Special Report: Walkable Streets

Proposal to Convert Mary Street to Two-Way Between Barton and King William

Perhaps we have been going about this the wrong way and should just start asking our Councillors to convert specific streets to two-way traffic.

By John Neary
Published August 13, 2012

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it seems that getting a one-way street converted to two-way traffic in this city is as simple as talking to your Councillor.

On August 13, the General Issues Committee will receive a motion from Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie that reads as follows:

Whereas Stuart Street, from Bay Street to Queen Street North, features two-way traffic flow with the exception of a short 100-metre stretch just north of Barton Street;

And Whereas an important and expanding Hamilton business, AVL Manufacturing, operates on Stuart Street just north of Barton Street and requires two-way traffic to facilitate goods movement.

Therefore be it resolved:

(a) That staff work with the Ward 1 Councillor and AVL Manufacturing to make the change from one-way to two-way traffic along the remaining 100-metre stretch of Stuart Street, north of Barton Street East;

(b) That an appropriate amendment to the City of Hamilton Traffic By-law 01-215, be approved.

Perhaps everyone on RTH has been going about this issue the wrong way. Instead of laboriously making general cases for two-way conversion in this public forum, we should just contact our Councillors and ask them to convert specific streets to two-way traffic, as they are likely about to do for AVL Manufacturing.

Mary Street

For example, I'm going to email Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr asking for the two-way conversion of Mary Street between King William and Barton.

Mary Street is wide enough for bidirectional traffic and curbside parking on both sides. (In fact, north of the CN tracks it has that precise layout.) It's categorized as a "local street" in both the Downtown Hamilton and Setting Sail Secondary Plans, which means that local uses are supposed to take priority over traffic movement.

Major destinations along Mary Street include Food Basics (north of Barton), the Good Shepherd Centre (at Cannon), Beasley Park (at Wilson), the Hamilton Downtown Mosque (also at Wilson), Dundurn Place (the former Townsview nursing home, at King William), and the Hamilton Police Service (also at King William).

Motorists and cyclists traveling south to or from these destinations are forced to take awkward detours because they cannot use Mary Street.

For example, if I cycle from my house at Mary and Kelly to buy groceries at Food Basics, I have to return to my house either by traveling west on Barton to Catharine, taking Catharine south to Wilson, and then taking Wilson back to Mary, or by traveling east on Barton to Elgin and then following Elgin south into Beasley Park.

The former route involves a left-hand turn across Barton Street at an unsignaled intersection and two pointless crossings of Wilson Street. The latter involves an unsignaled crossing of Cannon Street and needlessly increases traffic through the park.

It's no surprise that cyclists routinely travel the wrong way along Mary Street and that the drivers of motorized bicycles have taken to using Beasley Park as a shortcut. Or that I catch a motorist driving south along Mary about once every two weeks.

What is most frustrating about this street is that the one-way design is completely unnecessary. It's not like Cannon or Main, where two-way conversion would cause a net benefit to the city but specific groups (e.g. truckers) would be inconvenienced.

There is no significant constituency who will lose if Mary is converted to two-way traffic. Given that it has stop signs at Wilson and Cannon and only runs from King to the CN tracks, it is a terrible route for long-distance travel.

In any case, the current layout provides far more space for northbound traffic than is needed. For example, from Kelly to Cannon there is no curbside parking, so in principle four cars could travel northbound side by side - but I can't recall ever seeing more than three cars waiting at Cannon for the green wave to pass.

Two-way conversion would not meaningfully impair northbound traffic flow but would significantly improve neighbourhood connectivity.

Motion

Here's the proposal for a motion that I am sending to Councillor Farr:

Whereas Mary Street features one-way northbound traffic from King Street to Barton Street;

And Whereas the Downtown Hamilton Secondary Plan designates Mary Street from King Street to Cannon Street as a Local Street, and states that in Local Streets, "access to businesses or residences, on-street parking and pedestrian movement take priority over traffic movement";

And Whereas the Setting Sail Secondary Plan designates Mary Street north of Cannon Street as a Local Street, and states that Local Streets "provide access to businesses and residences, on-street parking and pedestrian movement as a priority over traffic movement";

And Whereas an important and rejuvenating Hamilton neighbourhood, Beasley, is centered around Mary Street and requires two-way traffic to facilitate access to local businesses and residences;

And Whereas north of Strachan Street, Mary Street features two-way traffic flow and curbside parking on both sides, with the same road width as from King William Street to Barton Street.

Therefore be it resolved:

(a) That staff work with the Ward 2 Councillor to make the change from one-way to two-way traffic from King William Street to Barton Street along Mary Street;

(b) That an appropriate amendment to the City of Hamilton Traffic By-law 01-215, be approved.

I encourage other readers of this site to draft similar motions, send them to their Councillors (and to RTH), and politely request an explanation if they are not brought to the General Issues Committee.

John Neary lives in Beasley Neighbourhood and practices general internal medicine at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. He would like Hamilton to develop an urban environment that creates less gainful employment for his profession.

28 Comments

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By TnT (registered) | Posted August 13, 2012 at 08:08:41

I support this. As a property owner On Mary I concur.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 13, 2012 at 08:26:24 in reply to Comment 79670

Make sure to contact Councillor Farr and let him know.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted August 13, 2012 at 08:56:42

Now that Caroline is two way through almost its entirety, it'd be nice to get the last three blocks (from King to York) converted.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted August 13, 2012 at 12:04:20 in reply to Comment 79673

[sarcasm} I think it's in the city's plans. Look for it in 2022! [/sarcasm]

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 07:15:38 in reply to Comment 79684

You know what they say, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

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By crtsvg (registered) | Posted August 29, 2012 at 22:37:50 in reply to Comment 79724

The highest functions of our brains handle the lowest form of wit. Research shows that the ability to understand sarcasm depends on a carefully orchestrated sequence of complex cognitive skills in specific parts of the brain.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 13, 2012 at 12:24:31 in reply to Comment 79684

According to the City, the two-way conversion of Caroline north of King is part of the Downtown Transportation Master Plan, but is neither scheduled nor funded.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-08-13 12:24:53

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By Due Process (anonymous) | Posted August 13, 2012 at 14:00:07 in reply to Comment 79686

Making plans without money or timelines? Classic!

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted August 13, 2012 at 13:38:47 in reply to Comment 79686

Then why didn't they just do it all at once?

Man are they frustrating!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 13, 2012 at 14:04:44 in reply to Comment 79691

Apparently the intersection at Caroline and York would require some fairly expensive traffic light changes and some new curb cuts, and that wasn't in the budget.

Also, that part of the street isn't next to a Vrancor development.

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By JM (registered) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 09:54:08 in reply to Comment 79693

I'd also imagine that this could occue if/ever there is a redesign/reconstruction of the rest of york blvd.....

but it doesnt seem like that will happen any time soon either!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 10:06:54 in reply to Comment 79743

Hamilton: Reluctantly and Passive-Aggressively Converting its Streets Back to Two-Way a Couple of Blocks at a Time Since 2002

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted August 13, 2012 at 09:30:51

Locke is in a similar situation...two way except for a three block stretch between Main and King.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 07:17:11 in reply to Comment 79677

This has already been brought up and it just won't work. Not wide enough, not safe enough. Deal with it.

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 11:26:59 in reply to Comment 79725

It's plenty wide. If there is a problem with a stalled, stuck, or parked vehicle, there are 2 side streets and about 2 dozen driveways to alter your route or do a three point turn. Is that too difficult? If you are driving south on Locke, you must cross 10 lanes of highway traffic to get around this short strip. Turning left on Main is really dangerous because of limited vision and traffic speed. It's absurd.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 10:23:04 in reply to Comment 79725

It has been brought up, but after a lot of back-and-forth, the arguments that were raised against converting to two-way were simply not compelling.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-08-14 10:23:24

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By Emperor's New Clothes (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 11:14:53 in reply to Comment 79749

>...the arguments that were raised against converting to two-way were simply not compelling.

According to whom?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 09:59:31 in reply to Comment 79725

I say let the people who live on that stretch of Locke have a say in whether or not it's two way.

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By Hear, Hear (anonymous) | Posted August 13, 2012 at 19:58:35 in reply to Comment 79677

Hear, Hear... please do away with the one way chunk of Locke that's a never ending pain!

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By Megan (registered) | Posted August 13, 2012 at 09:43:36

Cllr. McHattie just withdrew the above motion. Any idea why?

Comment edited by Megan on 2012-08-13 09:58:14

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By Ropbert D (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 10:01:02 in reply to Comment 79678

We should definitley get to the bottom of this, it's not like AVL Manufacturing has disappeared.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted August 13, 2012 at 11:35:07 in reply to Comment 79678

Politesse, perhaps? Maybe he felt awkward about nosing into Ward 2?

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By LOL (registered) | Posted August 13, 2012 at 19:37:13

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.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2012 at 12:32:32 in reply to Comment 79704

Ever been to Erie Ave? http://goo.gl/maps/WshL8

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted August 13, 2012 at 22:56:02 in reply to Comment 79704

RTFA, troll. I specifically said that north of Strachan the same roadway supports bidirectional traffic and two-way parking on both sides.

And I drive an automobile on Mary almost every day.

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By DTompkins (anonymous) | Posted August 28, 2012 at 21:30:26

Let it be resolved that John St. N. between Strachan and Burlington St. be converted to 2-way, as there is no logical reason why those few blocks need speed-tempting wide lanes running past a school, a park, health centre and a rec centre.
Councillor Farr... can you explain why this one-way relic exists when the remainder of John St. from the water to the escarpment is now 2-way? Can anyone?
Like the Locke St. stretch there are others I call, 'one-way' orphans, that drive me crazy: Ferguson - King to King William, King William - Mary to James, and now (though it's a start thanks to Vrancor)we can add Caroline to the list.
I recall citizens used to pester their ward representatives for unneccessary 4 way stops in their neighbourhood - and they often got them. Those of us who live in the lower city really should start speaking up for 2-way streets. If we pester our councillors enough... maybe we'll get them.

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By greenfingers (registered) | Posted August 29, 2012 at 23:16:35

Wow. I just bought a house on Mary St. and will be moving mid October. Currently I live just around the corner from Runnymede Road in Toronto. You had an article recently about it where someone wrote about how nice a street it was, largely because it was 2 way and had parking on both sides and of course the trees. Mary being two way would change the street for the better. Traffic might move slower but that could be a good thing. Like most people who contribute to this site I also find the the multi-lane one way streets downtown make it almost impossible to attain any degree of quality living for pedestrians or encourage street front businesses. I'm looking forward to getting to know my new neighbourhood and am excited about moving into a area that is attracting a variety of new residents. See you all soon.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted August 31, 2012 at 15:14:55 in reply to Comment 80165

Welcome to the neighbourhood! Come out to a BNA meeting. 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month, at the new community centre (in the school at Wilson and Ferguson). ourbeasley.com

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