Special Report: Light Rail

City Wants Your Comments on B-Line Design Charrettes

The City's Nodes and Corridors planning team have published the results of this summer's design charrettes along the B-Line LRT corridor and want your feedback.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 21, 2011

The city's Nodes and Corridors team wants your feedback on a series of design charrettes it sponsored this summer to envision new development around light rail transit (LRT) stations along the east-west B-Line corridor.

B-Line Corridor (Image Credit: hamilton.ca)
B-Line Corridor (Image Credit: hamilton.ca)

The purpose of the charrettes was to engage community stakeholders in discussing and visualizing opportunities for new private investment and development along the B-Line corridor and particularly around the proposed LRT stations.

Background

When the Province introduced its Places To Grow framework in 2005 to direct urban growth planning over 25 years, Hamilton launched the Growth-Related Integrated Development Strategy (GRIDS) to meet the provincial growth target of at least 40% infill. (You can read the GRIDS Final Growth Report [PDF].)

Through the GRIDS planning process, Hamilton settled on a "Nodes And Corridors" growth model, in which new development is concentrated in identified growth nodes and along the transportation corridors that connect them.

In October 2008, Council unanimously directed Public Works staff to undertake "the functional design, detail design and construction of the B-line rapid transit corridor ... utilizing Light Rail Technology" after a feasibility study identified LRT on the B-Line as the best way to achieve the goals of the City's Transportation Master Plan.

At the same time, the Regional Transportation Plan published by Metrolinx identified the east-west B-Line as one of its top priority projects. Public Works staff in the Rapid Transit Office engaged closely with Metrolinx to design the B-Line LRT system.

In June 2009, the City approved a new Official Plan that identified the east-west B-Line corridor as a major strategic area for new development. The Official Plan was approved with some amendments [PDF] by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in March 2011 but is currently pending under several appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board.

All the stars were aligning around the B-Line, and the city's Planning and Economic Development department committed to developing a Secondary Plan for intensification along the B-Line that would coordinate with the Rapid Transit planning and design work being undertaken by Public Works.

This was an important strategic move: Cities that coordinate LRT construction with a new secondary plan to encourage transit-oriented development realize the biggest benefits in new private investment and development around the line.

Design Charrettes

Planning and Economic Development began to work in earnest on the B-Line Secondary Plan, conducting a land use planning study and then, earlier this year, engaging community stakeholders in a creative series of design charrettes to envision what new development along the LRT line and around the stations could look like.

The Nodes and Corridors team have now published the results of those design exercises and invite the public to comment on the design charette reports. You can read the background presentation [PDF] and view the individual charrette reports for the six nodes that were studied:

You can send your comments to nodesandcorridors@hamilton.ca by Monday, October 3, 2011.

LRT Controversy

On July 15, City Manager Chris Murray sent an email to Council to advise them that he had "made a decision to suspend all current direct and indirect activities of the Light Rail Transit Initiative other than any work activities required to be completed under the agreement" with the Province to complete a class Environmental Assessment.

I contacted the Nodes and Corridors team to ask if Murray's directive had any impact on their activities. Christine Lee-Morrison, the manager of nodes and corridors planning, replied to advise me that their work continues unaffected.

The planning study has been coordinated with the rapid transit initiative, as timing of the new Official Plan and the status of the rapid transit studies have allowed for this opportunity to coordinate. However, the B-Line Nodes and Corridors Land Use Planning Study is an important implementation measure of the new Official Plan, regardless of LRT status.

The Public Works department will be presenting a report to the General Issues Committee (GIC, formerly the Committee of the Whole) on October 13 that will update members of Council on the status of the Rapid Transit team's current activities and recommend next steps.

According to Kelly Anderson, spokesperson for the Public Works Department, "The Rapid Transit team is continuing to complete the work that is part of the $3M funding commitment. Nothing has been formally suspended at this time." We'll receive more details in the October 13 report.

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.

26 Comments

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 16:48:17

great planning activity. This is the real payback of LRT - economic development along nodes that would otherwise remain underdeveloped and with depressed property values. LRT lines are to urban development what freeways are to suburban development.
Hamilton has come a long way in the past few years. Now is the time to commit to this new investment in our city and our future.

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By hbear (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 17:58:04 in reply to Comment 69929

banned user deleted

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By anonymous (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2011 at 17:43:54 in reply to Comment 69940

Investors do not commit to talk, once there is a real commitment to build the LRT is when you will see real investment activity along the route. Thats just the way investors work...

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By ok (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2011 at 17:51:42 in reply to Comment 69977

banned user deleted

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By Synxer (registered) | Posted September 23, 2011 at 11:42:31 in reply to Comment 69978

A few notes to add here:

  • RHVP had one type of investor: property developer.

  • The LRT line would run through already developed area.

  • Property developers have rarely been engaged in bulldozing an entire existing neighbourhood to bring newer development.

If the LRT line was running through open, subsidized service land, I am sure we'd have plenty of property developers begging for the opportunity to "invest" and pilage the tax base for subsidized shovel-ready land.

RHVP helped to further enforce the sprawl substrate around Hamilton. It provided quick access to fresh, cheap soil.

So, when the cheap soil around RHVP has all been developed and the inner city decays as a result - what is our next move? To build another RHVP to prop up the ridiculous notion that - eventually all will be saved?

And exactly how many times will we have to do this before we realise it doesn't work? Or can we collectively even admit to it?

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 22:01:24 in reply to Comment 69940

We need to get the investment BEFORE we waste money on an unneeded streetcar.

We had zero investors lined up before we built the Red Hill Parkway. Now that it's there, we're seeing investment around it. The same thing will happen here. In fact, save this comment somewhere - if we start construction of LRT you'll see new projects start construction with LRT as a selling point before the line is completed.

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 20:19:19 in reply to Comment 69940

If they build it, they will come!! If the "streetcar" (small train actually)is built, developers will come, I honestly believe that. Hamilton is in the heart of the Golden Horseshoe. Properties are at the lowest end of the scale for the whole GTHA. If I had the money I would buy property now. There is a vibe happening in this city, thanks partly to RTH. It will only continue to grow.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 21:56:37 in reply to Comment 69943

I agree, we in the west end, Dundas, westdale area look forward to this more than can be imagined. If a hub ends at university plaza I believe you will see a large influx of not only business but clients/customers for those businesses. It's the only plaza in the west end. Not to mention the mac students using it constantly.

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By anonymous (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 17:54:23

Any word on when the study of the route through the downtown core would be released? I see the nodes both to the east and west of the downtown core but nothing about through gore park. I had heard talk of the LRT route possibly turning down and using Cannon for a portion.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 18:40:26

Keep the LRT on Main, don't run it along King. King and Wellington and International Village will be poorly served by an LRT line going through two lanes of King. Keep in on main, so a dedicated line can be run on the ground without issue. My two cents.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2011 at 21:37:56 in reply to Comment 69941

The city decided that LRT on King would have less overall impact on vehicular traffic flows. I don't think that should be the deciding factor (the point of LRT is to reduce vehicle trips) and I would also prefer LRT on Main Street, but I certainly don't see LRT on King as a deal breaker. At this point, if we were to re-route the line to Main, we would be throwing out a year of detailed design work.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-09-21 22:27:10

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 19:13:58 in reply to Comment 69941

To avoid the bottleneck at the International Village, I think a station could be developed on the east side of the Crown Plaza Hotel, where the train could cut over to Main St. That way the train would still be in the heart of the core. With all the money that would need to be spent, what's the expropriation of a couple of properties?

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 22:03:46 in reply to Comment 69942

My suggestion is to run the eastbound LRT line on it's own lane through the International Village and run the westbound line up Wellington to King William to Catharine and back to King. This allows one westbound vehicle lane to continue on King, and keeps the street parking and still gives LRT it's own lanes. Ferguson 'Station' would be a perfect stop at King and King William. King William is loaded with empty lots that would boom back to life with LRT.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 20:33:13 in reply to Comment 69942

That's just it though, King St at International Village is only two lanes right now. Completely cutting road traffic isn't going to do it (or the nearby Condo Plaza whose parking garage opens onto King) any favors. Sharing the lane with auto traffic isn't going to work either, given that auto traffic is backing up as it is right now.

That leaves either running over the road/sidewalk at International village and that will get pricey and ruin a lot of the atmosphere or just leaving it on Main St, which would be my preference. Main St still passes by city hall and links directly to the McNab transit terminal.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2011 at 16:31:46 in reply to Comment 69944

The road through International Village could be 4 lanes while still leaving the kind of modest sidewalks we have elsewhere in the city. It's crowded in there because of parking bump-outs and super-wide sidewalks... in many spots you've got parking on both sides of the street in addition tot he two traffic lanes and sidewalks. That's 4 lanes.

The problem is that it is crowded. Two traffic lanes and two train lanes and two sidewalks would be cramped. A single traffic-lane might be doable, but that creates its own problems... blocking traffic altogether might be better than traffic trying to squeeze into a one-lane alley and getting utterly stopped if a FedEx guy decides to ignore the No Stopping signs and run out out with his package.

Plus, the city wants an LRT platform in there, and there just isn't the space for that.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 21:35:33

A B-Line LRT along Main Street seems to be a practical option because:

  1. It would be a less expensive, straight line build with a shorter total distance and less curves than a King Street LRT build;

  2. It would be less disruptive to build during the construction process in that two lanes of Main Street could remain open plus King Street would be open. A King Street build would require the complete shutdown of parts of King Street (Wellington to Mary Streets, the curve from Melrose to Sherman Avenues, etc.) during construction.

  3. The Main Street LRT line would be centered a few more metres away from the downtown buildings along Main Street than a King Street LRT line would be from the downtown buildings along King Street therefore slightly less vibration and noise would be felt by the building occupants;

  4. It would be slightly closer in proximity to the new downtown residential developments than a King Street LRT;

  5. It would establish an important and direct physical connection between McMaster University, its innovation park, its new downtown health campus and its Centre for Continuing Education. It would be ideal if the first segment of the B-Line LRT was built from McMaster to Main and John Street (4.2 kilometres) as a pilot project at a fraction of the total cost of the project.

While it is appreciated that a great deal of preparatory work has already been done on the King Street LRT model, one hopes that some work is also being done on a Main Street B-Line alternative as it might resonate with a larger segment of the Hamilton population when faced with the important political decision on whether or not to build an LRT line at all.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2011-09-21 21:44:04

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted September 22, 2011 at 09:56:12 in reply to Comment 69946

I agree, Main makes more sense to me too. Especially when you factor your #5.

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted September 22, 2011 at 07:56:20

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-09-22 09:06:22

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By higgicd (registered) | Posted September 22, 2011 at 10:17:16 in reply to Comment 69957

What a strange comment.

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted September 22, 2011 at 14:26:37 in reply to Comment 69968

a la Bob rambling!

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2011 at 08:57:21

Putting one direction on king william and the other on king from wellington to james would be great. In fact on the west end, the tracks could run through jackson square to meet back up with king. Get us some of that public space back...

I also always though A line should run as a one-way loop on john and james -- not a 2 way on james. then two streets can benefit from the development opportunities. Opportunities for infill on John are plenty

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2011 at 10:17:11

King has a better streetwall and closer to the the active commercial and business centres of the city. There's a lot more north of King than there is south of Main, so the King St. run makes sense from that perspective... but yes, like everyone else, I'm concerned what the loss of the roads is going to do to the already-embattled International Village.

Of course, the real reason they're putting it on King is very simple: the one-way streets. King's westbound functionality can be replaced by Cannon.

Either way, I'm just grumpy that we're still not getting a stop anywhere between Longwood and McMaster university, since I'm right at the halfway-point.

There gonna be bike racks on this thing?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2011 at 18:07:32

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Main would be easier. Also difficult to avoid the conclusion that King is more desirable. One solution would be to stagger the route between Main and King. As long as the stops are on King, it would still see the benefits of people-flow, while putting the lane-space burden primarily on Main. The downside is two blocks of additional track distance and slowdowns due to manoeuvring.

I'm quite glad the city is holding these charettes - routing this beast will be a tricky issue, and one way or the other, we'll never get it perfect.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 23, 2011 at 17:49:01

Apparently they want the responses to the Charrettes to be filled out according to this form (PDF all the things): http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/B431...

Nice UUID in the URL there. For the sake of discussion, here's the responses I submitted.

*a) Which design concept are you commenting on? (indicated the location of the design concept): *

Longwood Road and Main Street West Study Area

b) What features did you like about the designs and why?

I love the increased density, the higher buildings, and the tight street-wall with buildings close to the sidewalk. I love this idea. I'd love to see more intensification at that site.

c) What features concern you and why?

I'm worried about the feasibility of businesses surviving without street-side or in-front parking (and the expense of off-ground parking), but if it can happen it should happen.

My other concern is that there are no plans to remove the Main at Longwood island and convert Main and King to two-way between Paradise and Macklin. Talk to any of the businesses on those blocks and you'll hear how hard it is to get traffic in the door - Macklin is the only place motorists can turn around if they're local to Westdale and attempting to visit these businesses. They need 2-way traffic. Also, the highway-style ramp island at Paradise and Main is unsafe because drivers do not yield to pedestrians at these islands (and why should they? There is no sign specifically instructing them to do so). By extending the two-way traffic by a block and converting these intersections into lighted intersections, it will be a far more pedestrian and business-friendly area. After all, it's only a block difference - motorists hit 2-way traffic a block later at Paradise anyways.

d) Did the buildings in the design concept(s) integrate well with the adjacent properties and the adjacent neighbourhoods? If not, how would you change the design?

Functionally? Yes. It's a good location for more intensification. The stop itself, however, is a little remote - most pedestrians coming in from the Westdale village have a longish walk up past Westdale SS or up Main Street... but either way, it's probably the best location for a stop.

Stylistically? Newer buildings will likely clash against the backdrop of old Westdale SS... but I don't care. I'd love to see it happen anyways.

e) Were the urban design and planning tools that were used in preparing the design concept(s) appropriate? If not, why not?

I have no idea what this question means. If you're asking if I like the design, yes. It may be over-designed, even... I really don't care if we get too much shadow cast onto the sidewalk.

f) Do you feel these design tools and techniques would result in appropriate forms of development for this area? If no, why not?

Again, I have no idea what this question means. It seems redundant with the question above.

g) Any other comments? Tell us

I really wish there were plans for a stop between Longwood and McMaster. I know it won't happen and it's not a realistic desire and it's purely selfish (I live at Haddon) but it seems like a disproportionately huge gap when I look at the B-Line map.

Thank you for taking comments.

Regards,

Martin Zarate

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By AETHERMAN (registered) | Posted September 23, 2011 at 19:55:05

LRT = Lost Revenue Tomorrow! IF LRT happens, it will make RIBBONS happen in peoples underpants when they see increases on their property tax bill, year after year! Oh ya, don't forget about the excuses for increasing the fair costs for passengers year after year! Hamilton needs it's roads and infrastructure repaired FIRST before any Luxury rail tranSHIT!

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted October 08, 2011 at 11:53:46 in reply to Comment 70018

How do you argue with clueless arguments. Roads and infrastructure will not be repaired any faster with or without the LRT. Why do people consistently feel things will change for the better if we don't do this or we don't do that. It's quite comical.

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