all the way through the city to get to the 403 or vice versa?

Yes I do believe it. But even if a truck originates in the east end industrial areas, they should me taking the highways out. RHVP->Linc->403 or QEW->Toronto. We absolutely do not need to build a highway across the North end, the highways we have are perfectly functional - it's just that we've induced through-traffic demand by making cannon and main so easy for half a century and now the people who use them think the world will end if we slow them down.

Slowing the roads down will make them so much better for every user EXCEPT the user who is only looking for a short cut - exactly the user we want to discourage from taking up space on the roads within the core.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2010 at 17:40:55

Two-way streets are better for drivers who are trying to reach destinations downtown, even as they slow things down for drivers

The one-way streets drove us nuts when we first moved here. Right now, we still don't find them particularly convenient for getting places within the lower, central city-- but that was never the point of them, was it?

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 19:53:12

I find it misleading to say that Hamilton's one-way streets are 2.5 times as dangerous for children as Hamilton's two-way streets. This "fact" is brought up over and over here on RTH in an attempt to suggest that Two Way streets are safer than One Way streets. Actually, it's not even presented as a suggestion. It is usually presented as an indisputable fact. The real fact is that whether one way or two way streets are safer is very much open to debate.

Because I am interested in what is best for Hamilton, I think it's important to present the facts in a non misleading way. The same study which is so often used here at RTH also says:

"Finally there is higher volume of traffic on one-way streets in Hamilton, a variable associated with up to a 13-fold increase in injury risk".

and

"In the end, it might be, as Zeeger describes, that it is necessary that one-way streets are safer in some situations and two-ways streets in others".

If one wanted to be misleading, they could use the study to say that Hamilton's one way streets are 5.2 (13 divided by 2.5) times safer than two way streets. That isn't true though. The study does not conclude that Hamilton's two way streets are 2.5 times more dangerous than it's one way streets. It concludes that "one-way streets have higher rates of child pedestrian injuries than two-way streets in this community". And by rates they mean per km of road, not per amount of traffic.

So yes, while it is true that the one way streets here are 2.5 times more "dangerous", the reason for that increased danger is anyone's guess. As the authors of the study point out, the higher number of cars on our one way streets could be one of the causes.

In general, I'm not for one way streets and I'm not for two way streets. I don't think that, in the big picture, one is better than the other. I believe that each has it's pluses and minuses. I think that, for the most part, Main and Cannon serve Hamilton, as a whole, at least as well in their current one way set up as they would in a two way set up. When I say as a whole, I mean considering all our tax payers, pedestrians, drivers, shop owners, productivity etc.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 20:11:03

I'd like to edit my above post but it won't let me...

(please edit One way Main and Canon serve Hamilton as well "in their current one way set up" to read "in a one way set up") I feel that edit is important because I believe that some cost effective changes could be implemented to decrease speed and increase everyone's safety and livability.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 21:25:53

I can't think of a more cost effective change than buying a can of yellow paint from Ryan's multi-national paint corporation and rolling down the middle of those roads Kramer style....

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 22:50:06

let's organize a flash mob at 3am and slap that yellow paint down!

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 06, 2010 at 23:33:03

Quoting Ryan... Please DO NOT: Post comments just to say you agree/disagree with another comment. "Me too" posts don't add to the conversation and make threads long and awkward to navigate.

Vote on comments based on whether you agree with the author's opinion. Comments should be rated for the quality of their argument, not which side they've taken.

It is up to all of us as members of an online community to reflect and reinforce our community standards of respect, civility and intellectual curiosity in our exchanges with each other. We all have a responsibility to avoid using argumentative fallacies, to maintain a civil and respectful tone with each other, to make a sincere attempt to contribute meaningfully to the discussion, and to encourage others in the same responsible behaviour. end quote

I am giving real thought to the topic and put in some time to make a sincere effort to foster worthy discussion. The fact that my post was down voted while Jason's was upvoted should have everyone scratching their heads.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 02:41:31

And yet we had a thriving bustling growing downtown core 40 years ago complete with one way streets and no LRT. Then things changed not the streets not transit but society. I can remember when the Black Forest Inn had lines out the door and down the street every Thursday, Friday and Saturday and Sunday. Why not now? Is the food bad? is the service horrible? or is it simply that consumers now have more choices and can get more for there money at other places? Some 40 years ago they were the only ethnic restaurant in town, today they do not really qualify as an ethnic restaurant. Nothing to do with one way streets or lack of LRT. Instead it has to do with The Mandarin and The Keg and a whole slew of other restaurants that are now available for the consumer. When the downtown thrived Steelworkers with good incomes lived downtown, now not so much. What steelworkers we have left tend to live in Stoney Creek and Dundas and Ancaster and in one of those newer bigger nicer houses on the mountain. Most people who can afford to want to live in a bigger nicer house. Only through necessity do most people decide to live in the smaller houses downtown or in apartments or condominiums. Bigger nicer accommodations with more desirable destinations will bring people downtown, not LRT or two way streets.

James St. both north and south has grown since it was converted to two way traffic but was that because of the conversion? If it was then why has the same thing not happened on John St? A parallel street only a few yards away? Things need to change for downtown to become relevant again. Those changes are not two way streets and LRT. The most needed change would be more desirable housing and/or jobs. If you can attract desirable housing people will move there and the increase in density will take care of everything else. Toronto does not have a dense downtown because of slow horrible traffic instead it has slow horrible traffic because of a dense downtown.

The more difficult it is to get there the less people will be inclined to go there. The more people want/need to go there the more inclined they will be to do it. I hate going downtown Toronto and only do it if I really need to. I will go to Buffalo to watch the Leafs play the Sabres rather than go to the ACC just because I hate getting there. I am not alone in this many others are exactly like me just watch a game on TV. Toronto has enough residents and one of a kind attractions that it still has more traffic than it needs or wants. Making our downtown traffic slow and horrible will not attract anyone there in fact it will keep people away. Getting good jobs and desirable housing there will attract people and get people into a thriving downtown.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2010 at 07:25:33

And by rates they mean per km of road, not per amount of traffic.

Of course that's what they mean. If a one-way street carries twice as many vehicles (and at a faster average speed) and more children are hit by cars and seriously injured as a result, the one-way street is more dangerous for children.

It makes no sense to calculate how dangerous a street is to pedestrians as a function of how much vehicular traffic it carries (though it might make sense to calculate how dangerous a street is to motorists in this way).

The whole point of the study is that the higher volume and speed of vehicular traffic on one-way streets is a major component in the elevated risk. It's the very reason such streets are more dangerous for people trying to walk along or across them.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2010 at 08:52:45

Mr Meister, I'm sorry but I have to call you out on some of your misguided opinions.

we had a thriving bustling growing downtown core 40 years ago complete with one way streets and no LRT. Then things changed not the streets not transit but society.

You may recall that our "thriving bustling growing downtown" was built on two way streets with good public transit. Nobody is claiming that the one way conversions (and removal of electric trolleys) were a switch that immediately turned the bustle off, but they were certainly a part of the problem. Why are The Keg and other chains so attractive compared to downtown establishments? Is it because our infrastructure spending has (for the past 50 or 60 years) favoured moving cars around faster and faster, with focus on the spacious fringes of the city? Maybe it's time we invested in a decent transportation network downtown in order to give the downtown businesses a fighting chance. Peoples' decisions are guided by external factors, including the nature of the transportation infrastructure surrounding them. Let's level the playing field.

Only through necessity do most people decide to live in the smaller houses downtown or in apartments or condominiums.

Downtown homes are too small? Let me present some for your consideration (From MLS):

house1house2

house3house4

house5house6

Want more? Look at the downtown neighbourhood photo tours here

Additionally, lots of people choose to live in compact, efficient housing: condos, smaller homes, apartments and the like. So thanks, but there's no need to talk as if all the housing downtown is (a) small and (b) lived in by downtrodden residents who have no other choice. Yes, some people choose to live in a large house on a large lawn in the suburbs but many, MANY do not (as evidenced in any city in the world.)

was that because of the conversion? If it was then why has the same thing not happened on John St? A parallel street only a few yards away?

John has not seen the revitalization to the extent that James has. Why? Because it simply does not have the built streetwall that James does. Have you been down John? John south is sparsely built, with most of the old lots turned either to plazas or to apartment buildings (which face the side streets and turn away from John). Despite that, new and old businesses are thriving (Gallagher's, Lion's head). John north was ravaged in the past and is almost all parking lots. Not sure exactly what buildings you are hoping to see revitalized there. But despite the challenges on John, it has been singled out for development (most notably in Stinson's plan). Of course it's not built yet, but simply being chosen at a conceptual stage is a better situation than 10 years ago. I am not claiming that this is because of John being two way, nor am I claiming that all downtown development is due to two way conversion. But to claim that John has seen no development is not entirely accurate.

If you can attract desirable housing people will move there and the increase in density will take care of everything else.

Exactly. But there is much more to "desirable housing" than you seem to think. It is not solely about the size of the houses. Or the quality of renovations. Or the beauty of the gardens. It's cliche, but the old adage "location, location..." rings true.

So what is it about the location matters? Getting in and out quickly? Sure, that comes into play for many. Especially those who have to commute by car. But what about people who choose to live without a car? They would also like to get in and out quickly - via foot, bike or transit. Should we just cut them off? We need to build our transportation network to attract ALL people, not just car-commuters.

But even the people who do use a car. Isn't there more that they may care about? Aren't there some other things about "location" that matter more than getting in and out? Namely, what makes it a good place to be ONCE YOU ARE IN. This means livability. Safety. Access to amenities. Even the view out your front window (how about a choice between roaring trucks or wide sidewalks and trees?)

The bottom line is that we need to give all of our citizens choices. If we continue to build solely for movement of cars, that is what we will get. People will continue to drive further and faster because they do not have a choice. We will never reach the density that will "take care of everything else" if we do not build a city that accommodates everyone - not just car commuters.

We need to build top notch transit, not only for those who are forced to use it. Not only for those who already want to use it. But to give everyone in the city the choice to use it.

Comment edited by seancb on 2010-12-07 07:53:28

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 09:15:20

it's simply untrue that we had a vibrant, bustling downtown 40 years ago. Sure, compared to today we did, but the decline began mere hours after the one-way conversions in the 50's. Read the Hamilton Spectator from 1957. Business owners demanding help due to falling income immediately after the switch:

http://www.new.hmag.ca/?p=886

Our downtown business owners begged and pleaded with city hall to put a stop to the killing of our downtown, but nobody listened.
The expropriation, one-way conversion and removal of streetcars and then trolleybuses all led to killing the downtown. One of the business owners talks about how all of their customers lived west of the core and now couldn't come in along King on either transit or by car.
It's not rocket science. Convert every street back to two-way or very slow, narrow one-ways where necessary, add in LRT, bike lanes and street parking, get rid of insane zoning requirements and watch out. This place will be hopping in a decade.

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

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2010 at 09:36:09

Wow, how did I miss that newspaper clipping? Amazing. This needs to be mailed to every councillor and more importantly, city staff (who i think are becoming the real problem)

Another note on John Street... Treble Hall was recently purchased for development :-)

Comment edited by seancb on 2010-12-07 08:36:30

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2010 at 09:44:02

@seancb

Well, those houses do look smaller... after all, those houses are designed for people. They might look bigger if they had 2-car garages. How can you have a house without an attached 2-car garage?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2010 at 10:21:31

Try getting rear access to a fully detached garage in the 'burbs ;-)

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 10:31:57

Who wants a detached garage? You might have to wave to the neighbours as you high tail it from the garage to the house!

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By MattM (registered) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 11:31:15

I don't understand how city council was able to shove the one-way conversion through with such a high amount of dis-satisfaction from business owners. I further don't understand how 60 years later, people have adapted to it, embraced it and accepted expressways through the downtown as the "norm". It sickens me that they just gave up the fight and eventually packed up and left downtown. Now when we try to reverse the wrongs, people are forgetting why they are wrongs in the first place, being more fascinated by getting traffic in and out as quickly as possible.

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By BMO (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 12:40:00

To whoever says trucks don't use downtown streets: Remember when that huge coil of steel fell off the 18-wheeler carrying it and rolled down Main St before smashing intool the BMO at Bay St?

Real Safe!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2010 at 14:51:06

@BMO

It's important to remember that the incident was not the driver or trucking company's fault, the driver was cut-off by a drunk driver and jacknifed his truck to avoid a lethal collision... he may have saved a life with that manoeuvre. While that sounds like apologia, my point is the reverse: even when the company involved is doing everything right, it still ended up releasing a 10 tonne steel coil rolling down Main Street.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 18:38:40

even when the company involved is doing everything right, it still ended up releasing a 10 tonne steel coil rolling down Main Street.

Exactly. Which is why they belong on freeways, not downtown streets.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 20:29:27

Little known fact, Main and King St. respectively used to be, and in a certain sense an extension of Highway 8. However since the QEW came along, Highway 8 has fallen into quite a lot of disuse. Before Highway 8 used to be the major artery through Hamilton way back when. I think part of that concept, and the fact Highway 8 is becoming a more tourist scenic route through the Niagara region is part of the reason they are resistant to the idea of two way traffic.

Now as far as should it be two way, that's a bit sticker. Urban intensification in the core, and throughout the Main/King/Cannon/Barton corridor is needed. Will two way access aid this? My answer is hesitantly no. At this point, there simply isn't enough pedestrian traffic/urban living in the corridor to warrant the conversion, especially given both Main and King are still suffering from gridlock during rush hour, which means conversion is likely to dissuade development. Now in the future, absolutely. When that future comes, I have no idea.

For now, I'd like to see them test out the two way streets on Cannon and York/Wilson, from there we can tinker with Main and King. I'm pretty sure many are going to disagree with me on this one, but I'm still of the opinion that we don't have the Urban intensification needed for LRT quite yet, and two way streets should be humored once we hit that level of intensification.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 20:37:07

both Main and King are still suffering from gridlock during rush hour

I call BS, unless by "gridlock" you mean "traffic flowing a bit more slowly than 60 km/h".

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 21:27:06

I grew up and learned to drive in Toronto, I have yet to experience gridlock in 18 years as a Hamiltonian. Maybe because it's comparative for me Hammer, but I have never found Hamilton traffic to be an issue.

Edit: I conferred with my wife who was an HSR driver for 6 years and the only gridlock she has encountered is on the Red Hill Valley Parkway at 4:30 going South and on the Linc going West from Wentworth to Garth... never has she ever experience gridlock on city streets.

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2010-12-07 20:30:54

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By grid lock (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 21:42:34

In Hamilton it's "gridlock" if you have to touch your brakes between Queen and Ottawa.

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By realfreeenterpriser (registered) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 22:36:19

"These are industrial strength trucks carrying industrial strength loads. Tandem trailers, etc. I actually called out to a driver once to ask where he was heading... answer? "Windsor!""

And your point would be? What on earth does where he was heading have to do with this debate. Why didn't you ask where was he coming from?

"But even if a truck originates in the east end industrial areas, they should be taking the highways out. RHVP->Linc->403 or QEW->Toronto." Would that be the RHVP that was such a bad idea?

Exactly where does the "east end industrial area begin? It's my observation that a significant number of the large trucks on Main, King West and Cannon are servicing the petroleum depots or the vegetable oil plant at Burlington and Victoria. How do those trucks get to and from London or Guelph for example. The "it's just as fast to go around" argument doesn't hold here because they're already in the middle of the city.

I'm a proponent of LRT, two way streets and opposed Red Hill but I believe that bending a little by completing the ring on the SOUTH side of the bay by connecting Burlington Street with either York or the 403 along the CN corridor would allow us to completely eliminate truck routes and one-way streets anywhere in the lower city AND have a west harbour stadium.

If, on the other hand, you believe "we absolutely do not need to build a highway across the North end, the highways we have are perfectly functional" then get used to what we have.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2010 at 08:06:56

If we were to convert Cannon and Main to two way, and traffic was calmed to a human scale more appropriate for neighbourhoods, then some trucks would of course still use them, especially if they ahve business to do within spitting distance of these routes. Perhaps it would still be faster/more convenient for trucks coming from as close to downtown as Burlington and Victoria.

I'm not going to get into an argument about where the east end industrial areas "begin".

My point still stands: if the route through downtown was less convenient for through traffic, then fewer trucks (and other vehicles) would use them as a short cut. I never said that we could eliminate every truck from these streets.

Unfortunately, I don't think we have the geography to support a highway through the north end and besides that I do not think it is an appropriate use of public money. It would cost way too much for the benefit of way too few.

If slowing the traffic through Hamilton adds 20 minutes to a truck driver's trip to Guelph, so be it.

Why is it more appropriate for an entire downtown population to suffer for the convenience of the drivers, shipping companies and factories who want to cut through it?

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By realfreeenterpriser (registered) | Posted December 08, 2010 at 10:34:07

"Why is it more appropriate for an entire downtown population to suffer for the convenience of the drivers, shipping companies and factories who want to cut through it?"

I think you're making my point. It isn't. But municipalities/government/the economy are rarely run based on what's appropriate or fair or just or equitable, etcetera. That's why we pay taxes to recycle pop cans instead of pop companies paying to refill pop bottles and why we pay to pick up garbage consisting of excess packaging for which manufacturers bear no responsibility.

I'm just saying, given this reality, we can hold out for what's "appropriate" or we can give "through traffic", however one defines it, a better route that would be "below grade" and disturb virtually no one and get our two-way streets back with slower speeds and better access to downtown.

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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2010 at 11:46:12

Wow, I had no idea so many people would get all ruffled up by a technical briefing!

To Ryan, thank you for bringing this issue up. In the threads there are accusations of being biased and I think you do a good job of first clarifying that you work independently and second, although you work independently there are conclusions you've come to and priorities you place over others you think creates a net benefit for the community. Slow-moving, densely populated downtowns are more viable than auto-friendly, fast-moving traffic corridors.

I also appreciate what Jillian is explaining about the decision to keep Main and Cannon open to that corridor mentality. I'd like to frame it as a conflict of priorities. The City has a responsibility to ensure they have the "public interest" at heart when making decisions. This means a lot of different things to different people but, when we look at that credo in the context of LRT, the City is basically saying, 'look, we'll give this LRT thing a shot because we think it is better performance for taxpayer dollars than our current transit system. It could spark some economic development, improve property values and do some good for the environment. However, we are not putting all our traffic eggs into the LRT basket. We're going to keep Main and Cannon just as they are, in fact, maybe even remove surface parking, to ensure there is a balance between people who want to take LRT and people who need to drive from point a to point b."

Notice the word "balance." This is the credo. The City isn't taking sides, but, by not taking sides, they don't transform the culture as Ryan puts it, and LRT, along with a culture of less-car, is undermined.

If LRT actually happens, and is popular, the City will re-visit Cannon and Main and make changes on the fly. This is incremental and evolving process. Give it some time but keep plugging away.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 12:29:06

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 13:10:14

Look at any successful city and you will see that exactly what you posted is what people don't want. Our building stock has very little to do with the problem. We need to make our downtown streets livable before a majority will choose to live here. We have a lot of problems to solve but to just throw up our arms and say "people only want to live in the suburbs" makes no sense. It is simply not true.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 21:56:44

in healthy cities, people definitely vote with their wallets. In Toronto, a small semi-detached home in the Beaches or Annex costs far more than a large new home in the suburbs. Ditto for all healthy, vibrant cities.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2010 at 12:54:50

In Toronto the reason that small semi detached house in the beaches is so expensive is because most people still prefer that to living in an apartment or a condo and a bigger detached house is just too long a commute away. People by and large want the great American dream, their own home with the proverbial white picket fence. May not be your ideal but it is that of the majority of people. If you could somehow put that large semi detached house in the beaches imagine what that would sell for!

At certain stages in life people want a condo or apartment but for the majority of people for the majority of their lives they would prefer a detached single family home.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted December 12, 2010 at 21:26:08

@Meister oh bullshit. The reason a small semi detached house in the Beaches is so expensive is that lots of people want to live in the Beaches. Full stop.

Lots of people want to live in suburbs, sure, no one's arguing with you. But lots of other people want to live in cities. They want to live in cities even if they have to have smaller homes. Even if they have to give up a big backyard and a 2 car garage. They want to live in cities because everything in life is a trade off and they get more of what they want in exchange for what they're giving up.

You're guilty of exactly what you accuse RTH of. Assuming everyone is like you. Some people prefer cities... young people, creative people, people who like risks and starting new companies. People who make things and create value and drive progress.

Is it so awful that Hamilton wants in on that action? If you want to live somewhere that never changes, go find a small town somewhere. Stop trying to hold this city back from it's potential!

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 12, 2010 at 23:30:34

in NYC, Manhattanites make fun of their borough counterparts living in homes in the Bronx, Brooklyn etc.... Most people in NYC rent their apartments...for insane amounts of money. Montreal - another popular city with high rental rates and small homes (compared to today's McMansions) in the city. Most of the world is urban. Without polling the entire planet, I think it's safe to say that people want to live in cities. The 'American Dream' really was a dream that should have remained a dream for most people...massive subsidies, over-valuation, shady business/development practices and marketing led many people to pursue that dream, only to have it turn into a nightmare....

http://www.zillow.com/blog/early-2010-ho...

Comment edited by jason on 2010-12-12 22:31:16

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By data? (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2010 at 12:21:32

"the majority of people for the majority of their lives they would prefer a detached single family home."

What data are you basing this on?

Just a hunch - it's based on your hunches.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2011 at 16:25:57

Aside from the matter of street directions, the rise of automobile ownership was also something that might have fuelled change and played a decisive role in the evolution of the core. In 1939, around 15% of Canadians owned a car. By 1960, that had increased to 29.2% – basically doubling even as the city's population grew by 40%, from 155,276 to 258,576. By 2002, a whopping 83% of Canadians owned or leased a car (per Waiting for the Weekend, Witold Rybczynski; Vehicle Ownership and Income Growth, Worldwide: 1960-2030 by Joyce Dargay, Dermot Gately and Martin Sommer; Canadians and Cars by Leger Marketing) – basically an inversion of the 1939 driver-to-pedestrian ratio, even before factoring in a population growth in excess of 300%, 1939-2002.

Applying these national ownership figures on the local level gives you an idea of the relative volume of vehicles on Hamilton streets.

1939: 15% of 155,276 pop'n = 23,291
1960: 29.2% of 258,576 pop'n = 75,504
2002: 83% of 490,268 pop'n = 406,922

Right there, you're looking at around five times as many cars on local streets since the one-way conversion of 1957. Looked at another way, the population of non-drivers (which you could argue is the baseline population of those inclined to transit use) shifts dramatically as well:

1939: 85% of 155,276 pop'n = 131,985
1960: 70.8% of 258,576 pop'n = 183,072
2002: 17% of 490,268 pop'n = 83,345

There's also the change in the normative working week as industrialization took hold. In absolute terms, the manufacturing workweek dropped from close to 60 hours a week at the dawn of the 20th century to around 40 in 1957 – and it has remained virtually unchanged in the half-century since. What has changed, of course, is the advent of two-income households, which tends to reconfigure leisure hours and activity – so rather than having one partner working a 40-hour week, you might have husband and wife both working 40-hour weeks. Although impossible to quantify, I would imagine that those realities would have a pronounced impact on the socioeconomic development of Hamilton, inside and outside of its core.



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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2011 at 10:31:18 in reply to Comment 63937

It also occurs to me that on a very basic level, consumer patterns are anchored to transportation options.

In decades past, when most Canadians did not own cars, those patterns tended to favour the efficiency of centralized shopping districts, which at that point could only be rationalized in downtowns. With increasing car ownership and the novelty that came with it – liberation from the familiar, independence from transit schedules, relative freedom of movement in space and time – consumers were for the first time able to redefine their spheres of movement. Whatever the one-way streets decision was intended to facilitate, it arrived at a time when cars were reshaping the landscape, both in terms of infrastructure and commercial variety.

Hamilton witnessed explosive population growth in the mountain area during the 1950s and 1960s – population that included downtown residents relocating to newer suburbs – and which had no small impact on where dollars were spent. (Not that this is a totally new thing. The Hamilton depicted in the Portrait of a City promo reel had more than tripled in size from the land area it occupied 60 years earlier.)

There was also the opening of QEW's Freeman Bypass (Burlington interchange) in August 1958, and the phased construction of the 403, which opened in December 1963 and gradually moved eastward from Freeman, reached Aberdeen Avenue exits as of July 1965, Ancaster in 1969. Those changes allowed Hamiltonians to travel widely with greater ease, and they were given reason to do just that, as enclosed shopping malls (1950 onward) threw down a new challenge to historic merchant cores: within an hour's drive of downtown Hamilton, you could choose from Yorkdale Shopping Centre (opened 1964), Sherway Gardens (opened 1971), Fairview Mall (opened 1972) and Square One Shopping Centre (opened 1973), which joined Jackson Square (opened 1972) in the brave new world of consumer goods.

So while Jackson Square didn't necessarily invigorate the long-term health of downtown shopping, and while one-way streets such as Main and Cannon have arguably contributed to a pedestrian-averse environment, I would contend that those two factors alone can't fully account for the downturn of Hamilton's core.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted May 25, 2011 at 11:23:11 in reply to Comment 63963

Related to the "brave new world of consumer goods," there's an interesting 1960s timeline at http://www3.sympatico.ca/john.winter/1960s.htm, which includes tidbits such as

"1960 - North America's first enclosed, climate-controlled downtown shopping centre opens in London, Wellington Square, 400,000 square feet developed by Campeau, anchored by a five level Eaton's and a Woolworths. Rooftop parking provided 330 spaces. The City considers building an expressway up the environmentally-sensitive Thames Valley to better serve the downtown merchants."

and

"1962 - Academic literature begins to register the haemorrhaging of the downtown retail economy, which is much more serious in the United States.... Howard Green's doctoral thesis at Harvard had asked the provocative question: What functions will remain downtown? He concluded Government, and its linked functions (particularly lawyers), plus newspapers, are the only activities that really need such centrality."

There are other choice milestones in the 70s, of course, which only go to confirm the academic suspicions.

http://www3.sympatico.ca/john.winter/1970s.htm


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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2011 at 18:23:38

If my math holds, the long view frames it pretty starkly.

1939: 15% of 155,276 pop'n = 23,291 cars
2002: 83% of 490,268 pop'n = 406,922 cars

Give or take, that'd be a 17-fold increase in cars on Hamilton streets.

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