Special Report: Walkable Streets

International Village BIA Formally Supports Walkable Two-Way Streets

'There is no greater obstacle to the success of businesses within our core, and no single issue that could be fixed more easily' than conversion to two-way streets.

By RTH Staff
Published November 14, 2012

After extensive discussions with its member businesses over several months and careful consideration, the International Village BIA has formally released a position statement in support of two-way streets. The text of that formal position follows:

We, the board of management of International Village BIA, feel that the existing system of one-way streets is detrimental to the success of our BIA and of Hamilton as a whole.

In spite of tremendous success stories in areas that have returned to two-way traffic, there is still some reluctance to address the next logical step: the conversion of Main and King Streets to two-way traffic. We feel this is an idea whose time has come; to allow the city's core to break free of this failed experiment of a bygone era.

The perpetuation of one-way streets has bred a culture in this city where the needs of the car outweigh those of the pedestrian, the cyclist and the community. Where businesses are allowed, even encouraged to fail in favour of high-speed traffic and timed lights. Where the safety of our citizens and our children are of lesser import than the perceived right of motorists to maintain highway speeds at all times.

We have allowed the economic and cultural destiny of the city's core to be subverted to serve the interests of those who want nothing from our downtown but to pass through it, and it is time for this to end.

The notion that turning every major artery on our roadways into a de facto highway would provide a fast-track to prosperity must have once been an appealing piece of "common sense". Viewed objectively after decades of application, however, the idea can only be considered to have failed utterly, here and elsewhere.

In the process of chasing that fantasy, we have moved away from the walkable city of neighborhoods that makes for a vital, prosperous urban core.

There is no greater obstacle to the success of businesses within our core, and no single issue that could be fixed more easily. We are thrilled to see this issue being discussed with renewed vigor and passion and are filled with hope that this discussion may help to foster a transformation in our community of which we may all be justly proud.

The International Village BIA represents 113 businesses in an area that encompasses Main Street East, King Street East and King William Street between Mary Street and West Avenue.


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22 Comments

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 12:51:19

King, Main, Wellington, Mary and Spring are all one-way in IV. King William, Walnut, Ferguson, West and Jarvis are two-way in IV.

Granted, streetwall is a factor, but what's interesting to me about this awakening is that the IV BIA businesses are almost all located along the one-ways.

Also: Just discovered GoogleMaps' Traffic overlay. Maybe it's a foible of the software, but at the moment, the IV sections of King and Main appear to be as calm as James Street, while King/Main's top speeds appear to span from Longwood to Strathcona, then Victoria to Sanford and Delta to Red Hill.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 14, 2012 at 15:48:58 in reply to Comment 82913

That's no surprise. Traffic is actually pretty slow through the IV since it's only two driving lanes and full of stopping buses.

It's important to remember that many of the fastest routes through the city are defined by the Truck Route map, and the companies running these trucks through Hamilton have a strong voice at City Hall. Thing about King? The truck route starts at Queen Street.

Getting King two-way east of Queen might be a doable goal, since you're only fighting the suburban commuters and not the business interests. Although it might be throwing Main and Cannon street under the bus.

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By one way two way (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 13:09:02

After a weekend in Montreal where there is a network of pedestrian and cyclist friendly one ways bustling with economic activity I not convince that one way is the problem and conversion to two way will make any impact given the mixed success of the conversions to date on commerce. John is still a dump while James thrives. King William is pleasant while King is most definitely not.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 15:12:24 in reply to Comment 82916

network of pedestrian and cyclist friendly one ways bustling with economic activity

So what you're saying is that complete streets are the best solution to make a street pleasant. Thank you.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2012-11-14 15:15:40

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 13:10:45

glad to see a great endorsement like this from IV. Their stretch of King would be lovely with 1-lane each way and it's current bumpouts, parking etc.... if two-way conversion were to mean removing bumpouts and making it 4 lanes, count me out.
Complete streets is the goal - such as those in Montreal, Vancouver and Portland.
However, I'd hope the IV would fight against any such idea to widen King. It's simply not necessary.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 13:15:13

This is a great example of leadership by people who experience the reality of our streets every day. I hope other BIAs take note.

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By one way two way (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2012 at 16:02:49

Yes, complete streets are the best solution. If one way traffic to accommodate cars while accommodating pedestrians and cyclists with wider sidewalks and 2 way protected bike lanes works in a far busier city than Hamilton then directional flow of traffic doesn't appear to be the issue. Since International Village saw a massive streetscape makeover many years ago and hasn't responded with success that doesn't appear to be the issue either. Massive government projects haven't really worked either as witnessed by Jackson Square/Farmers Market/Library, Copps, Convention Centre and Hamilton Place.

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By kettal (registered) | Posted November 15, 2012 at 09:41:40

Has this BIA officially endorsed the LRT plan for King Street?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 15, 2012 at 13:40:12 in reply to Comment 82939

I have no idea - it's quite controversial for IV since iirc it closes all automobile traffic on King through that area, which I think is going a bit further than a lot of folks can stomache.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 15, 2012 at 13:45:14 in reply to Comment 82942

Here is the IV BIA's letter to Council on LRT. They support LRT but have some "major concerns" about possible plans for how the LRT will run through the IV section of King. I don't know whether the matter of what the LRT will do through that section of King has been finalized yet.

Here are the Environmental Project Report Plan and Profile sheets [PDF] for the section that runs through the IV BIA.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-11-15 13:52:36

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 15, 2012 at 15:59:21 in reply to Comment 82943

pretty simple solution IMO - westbound trains divert to Wellington/King William/Catharine and back to King. This leaves one westbound car lane open, and the eastbound lane for LRT. Very common to see this in cities all over the world. Eastbound car traffic (IF King were to go two-way) would divert to either King William or Main.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted November 16, 2012 at 02:33:56

LRT should just go down Main/Queenston. Mac to Eastgate problem solved.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 16, 2012 at 06:11:15 in reply to Comment 82951

That's my preference, too, but the rapid transit team determined that LRT on King Street would cause less impact on vehicular traffic. That's unfortunate: a major purpose of the LRT investment is to transform how people move around the city.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-11-16 06:33:15

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted November 16, 2012 at 12:38:48 in reply to Comment 82953

From a "serves existing businesses" perspective King is the much better route downtown.

From a "increases accessibility which may support new business" perspective, it may be better on Main. Though there are somewhat limited opportunities between Caroline and Walnut - some empty lots, but also larger buildings with little space for infill.

Then again, King between the Delta and Wellington could certainly benefit that way too, perhaps better than the same stretch of Main (which has many residential land uses)

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By Mainstreet (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2012 at 14:08:00

In Toronto they are contemplating putting their LRT car house at Ashbridges Bay at a cost of four hundred and seventyfive million and climbing.Where does our car house go and at a cost of almost half a billion,has anyone considered this ignored fact? Or do we simply trundle forward with this pipe dream and plunge ourselves deeper into bankruptcy.Two way street conversions are already into millions and all that has done is create further decline in our downtown.Tearing up intersections that we have paid for and have years of service left in them does not present any sort of viable business case...Question,Why do we continue to blow good money after bad when it is Hamilton's debt level drives away any private investment? All of our downtown construction is tax dollar funded,can anyone explain the business case for this ongoing economic timebomb?..Just wondering. Thanks.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 19, 2012 at 16:54:53 in reply to Comment 83022

Wow, there's an awful lot of misinformation in this comment. Let me try to untangle it:

Where does our car house go and at a cost of almost half a billion,has anyone considered this ignored fact?

Rapid Transit planning staff in the City of Hamilton have been working on finding a location for the LRT Maintenance Yard. They made a recommendation to use a city-owned transit maintenance yard on Wentworth Street North, but Council balked and sent it back for more study. The estimated cost for the facility is $73 million, a cost that is included in the overall cost estimate for the LRT.

Two way street conversions are already into millions and all that has done is create further decline in our downtown.

Neither of these claims are true. The two-way conversions of James and John were done as part of major infrastructure work that was already planned. The total cost was a few million dollars, but most of that was for the infrastructure work, not the conversion.

In any case, the conversions have been highly successful in spurring economic and social revitalization, especially on James Street. John Street has improved more modestly, due mainly to the fact that a lot more of the original building stock on John had been demolished. On James, people have been able to buy intact old buildings and renovate them into successful new uses.

Tearing up intersections that we have paid for and have years of service left in them does not present any sort of viable business case...

Two-way conversion involves yellow paint, street signs and traffic signals, not "tearing up intersections". In dozens of cities across North America, including Hamilton, it has been a highly cost-effective way of spurring reinvestment and revitalization without really big capital outlays.

Question,Why do we continue to blow good money after bad when it is Hamilton's debt level drives away any private investment?

Hamilton does not have a prohibitive debt level. That said, our existing infrastructure is not being renewed quickly enough and we are spending too much money to build new suburban infrastructure that has a very high per capita life cycle cost for low productivity of use.

What we need to do is invest more in making our existing infrastructure more resilient and productive - things like converting our urban streets to two-way so that can function as effective urban neighbourhoods that foster innovation, generate wealth and grow the city's property tax base.

So far, our modest efforts along these lines have been very successful. The recent MPAC assessment report notes that the biggest gains in property values have been in the area from west Hamilton through the downtown core and James North, while properties in the suburbs and on the mountain, including properties around the Linc and RHVP, have stagnated.

Hamilton's future is in a healthier, more robust and more productive downtown. To achieve that, we need downtown to function as a safe, welcoming, attractive urban environment, not as a pass-through for fast automobile traffic.

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By The LOL troll army (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2012 at 19:16:59 in reply to Comment 83028

blah blah blah with your facts

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By one way two way (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2012 at 17:08:16

Converting streets to 2 way is more than painting a line down the middle of the street. I heard that here, often and from many sources including Ryan

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By the moron filter (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2012 at 19:19:01 in reply to Comment 83029

Great work reading one line out of an entire message and taking it as a summary.

Maybe next time you can read at least the entire sentence.

You can move on to reading the whole message later. I understand you don't have all day.

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By mainstreet (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2012 at 20:25:25

Arithmetic 101 deficit= shortfall in a given fiscal unit of time. in this case 1yr. accumulated deficits=debt. shortfall so far this year=110 million dollars.cost to service deficit alone-unreported. civic debt is over 1 billion dollars. cost to service civic debt(not pay it down)aprox.60million per year .infrasrtucture debt=2billion dollars rising at a (given) rate of 200 million per yr.Does anyone think we are in good shape? Yes? OK then where are all those private investers lining up? There lining up at the handout office.Lets keep giving those developers a bonus on those pesky development charges, we can always borrow to keep that urban sprawl moving.Does anyone think our city is sustainable?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 20, 2012 at 08:13:24 in reply to Comment 83036

Municipalities are not allowed to run operating deficits. Municipal debt is debt on money borrowed to finance capital investment.

In terms of the long term sustainability of the city, it sounds like you're saying endless suburban sprawl is unsustainable, in which case I agree completely. Each new suburban house actually increases the city's long term liabilities on infrastructure life cycle costs.

Similarly, our rules around development charges (DC) have the effect of subsidizing suburban sprawl while penalizing infill development. CATCH just put out a report suggesting that Hamilton may significantly revise its DC rules to encourage more of the kind of development we need.

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By one way two way (anonymous) | Posted November 20, 2012 at 17:30:38

Again not entirely accurate. The costs for urban sprawl are more to do with real additional costs created by re-use, demolition, site size limitations than any fees the city may or may not impose. The entire infrastructure debate is also much more complex than most wish to acknowledge since the core is suffering from aging infrastructure that needs to be upgraded. These required upgrades often neutralize the perceived advantage of core vs suburbs but even conceding that there is an imbalance the current tax structure see suburban taxpayers paying more than the core taxpayers based on property values. This could easily change if the core goes through a gentrification process that increases property values particularly among the single family dwellings that still make up the majority of housing units even in the core. I really think we need to also consider what deficit spending really is. Technically spending the city reserves and future fund is not deficit spending but even understanding that its legally deficit spending I am sure most reasonable people recognize it as such.

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