Special Report: Walkable Streets

57 Years and Counting: Hamilton's Love Affair with One-Way Streets Needs to End Now

Let's take a sensible leap into the known and start acting like the ambitious city we could be, not the fearful bedroom community to which too many of us aspire.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 20, 2013

These days, the design and operation of our cities is controlled to an enormous extent by traffic engineers, but we need to remember that the modern field of traffic engineering did not exist before the 20th century.

The first edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices was published in 1935 to standardize traffic control systems across the United States, and was comprised of four sections totaling 166 pages. (The current edition has ten sections totaling 754 pages.)

One pioneer was civil engineer Wilbur Smith, the first state traffic engineer for the South Carolina Department of Highways. Smith started a company, Wilbur Smith Associates, in 1952 and began to crisscross the country to sell his services to cities that were struggling to accommodate growing automobile traffic on their Victorian street grids.

Smith had the insight that you could move traffic at a much higher speed if you converted pairs of parallel streets so that each carried traffic in just one direction.

All-In

Hundreds of cities eventually adopted Smith's plan, including Hamilton. Our Council went all-in, converting our downtown streets into paired one-way thoroughfares en masse in a single night in 1956. (Say what you want about midcentury governments: at least they were ambitious.)

Immediately, downtown business owners cried foul, complaining that the high speed and volume of traffic was hurting their business. In a 1957 Spectator article, one business owner called out Smith directly:

"This man, this expert from somewhere in Connecticut, stands to lose face throughout this continent if our one-way system is abandoned because it doesn't work well," Mr. Zack declared.

"It is beginning to look as if there is only one God and Wilbur Smith is His prophet!"

It's profoundly sobering to re-read the summary of that meeting, all these decades later:

Decreasing business returns, the refusal of old customers to visit the stores, large numbers of heavy trucks passing through the downtown area, the alleged conversion of King Street into a highway - all these and many other subjects were hurled at the committee by protesting businessmen from King Street East and West, James Street North, and York Street.

Smith himself continued to run his company until 1983, when he retired from the board. Today, CDM Smith Associates is a global company with nearly 6,000 employees. One of their specialties, ironically, is overseeing studies into traffic calming and complete streets designs.

Tragic Success

Hamilton's one-way streets have been remarkably successful at carrying traffic at high speeds across the lower city. Unfortunately, they have paid for that success at the devastating cost of neighbourhood vitality in large swaths of the lower city.

Those business owners were right. Storefronts can barely survive on a narrow ribbon sidewalk next to three, four or five lanes of fast, one-way automobile traffic. Families suffer when their homes open onto de facto expressways with transport trucks barreling past.

Transport trucks on Cannon Street (RTH file photo)
Transport trucks on Cannon Street (RTH file photo)

One-way streets haven't been the only cause of lower city Hamilton's declines over the past several decades, but it has been a major contributing factor.

This is no longer in doubt: our one-way streets are strangling the lower city. Every single expert who comes to Hamilton tells us the same thing!

Inefficient Use of Space

Ironically, while multi-lane one-way streets are good at carrying traffic at high speed, it is actually a shockingly inefficient use of roadway space. There are several reasons for this:

Main Street just east of James during a weekday rush-hour (RTH file photo)
Main Street just east of James during a weekday rush-hour (RTH file photo)

If we converted our streets back to two-way, we could actually use our lane capacity far more efficiently. Individual cars would not be able to race at 60 or 70 km/h through the city, but we could actually carry more cars overall on fewer lanes.

That, in turn, would free up lane capacity for more and better pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, which is proven in city after city to be much more important for the economic and social wellbeing of an urban neighbourhood.

Level of Service

Why do we continue to deform our streets and our city to make it as easy as possible to drive through it at high speed?

The City of Hamilton measures traffic level of service (LOS) based on average vehicle speed, average stop delay at intersections and traffic density at peak driving times.

What's interesting is that traffic engineering definitions also give prominence to qualitative assessments of driver perception. For example, in the City of Hamilton's definition, at "B" LOS, "Many drivers begin to feel somewhat restricted".

Note that this is based on peak times, so a street that may be operating at an "E" LOS for an hour in the morning and an hour at night may be at an "A" or "B" for the rest of the day.

The City of Hamilton has a goal of maintaining an LOS of "D" or better, but in practice, the entire downtown actually has an LOS of "C" or better, meaning every street has at least steady traffic at the speed limit and no significant delays during rush hour, and free-flowing traffic at or above the speed limit at all other times.

Consider the extended lane closures on Main at Caroline and King at Hess, which had only a minimal impact on traffic flow during rush hour and had no impact during the rest of the day. Here's a video of traffic on Main at Bay this past March, when it was reduced from its normal five traffic lanes to just two during construction of the new medical centre:

Granted, traffic was stopped at a red light, which is normally unheard-of with the synchronization of traffic lights along Main. However, traffic stopping at the occasional red light is normal for a city. What's abnormal is the system we have today, which sacrifices the normal functioning of city life to make room for fast through traffic.

We Measure What we Value

The classification of automobile LOS is much more clearly defined and measured than LOS for walking, cycling or transit. While the city has nominally adopted a hierarchy of transportation modes that puts walking, cycling and transit ahead of driving, in practice automobile traffic flow continues to take priority over the other modes.

This is partially a cultural problem - our traffic engineers still primarily see themselves as being in the business of designing streets for driving - but it also reflects the fact that the city has clear standards for driving but only fuzzy goals and qualitative objectives for the other modes.

On the maxim that you can only manage what you measure, our failure to measure LOS for walking and cycling means we're not doing much to manage them. Indeed, we are constantly told that a given pedestrian or cycling improvement would be nice to have but cannot be allowed to take priority over the one level of service we do systematically manage.

When a city decides to measure different things, it produces different outcomes. The City of New York recently published a groundbreaking report called Measuring the Street: New Metrics for 21st Century Streets that evaluates streets based on desired objectives: safety for all users, economic vitality, user satisfaction and environmental/public health benefits.

The study concluded that complete streets perform better on a variety of metrics than automobile-centric streets:

Protected bicycle lane on 8th and 8th Avenues, NYC (Image Credit: NYCDOT)
Protected bicycle lane on 8th and 8th Avenues, NYC (Image Credit: NYCDOT)

In Hamilton, we don't measure these things, and so we have no way to manage them. Instead, we have free-flowing traffic through a ghostly downtown core.

Traffic Growth

The City also proceeds from a baseline assumption that traffic volumes will grow by at least 2 percent a year in "background traffic growth", plus any site-generated traffic from new developments. This assumption then generates decisions about land use and street design that have the effect of generating the background traffic growth the engineers expect.

In fact, if you compare daily traffic volumes in 2000 with daily traffic volumes in 2010, it's clear that traffic volumes have actually declined in the lower city, even as the need to maintain traffic flow continues to justify our failure to convert these streets back to two-way.

Daily Traffic Volumes, 2000 and 2010
Location 2000 Volume 2010 Volume Change % Change
Cannon E of Sherman 16,000 10,800 -5,200 -32.50%
Cannon W of Sherman 11,000 9,100 -1,900 -17.27%
Cannon near James 18,000 16,700 -1,300 -7.22%
Bay N of Main 15,700 12,400 -3,300 -21.02%
James S of Herkimer 30,000 18,700 -11,300 -37.67%
Main at Dundurn 41,100 37,300 -3,800 -9.25%
Main E of Bay 31,000 28,400 -2,600 -8.39%
Main near Kenilworth 32,000 20,300 -11,700 -36.56%
Queen S of Charlton 13,000 12,200 -800 -6.15%
Hunter W of John 11,000 7,500 -3,500 -31.82%

Yet we still plan and design our streets on the assumption that traffic volumes will continue to grow. Cities that reject the manifest destiny of ever-increasing traffic are freed up to make different land use and street design decisions that have the effect of reducing traffic volumes.

Consider Vancouver, which has managed nearly to double the population of its urban centre while reducing overall traffic volumes by 20-30 percent.

Vancouver worked hard to establish the kind of land use policies that would make living car-free a natural choice. The city prioritized walkable, mixed-use development and established a strong transit system with rail, trolly buses, and rapid buses, as well as walking and biking connections.

That strategy has worked exactly as planned. Vancouver officials recently trotted out traffic data to make the case for overhauling a traffic-heavy road by the waterfront into a street that prioritizes biking and walking while eliminating through traffic.

The figures showed that on major streets, traffic has dropped 20 to 30 percent since 2006 - although the city has grown 4.5 percent percent over that time.

Vancouver has achieved this through a series of decisions, large and small, to measure and prioritize different things than maximizing the speed and flow of automobile traffic.

We could do this too. In fact, given that traffic volumes are already stagnant and our streets have significant excess capacity, it will be easy for us to redesign them into complete, two-way streets that provide dedicated space for cycling and create comfortable, welcoming environments for people to walk and enjoy their community.

All we need is the political will to make it happen. With all the data at our disposal, and after 57 years of head-banging-against-the-wall dedication to Wilbur Smith's fatally flawed traffic plan, there is nothing to stop us but inertia and fear of change.

Hamilton, let's take a sensible leap into the known and start acting like the ambitious city we could be, not the fearful bedroom community to which too many of us aspire.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Lower James St. (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 09:24:05

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By screencarp (registered) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 11:19:43 in reply to Comment 92354

Some folks who write for this site have an agenda based on their ideological beliefs and love of cycling.

I actually find it somewhat offensive that people who are new to Hamilton and don't like it keep telling us how to "fix" our city. After a while the strident demands and unwillingness to compromise just sound selfish.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 11:24:29 in reply to Comment 92354

There's a reason this site is called RAISE the Hammer.

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By engineer (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 10:06:14 in reply to Comment 92354

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By painter (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 12:14:49 in reply to Comment 92358

So what are your ideas how to get there, engineer? What would you keep the same on our streets and what would you change, and why?

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 12:08:15 in reply to Comment 92358

thanks for the reminder to make sure I discourage my kids as much as possible from wasting their time and money on a traffic engineering degree.

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By jorvay (registered) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 10:22:15 in reply to Comment 92369

If it makes you feel better, I have a degree in civil engineering. My education that included both transportation and highway design courses and lessons in responsible design for people (not cars). It was in these courses that I gained an appreciation for the complete-streets style of design thanks to good professors teaching great lessons based on solid research. There's been a big push for years now to make sure engineers consider the potential impacts of their designs on our environment and society.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 11:55:14 in reply to Comment 92496

There seems to be some confusion about what "claiming to be an expert" actually means.

One can be an expert because one holds a credential (e.g. an engineering degree), or because one is a member of a profession (e.g. works as an engineer), or because one has spent a long time building up expertise of a certain area by reading and evaluating evidence produced by experts (e.g. an informed amateur).

RTH has plenty of readers and contributors in all three categories, although we don't always wear our credentials on our sleeves.

However, the basic point is that RTH tries to be evidence-based and not to make arguments based on authority (i.e. don't believe me because I am an expert but evaluate my argument based on the evidence I've provided and the analysis I've made).

It is important to remember that besides the actual experts (i.e. people with engineering qualifications or PhDs in relevant subjects) many commentators and contributors have spent ten years or more visiting other cities to see what has been done and how it works, reading and evaluating the evidence and international best practices in the areas of urban design and traffic management. This is more than enough to count as an "expert" even if you are not a professional.

If there is a flaw in the argument or problems with the evidence, by all means point it out. But don't discount opinions just because the commentator is not a professional traffic engineer!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-09-23 12:02:56

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 10:37:11 in reply to Comment 92358

Anyone completing long degrees in urban planning and civil engineering that still thinks its a good idea to build freeways inside our downtown cores should ask for their money back.

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By engineer (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 14:32:37 in reply to Comment 92362

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By enough already (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 22:24:15 in reply to Comment 92377

Oh, an anonymous internet troll claiming to be an engineer. Let's all pay close attention!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2013 at 14:37:28 in reply to Comment 92377

Here's one:

Main Street

Here's another one:

Cannon Street

And here's another:

Wilson Street

Four lane, five lane one-way de facto expressways with timed lights running right through the middle of vulnerable neighbourhoods: is this the traffic engineering you're so proud of? It's killing our city, and you should be angry about that.

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 10:41:17 in reply to Comment 92380

By your logic, Burlington is full of highways and yet manages to be the best city in Canada to live?

One way isn't the problem. Functioning curb lanes and no barrier between the sidewalk and the roadway is the issue.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 15:19:47 in reply to Comment 92417

...and yet manages to be the best city in Canada to live

That is a pretty subjective point. Burlington is mostly suburban, and it definitely is not a great place to live unless you rely on a car for all your transportation. Whoever ranked Burlington as 'the best city in Canada to live' needs to explain their criteria better.

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By engineer (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 15:36:29 in reply to Comment 92380

Naw....those are just arterials..."An arterial road, or arterial thoroughfare, is a high-capacity urban road. The primary function of an arterial road is to deliver traffic from collector roads to freeways, and between urban centres at the highest level of service possible. "
Freeways have limited access (usually at interchange locations)...think the Linc, RHVP, or a 400-series highway.


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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 11:12:14 in reply to Comment 92386

An arterial road, or arterial thoroughfare, is a high-capacity urban road. The primary function of an arterial road is to deliver traffic from collector roads to freeways

So they are "pre-freeway freeways". Your definition especially reveals there are way too many 'arterials' that should in fact be 'city streets'.

Inappropriate for an urban core where many people are out and about, inappropriate unbuffered from residential neighborhoods (the noise and pollution are horrific and kill the street to humans), inappropriate in their current configuration where you feel you are likely to die if you are going somewhere other than in an automobile or truck. That is not a city street. That is indeed a de facto freeway.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 15:56:43 in reply to Comment 92386

Naw...they are de facto freeways..."De facto: actual; especially, being such in effect though not formally recognized."

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2013 at 15:48:13 in reply to Comment 92386

Cute, but paired multi-lane one way streets are de facto highways in both form and function. Ask yourself: would you want to live next to one of these streets? Would you want to own a business or work in a place of employment there? Would you want to meet friends and socialize with transport trucks barreling past you just a few feet away? Why do you think it's more important to funnel cut-through traffic across the city at high speed than provide safe, accessible, comfortable streets for the people who live and work on them? What city neighbourhoods anywhere can be shown to thrive with four- and five-lane one-way expressways blasting through them? A traffic engineer who takes a comprehensive view of her job cannot help but approach street design much differently than our engineers have done.

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By engineer (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 11:05:46 in reply to Comment 92362

All I'm saying is that every situation is different and that you can't just apply a general set of rules for every thing. You need engineering judgement and experience to implement things. Maybe I'm just naive and trusting, but when an expert and professional makes recommendations on a specific subject I tend to listen. I'm not saying that road diet, complete streets, traffic calming are bad...just not applicable/appropriate for all situations.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2013 at 15:04:15 in reply to Comment 92366

@engineer: I actually tend to disagree with you - traffic calming, complete streets and road diets ARE applicable and appropriate for ALL situations in an urban setting. Highways can be exempt from that, but there is no reason at all that every single street in an urban environment shouldn't be accessible to each and every person who wants or needs to access it.

As it is right now, our streets are inaccessible to people with disabilities, children, seniors, those who can't afford to drive, those who choose not to drive and a myriad of other people whose needs are not served by the roads - a public good that we all pay for through our property taxes.

And when it comes to the recommendations from experts, we've been hearing from literally dozens of them, from renowned architects like Ken Greenburg to activists like Gil Penalosa that our network of high-speed, one-way streets has got to change in order to make our city more liveable and desirable.

If you ask an engineer whose only concern is the rapid movement of traffic, then yes, they're going to say that a network of wide, fast moving streets ripping through the core of our city is a good thing, but when you ask people who are interested in providing mobility options, who know how to build a liveable city, and who know that roads must function to move PEOPLE, not cars, then you start to get much different answers.

We have some of the latter group here in the City of Hamilton at the staff level, the problem is that there are still those who are in the former camp that dig in their heels in the belief that allowing fast-moving traffic is going to somehow revitalize the downtown core. Until the downtown is a place that you go TO rather than somewhere you go THROUGH, people like Ryan can't stop questioning the logic that we're going to become more prosperous by following the same logic that hollowed out so many other North American cities in the past 3 decades.

Comment edited by JustinJones on 2013-09-20 15:06:20

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 10:37:19 in reply to Comment 92383

can't stop questioning the logic that we're going to become more prosperous by following the same logic that hollowed out so many other North American cities in the past 3 decades.

You're late to the party. The hollowing out in Hamilton has already come and gone. We've rebounded quite well despite the one way streets. Don't forget, folks still have to get into and out of downtown.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 11:59:56 in reply to Comment 92366

Then you're in luck, because, as Ryan points out below, road diets, complete streets, and traffic calming etc, are all backed up by the 'judgement and experience' of 'experts and professionals', as well as the real world experience of other cities, where they were no doubt implemented by those very same experienced professionals.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2013 at 10:15:51 in reply to Comment 92358

Please stop attacking a strawman. Nowhere do we pretend or claim to be experts. It is actually traffic engineers who have been responsible for much of the research we go on about: induced demand and generated traffic, road diets and traffic calming, complete street design, cycling network design, transportation-oriented development, shared space and so on.

What we want is for our traffic engineers to follow the current best practices of their own profession and not keep doing the same old thing because it's what we've always done.

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By screencarp (registered) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 09:58:38 in reply to Comment 92360

Oh Ryan, folks on this site pretend to be experts all the time. You argue from a position of authority that you don't really have.

For example

What we want is for our traffic engineers to follow the current best practices of their own profession

These words you use, I'm not sure you know what they mean.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 11:20:10 in reply to Comment 92412

It's called civic engagement which is what makes and keeps healthy vibrant locales. A reminder that this is a democracy and individuals are allowed to petition. Civic engagement is not only for Walmarts and trucker associations you know. By what authority do you say our voice is irrelevant? We are residents here just like you.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2013-09-21 11:24:00

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2013 at 09:29:19 in reply to Comment 92354

Believe me, I would love nothing more than for Hamilton to embrace best practices in transportation, street design and land use so I didn't have to keep writing about them. Unfortunately, progress happens very slowly in Hamilton and so we keep facing the same problems unchanged, year after year.

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By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 01:21:27 in reply to Comment 92355

I couldn't agree with you more, keep Hammering.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 10:32:11 in reply to Comment 92355

I totaly agree with you Ryan and keep it up!

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 10:45:16

@LowerJames & engineer. I think people on this site keep writing about the same things because the powers that be in this city keeps repeating the same dumb mistakes...like letting people knock down perfectly functional old buildings... http://www.thespec.com/news-story/4115798-heritage-panel-joins-king-george-fight/

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By Tiredofwaiting (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 13:51:22

Damn right it's time. This city is so afraid of change. What happened to The Ambitious City? We've become the Afraid Of It's Own Shadow City.

Maybe it's time to buy some yellow paint and do it ourselves.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 13:57:59

The point is that good engineering should find optimal solutions for problems defined by society and use the scale of values of the society to help determine what "optimal" means.

Too often in Hamilton, the traffic engineers impose their own scale of values (a hierarchy that puts fast motor vehicle flow as the top priority) instead of adopting the explicit desires of residents, or even the publicly adopted goals of the city (e.g. doubling transit use, promoting cycling and walking, building dense pedestrian friendly neighbourhoods).

I agree that we should tell the engineers what outcome we want, what the transportation hierarchy is and then let them do their job. But they can't object that they don't agree with putting pedestrians convenience ahead of motorists, if that is the balance they are given.

Apparently, Hamilton has actually adopted an official transportation hierarchy that puts single occupant motor vehicles last (and pedestrians first), just like Vancouver, and that needs to be reflected in engineered solutions and trade-offs: wide sidewalks and bike lanes are a necessity, not a "nice to have". Slower traffic in the urban core is a necessity, not counter to policy. The engineers job is to find solutions to the problem of how to provide convenient, safe and comfortable pedestrian and cycling streets, not to tell us it can't be done!

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By who's in charge (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 14:34:04

Are the engineers deciding that moving cars is their most important job or are they getting their marching orders from council? You can't blame the employees for doing what the boss tells them to.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 16:53:26 in reply to Comment 92378

Until recently, residents and local councillors (at least in Wards 1 and 2) were asking for pedestrian and cycle friendly streets and were consistently told it was not possible to make changes that would "impact traffic flow". There really is no doubt about it.

Now, my impression was that the engineers felt they were defending the interests of the (driving) silent majority who didn't come out to public information centres. However, engineers deciding that they know what people really want (better than the councillors, city policy and residents who actually do provide feedback) is not acceptable. As others have pointed out, traffic engineers traditionally didn't receive much training in designing for the needs of road users other than motorists, so that could also be a factor.

However, things do seem to be changing. And they will need to change if the traffic engineers do not want to become a constant impediment to implementing Hamilton's official transportation hierarchy and catering to the needs of residents and local businesses. Remember, engineering is about finding technical solutions to a problem someone else has defined!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-09-20 16:59:46

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2013 at 22:51:08 in reply to Comment 92396

I wonder how much of this is the direct outcome of the departure of Hart Solomon. As much as we grouse here on RTH, we've seen some tremendous forward movement in the past year or two, at least here in Ward 1. Bump outs and bike lanes and crossings appearing at a pace that, while still slow compared to the speed of blog, is an incredible shift from their previous immovability. Even Dundurn, a route that was previously thought to be completely non-negotiable has received bike lanes.

On the other hand, maybe it's simply the better organizing from the urbanists in the past few years. Maybe it's the internet as a whole, maybe it's RTH itself, maybe it's crawl, maybe it's just the stadium thing forced people to wake up and start looking at city hall. Either way, I think city hall is hearing a much larger group of voices trying to help downtown.

While it's important to keep the pressure on and to expect the best for Hamilton, I think we do have to recognize the fact that city staff have done some great things for this city lately.

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By Bellgirl (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 15:32:48 in reply to Comment 92407

Please come out and see the bike lanes on Dundurn if you consider them progress. Watch for a while and see what happens. Compare the number of cyclists using these lanes to the traditional use of the sidewalk for cyclists and you will see that "if you build it they will come" has failed on this street. Why? The bike lanes are dangerous. Traffic is too fast with no stops between Main and Aberdeen (only on demand at Herkimer), big trucks, parked cars, liquor/beer store traffic. I live here and this is what I observe daily: It is only the rare, intrepid cyclist who makes use of these lanes - the majority still take the safer path on the sidewalks. I am all for bike lanes, if the safety of the cyclists is considered, but in this case building these lanes without adding any measures to slow down traffic and protect the cyclists (and pedestrians, for that matter) is just an accident waiting to happen.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 23, 2013 at 16:41:13 in reply to Comment 92510

I'm well aware of the problems with Dundurn's bike lanes. I'm just saying that it wasn't too long ago that the city wouldn't have attempted such a feat at all.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 16:04:05 in reply to Comment 92378

That's just the point. As kevlahan noted above, the city's official transportation policy puts pedestrians, cyclists, and transit ahead of automobiles, yet our traffic department refuses to budge from its auto centric mind set.

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By Dave (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 15:43:28

One way streets are the best part of Hamilton. Ever driven in London? Nightmare.

The one way streets make the city more accessible and I live within 30 feet of the "defacto highways". I appreciate the one way streets and will consider moving closer to the highway if main/king/hunter are changed as they are my primary routes of travel.

Business owners who claim these roads affect their business need to review their business. Perhaps their businesses are not that good of a business. 2 way streets will not encourage people to pull over and shop.

Could not disagree more with changing these streets. If it ain't broke dont fix it. There are many other better uses of tax dollars than changing these streets.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2013 at 23:01:07 in reply to Comment 92388

Let's skip the personal experiences of the people who live around it and who drive on it for a second, since you obviously do both.

Let's look at from another perspective: Name a successful, vibrant, popular city with a population of under a million people that has Hamilton's one-way layout. Name one. If it was great for the city's economy, we should be able to look at a list of successful places, since Hamilton obviously isn't. Once you get a hyper-dense megalopolis like Manhattan or old Montreal, one-way traffic becomes necessary... but below that? Are there any success stories for smaller cities operating one-way traffic?

The place downtown that has seen the biggest progress has been James North, which (coincidentally?) started just after it went two-way.

At the very least - the absolute bare minimum - we have to get everything but the big truck route streets off of one way (and either way, get the big trucks off the "truck route" streets). Those contribute nothing to the city but dangerously fast traffic - does it really benefit anyone that, say, Herkimer is one-way? Is that really a major thoroughfare? What does it contribute besides making Durand hard to navigate?

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2013-09-20 23:05:09

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 10:59:11 in reply to Comment 92409

The place downtown that has seen the biggest progress has been James North, which (coincidentally?) started just after it went two-way.

Correlation does not imply causation. It's not true anyways, James North was cool long before it became two way.

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By clarification (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 22:30:56 in reply to Comment 92388

Businesses don't survive because there are not enough residents. They all moved away and only use the city as a short cut to elsewhere. Complete streets are not meant to entice current short cutters to stop. They are meant to push short cutters to the highways so we can get back to making the city LIVEABLE.

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By RB (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 15:55:51 in reply to Comment 92388

But it is broke. That's why we want to change & fix it.

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By Stinson resident (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 16:53:14 in reply to Comment 92390

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 15:28:21 in reply to Comment 92395

I see you, Bob Bratina.

As has been stated on this site many times, you don't need Main or King to cross Hamilton in twenty minutes.

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By George (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 20:47:49 in reply to Comment 92395

I live near Stoney Creek and drive every where. Regular destinations are downtown, west end and Dundas. I see how the de facto expressways have killed King and Main.

I'm all for two way conversion and calming. It is totally worth the extra 4 or 5 minutes it may take. Also, I've found myself using RHVP and LINC or RHVP and Burlington expressway and they are just a fast, if not faster.

Times have changed, we now have LINC and RHVP and a vastly under utilized Burlington expressway with the loss of the tens of thousands of steelworkers. Time to move up to the 21st century alongside many other cities.

Comment edited by George on 2013-09-20 20:48:52

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 17:33:01 in reply to Comment 92395

I think the problem is well stated in your response. You're crossing the city, it is not your destination. Many cities develop ring roads for this purpose.

@Dave, yes I have driven London and if you try to drive up through its center during rush hour then you are in for a wait. Try the exterior ring of road and it is often faster. I have also lived in London for 10+ years.

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By Stinson resident (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 18:36:24

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2013 at 17:43:55 in reply to Comment 92399

If highway access was a selling point for your choice of neighbourhood then you should have moved closer to a highway. Asking all of the surrounding neighbourhoods to suffer the proven detriments of catering to high speed traffic simply so that you can get to the highway faster strikes me as selfish.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 20, 2013 at 19:19:22 in reply to Comment 92399

I think the recommendation is that if you are not going to a destination in the core and you don't want to drive slowly, then don't drive through the core. And if you want to just get in and out fast, probably living in a city centre isn't a good lifestyle choice.

People go to the downtowns of cities because they have destinations worth visiting. And density and walkability is part of what makes them interesting. The 'bad' traffic of Paris, London, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver etc are a result of their success, and (by definition) there are still plenty of people who are not scared off by the traffic. Not everyone likes cities, but don't insist the downtown of a city like Hamilton with a population of half a million should be drive like a suburb. Driving like a suburb means it can't be productive and dynamic like a city.

For example, if you want to get from the 403 to the QEW to get to Niagara, take the Linc and RHVP or QEW through Burlington. As has been pointed out already, Google shows these routes to be the same time as driving through the core even with the current de facto expressways.

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 10:23:29 in reply to Comment 92401

For example, if you want to get from the 403 to the QEW to get to Niagara, take the Linc and RHVP or QEW through Burlington. As has been pointed out already, Google shows these routes to be the same time as driving through the core even with the current de facto expressways.

You need to drive these and not believe Google. Asking someone who lives in Stinson to use Burlington St./QEW to get to Burlington is ridiculous. It's even more insane to ask them to use Burlington/RHVP/Linc to get to the 403.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2013 at 22:10:46

@Stinson Resident - can you please, please name me ONE world class city where you drive THROUGH the downtown rather than drive TO it? Because I can't.

More importantly, when we talk about switching these streets to 2-way, when you look at the traffic counts, we're not talking about grinding traffic to a halt. We're talking about reducing incidences of speeding and utilizing our public resources (our roads) in a better way to serve more people and create a more liveable city. Switching Main and King back to 2-way is NOT going to cause "gridlock". It might make it so that travel times across the city go from 20 minutes to 22-25, but the gains to be made in liveability, walkability and bikeability are massive. It's about making better use of the space we have, ensuring that the roads work to build a city, not divide it, and to move people around at a pace that makes sense for an urban core.

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 10:19:24 in reply to Comment 92404

@Stinson Resident - can you please, please name me ONE world class city where you drive THROUGH the downtown rather than drive TO it? Because I can't.

You've never been to Toronto? They have these roads called the DVP and the Gardiner that take you through downtown as well as to it. Regardless, folks that live east of downtown still need to enter and exit the city.

Switching Main and King back to 2-way is NOT going to cause "gridlock".

Sometimes I wonder if the advocates for these things own cars. Traffic is always slow/stopped through international village, and often backs up past Victoria. I don't think it's a problem, but with the coming changes to Cannon, traffic is about to get much much worse in the core. King is not and should not be a route through the core. Cannon should be.

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By selective reasoning (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 14:11:30 in reply to Comment 92413

So, in Hamilton, it's "ridiculous" for central city dwellers to take RHVP/Linc. But in Toronto, you hold up their mirror example of DVP/Gardiner as a workable system?

Your comments are predictably self-centered and divorced form the reality of the economic problems in Hamilton - namely that our ludicrous city street system has put us into crippling debt, for the sole benefit of those who drive through and contribute nothing to our local economy.

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 15:37:36 in reply to Comment 92458

So, in Hamilton, it's "ridiculous" for central city dwellers to take RHVP/Linc. But in Toronto, you hold up their mirror example of DVP/Gardiner as a workable system?

Yes and no. Toronto has a terrible traffic problem and Hamilton does not. If you think it's reasonable to ask someone to backtrack around the city rather than taking the shortest and most direct route, you are divorced from the economic, geographic and environmental realities of Hamilton. Once again, the discussion isn't about driving from Stoney Creek to the 403 via Main/King because no one does that. It's about driving from east of the core to the 403 or coming from the 403 to downtown or the Mountain to downtown. You think folks who live in Landsdowne/Beasley/Stinton can afford the extra gas and wear and tear or the additional cab fare to grocery shop? Do you think it taking 25 minutes to get the 403 from those neighbourhoods is going to help property values? Not to mention the additional pollution from stop and go traffic. Do you really think causing congestion in the core is going to make people want to visit it?

As far as our one way street system being "ludicrous", it's been there since 1957 and it still works very well for moving vehicles. Things have admittedly changed, so there is room to reduce capacity and make the streets more complete, but a blanket call for two way streets in the name of imagined future benefits is ridiculous. Personally, I'd like to see more one way side streets.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 15:33:30 in reply to Comment 92464

Toronto has a terrible traffic problem

I would argue that Toronto does not have a 'traffic problem'; it has a transit problem. What could you possibly do to improve traffic in Toronto? there are roads everywhere, going everywhere. The problem is that there are too many drivers using them, because the transit system is not good enough.

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By selective reasoning (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 15:45:56 in reply to Comment 92464

"You think folks who live in Landsdowne/Beasley/Stinton can afford the extra gas and wear and tear or the additional cab fare to grocery shop?"

No. I think a lot of them can't afford to EVEN OWN A CAR - or would prefer not to if it were a viable option - yet it is a nightmare for them to do anything via foot/bike/transit because the city has built a road system that benefits you instead.

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 16:20:56 in reply to Comment 92466

That's a bit elitist eh? And really, three one way east west routes make things a "nightmare" to walk/bike/transit downtown? Despite the fact that's what most people who live downtown do? Do you think poor people are just too dumb and lazy to find more walkable/bikeable routes?

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By ScreenCrap (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 16:37:19 in reply to Comment 92469

Welcome to Bizarro World, where it's "elitist" to want streets for everyone instead of just for people in cars racing through the city as fast as possible.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 12:18:15 in reply to Comment 92413

You've never been to Toronto? They have these roads called the DVP and the Gardiner that take you through downtown as well as to it.

Lived in downtown TO, still visit often. DVP/Gardiner/427/ would be analogous to Burlington Street/QEW/RHVP. Those are what you would take if you were going through the city. They are not roads. They are highways, special and restricted for that purpose. Also note how a point is made of shielding core environments from them - Gardiner is raised, DVP is behind soundwalls, they are frequently routed through industrial areas, etc. It is illogical to try to even make a veiled comparison between those and Hamilton's King/Main/Cannon streets.

Try to go through Toronto on Bloor/Danforth, King, Queen, Front Streets, you better not be in a hurry, it's going to be a slow ride. Those streets are urban core, they have shopping and destinations and residences and people. Those are roads, where many user types mix, not highways.

That is the point that is being made. To have city streets functioning as such, not functioning as the DVP and Gardiner.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2013-09-21 12:24:00

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 15:54:05 in reply to Comment 92426

That is the point that is being made. To have city streets functioning as such, not functioning as the DVP and Gardiner

Point taken, and certainly the DVP and Gardiner are limited access highways. Of course Toronto is an order of magnitude larger than Hamilton, so it stands to reason the arterial roads are much larger. My point was simply that most world class cities in North America have large arterial roads that move traffic in and out of the downtown core.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 14:51:02

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 22:20:01 in reply to Comment 92429

haha....I've heard our downtown expressways called lots of things, but 'safe' is a new one.

And by the way, we couldn't increase traffic if we tried. Look at the graph in the article. Traffic is dropping every year downtown. Bye bye to yet another straw man.

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By Stinson resident (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 00:50:41 in reply to Comment 92433

I see less accidents on king and main than any other streets. Perhaps turns on into traffic ask for more t-bones on two ways than one ways. Crossing across one direction of traffic is much safer than two lanes.

Just my observation of a west/east user of king and main. I find king and main to be very safe
Compared to driving on the mountain.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 08:32:27 in reply to Comment 92434

I've seen more accidents in a single year on King than I did during 20 years living on the mountain. It's carnage alley over here year after year. The number of pedestrians I've seen get hit crossing at a green light is mind-boggling. Not to mention all the ones I don't see.

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 04:07:03 in reply to Comment 92434

You're right. A left hand turn on a two way street is the most dangerous thing a driver can do. One way streets are safer for both drivers and pedestrians.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 15:35:56 in reply to Comment 92438

One way streets like King and Main are only safer for pedestrians because few pedestrians want to use them.

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By voice of fire (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2013 at 20:01:47

When I grow up and get a real job I'm selling my bike.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 09:08:52 in reply to Comment 92431

I'm already grown up, and I'm going to retire from my real job by age 45 because I commute by bike and invest every penny I otherwise would have spent on a car. And I'm absolutely serious! And healthy! Cheers to freedom of lifestyle and transportation in the 21st century! In fact the owner of this very successful company cycles to work too, along with several other employees! Clinging to stereotypes will embarass you in the 21st century.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 10:23:26

one-way streets are good at carrying traffic at high speed

This can be true, but is not always true. For example, if lights are synchronized to encourage a traffic flow of 50 km/h, then one way streets are good at carrying traffic at the speed limit. Hopefully people give thought to what is written in the article rather than accepting it as truth.

Here is another example of misleading/inaccuracy in the article.

Individual cars would not be able to race at 60 or 70 km/h through the city (if one ways were turned into two ways)

Cars are already unable to race at 60 or 70 km/h through the city BECAUSE of one way streets. As is mentioned in the article, cars travel in clumps. This is because any car which is going 60 km/h or faster catches up to the clump and can not go faster. Yes, a car can go 60 or 70 for a couple of blocks, just like they can on a two way street, but they can NOT race through the city at that speed.

On the other hand, with a two way street, it is possible to race through a city at 70 km/h. This is possible because there is a chance that they could catch all the green lights at this speed. I've witnessed this first hand and posted a video on this website to prove it. The traffic flow speed is SLOWER on Main and on Cannon than it is on Barton through the city. Those are the facts.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 15:05:13 in reply to Comment 92452

Sorry, Spacemonkey, have to disagree. There were MANY times, when I lived in Stoney Creek and worked in the west end that I travelled from Main and Dundurn to Parkdale in 10 minutes or less. I was not sticking to 50 km/hour. I know, you can spit on me for my stupidity at that time, but being under pressure and running a few minutes late, can make people take risks they shouldn't. It's easy to get around the clump of cars by driving in the curb lanes. The one-way streets, as they are designed, are built for speed. Excess lane capacity gives drivers confidence that they can go with a fast flow of traffic, and the green light synchronization is like a free pass -- it encourages high speed, because if you slow down, you're going to get out of synch and get caught at a light. I still see drivers doing this, and they are the ones who will protest until hell freezes over that we need to keep the one-way arteries of King, Main and Cannon. I've never witnessed a fast flow of traffic on Barton Street.

We need wider sidewalks and fewer lanes of traffic. Two-way conversion would be ideal, but may never come to pass. The five-lane design has to change and pedestrians have to have a wider sidewalk. Oh and two-way bike lanes. We need those too.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 15:40:32 in reply to Comment 92463

It's easy to get around the clump of cars by driving in the curb lanes.

this is one of the biggest problems with the one way streets as they are. People are driving within 1 meter of the sidewalk to pass the clump of cars which is travelling at 50-60 km/hr. We have a street design that encourages those who want to drive >60km/hr to drive as close as possible to pedestrians in order to achieve their goal. With 2-way streets, slow drivers usually go in the left lane and so those who want to speed are driving in the middle of the road.

Honestly, on Main and King you could high-five drivers as they pass other drivers at 70km/hr. THAT IS INSANE!

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By brundlefly (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2013 at 12:53:15

If you're stamping your feet and threatening to leave the city over 2 way streets, all I can say is Goodbye.

Maybe if, & it's a big if... maybe these one ways made sense in the 50's to maximize traffic to the factories, but in my own opinion, if we cater to businesses like that we'd have an off ramp for the new stadium and every Walmart™ in the city. Hell lets build an offramp to Bob Young house.

But we ARE a city, not a side arm of corporations. We need to cater to the people, & the families in these neighbourhoods. The economic vitality of the city is all that will change. I am willing to add 5-10 minutes to my commute around town so I can live in a better neighbourhood. I can't believe some people are not.

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By Stinson resident (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 13:45:44

It's this "my way or the highway" attitude that is counter intuitive to community. I am part of the gentrification of a neighbourhood run down several years ago and a simple goodbye is all you have? Thanks for reaffirming the negative attitude. I support some one way conversion, however, the lifelines of our city are main and king. Our city is unique in its design that the lower mountain has 2 accesses to the 403. One in the east and one in the west.

How about we deal with the real problem in Hamilton: drugs.

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By Joshua (registered) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 15:40:56 in reply to Comment 92457

A good companion site to Raise the Hammer, a site that addressed drug use in Hamilton, would be Drop the Needle. People would think, Hey, it's vinyl, that's hip, and then either be disappointed by the content and leave or see how it could make a difference in their neighbourhoods and continue reading, considering, contemplating, and acting.

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By wow (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 14:15:11 in reply to Comment 92457

So when you say that if two way streets are implemented, you'll leave, in your mind that's not "my way or the highway" mentality? Get a grip.

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By Stinson resident (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 14:27:41 in reply to Comment 92459

Please remind me where I said I'd leave the city. It was a factor in purchasing my home and I welcome your opinion as part of the debate. I see this blog as a closed minded opinion more and more.

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By wow (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 15:52:48 in reply to Comment 92460

Sorry I read it in another thread and accidentally thought it was your comment on this one. Anyways no one is saying "my way or the high way" or forcing two way conversions, just requesting that the city take a frigging look at modern urban design principles and actually implement them instead of studying them til 2113

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By Brian Cumming (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 17:01:06

I work downtown and walk everywhere. I find it ironic that Ryan's photo example of a complete street from Manhattan is a one way street, as are most streets in NYC. The focus should be on complete streets not direction of traffic. If curbside parking was to be allowed on the north side of Cannon along with the new southside cycle lane you would have a complete street. Turn the westbound car lane on Wilson into a cycle lane, allow parking on the south side, presto, a one way complete street. Imagine Main St looking like Ryan's photo. Cycle path and curbside parking from Dundurn to the Delta. As a pedestrian I much prefer one way complete streets. With two way traffic, drivers are looking for gaps to turn left and not paying attention to pedestrians. I have had many close calls at John and King as drivers boot it through a gap turning west onto King. Give me one way complete streets with cycle lanes and curbside parking everywhere and I'll fee much safer.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 15:45:45 in reply to Comment 92471

What I don't get is why you are so attached to one-way, if you are ok with complete streets. A complete street involves cars going slow, like 40km/hr and under. What is the big deal if that is accomplished via 1-way or 2-way? There is absolutely no way to keep King and Main as 'arterial roads' or quick routes through the city, while also making them complete streets, because you just can't have fast car traffic mixing with bikes and pedestrians and street-side retail. They are not compatible. The idea that by keeping Main/King one-way we can achieve complete streets AND retain a 20-minute drive through the core is unrealistic.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 23, 2013 at 16:05:18 in reply to Comment 92514

This. When you have four and five lanes to work with, there is no excuse not to design a street that meets everyone's needs - and that includes motorists going in either direction the street runs. One-way traffic only solves one problem on a wide street: how to maximize vehicle speed. That's exactly the wrong problem to solve, as doing so creates far worse problems in its place.

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By Stinson Resident (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 18:20:35 in reply to Comment 92471

Well said.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2013 at 17:13:57

First off, ScreenCarp, when you call Ryan out for not knowing what the current best practices of the engineers are, you're quite erroneous. Those leading the way in traffic engineering have figured out the law of induced demand - that is, people will do whatever is easiest, and have also learned that trying to deal with traffic congestion by building bigger roads is like trying to deal with an obesity problem by buying a bigger belt.

As I mentioned, we've had some of the leading voices on City building here in Hamilton in the past 10 years, and all of them have told us the same thing - the one-way streets have got to go in order for us to achieve economic vitality in our downtown core.

I lived in Toronto for 4 years, and yes I know what the DVP and the Gardiner are, but I'll echo the points that have already been made - these don't run right through the hear of the city. What we have would be akin to converting King and Queen Streets in Toronto into 5-lane, one-way thoroughfares with timed lights to ensure that traffic would move quickly through, but nobody in their right mind would recommend that because all evidence shows that making a street less welcoming to pedestrians has disastrous impacts on the businesses and the vitality of the area.

I agree with your point that "...most world class cities in North America have large arterial roads that move traffic in and out of the downtown core", but what we have in Hamilton is large arterial roads that move traffic DIRECTLY THROUGH our downtown core - and that is not a feature of any world-class city that I know of.

btw - I do own a car, I try to use it as infrequently as possible, which I feel is likely the case with most of the people on this forum who advocate for the same kinds of things that I do. To say that International Village is frequently backed up seems to me to be quite the exaggeration - I've been there at rush hour several times, and never had to wait more than 1 light cycle to move through. And I saw you reference Cannon, but I will reiterate the point that I've been trying to make over and over again, which is that even with removing a lane on Cannon, and even if King and Main were converted to 2-way, there is ABSOLUTELY NO SCENARIO where this causes gridlock. The traffic counts just aren't there to make that argument - you're making your case based on speculation and "gut feeling", but I'm making mine based on the city's traffic counts, global best practices with regard to lane capacity (where the target for a lane should be 8-10,000 vehicles per lane per day in an urban centre) and the other fact that when you start to make the roads feel safer for other people to ride their bikes or walk to their destinations, they tend to leave the car at home more often, thus even further reducing the demands on our road network.

As for your comment mocking it being a "nightmare" to walk bike or take transit downtown, I challenge you to get from Ottawa and Main to James and Barton on a bike. Just try it, and you will realize just how asinine that comment is. There really are no safe routes across the lower city that keep you off of high-speed streets like King, Main or Cannon, unless you want to contend with narrow lanes, high-traffic volumes, bump-outs and opening car doors on Barton street. More than 50% of the trips taken in our cars are under 5km - those are the trips where we could be getting people on bikes. 30% of our trips are under 2 km - those are easily walkable. But going back to my earlier point, people will do what is easiest, and as long as it feels safer to hop in your car and drive down to the corner store than to walk or ride your bike, people will do it.

And I have to address one last point, going back to something you said that echoed of a comment I received on a CBC article. You said that "Some folks who write for this site have an agenda based on their ideological beliefs and love of cycling." That kind of rings similar to someone saying I had a vested interest in the Cannon street Bike Lane project that I helped with, so let me take a second to address this.

I have an agenda based on my love of HAMILTON. I have seen the benefits that building a more walkable, bikeable city can bring, and I feel that it is the single most important step that Hamilton can take towards becoming one of Canada's most liveable, desireable cities. My vested interest in bike lanes, which caused me to volunteer about 400 hours of my time and sink several hundred of my own dollars into a campaign to get new lanes on Cannon, is that I want to live in a city where my future children can walk or bike to school, like I did as a kid. I want to live somewhere where I know my neighbours, where I say "hi" to my fellow commuters rather than honk at them and flip them off. My wife will be finishing medical school this year, and she wants to start a practice where she doesn't need to drive to work. We've fallen so in love with Hamilton that we're very strongly considering trying to make that happen here. So yes, I have a vested interest in it - I'm trying to build the kind of community where I can work and pay my property taxes, where my wife can practice community-based family medicine, and where we can settle down and raise our family. So there you have it - full disclosure of my agenda. What's yours?

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted September 22, 2013 at 21:52:56 in reply to Comment 92472

Hi Justin! I was calling out the assertion that no one here pretends to be an expert. Some folks do. I'm a big supporter of complete streets but I see the growth and intensification happening in the core and worry that two way conversion is being seen as a magic solution. Two way parts of Main and King have not seen more prosperity than the one way parts. Neither have two way streets such as Barton or Concession despite gentrification efforts, so it's just not that simple. While I support some reduction in lanes, I don't support conversion of Main/Cannon/Wellington/Victoria to two way in the core. I think King Street between Wellington and Queen would work well as a two way, but there's a chance it will get an LRT down the middle that will make it useless as a thoroughfare anyways.

I also don't believe that one way streets preclude complete streets, such as the picture in the above article. I think the current plans for Cannon are great, but Cannon being one lane each direction is terrible idea. Protected bike lanes are a great way to shelter the narrow sidewalks from the street, but in all honesty, I see very few people using the bike lanes now. Perhaps it's because they're poorly implemented, or perhaps people in Hamilton don't bike much? To answer your Ottawa and Main to James and Barton question, the obvious answer now would be Ottawa to Barton. What you're complaining about on Barton is what folks are advocating for other streets. Perhaps I'm out of touch/shape, but I don't think many people are biking an hour a day like that and those that do don't care so much about bike lanes. Cannon is getting bike lanes anyways, so it's academic.

Certainly, walking around downtown Hamilton is not a "nightmare". I do it often and as I see it, the problem is the functioning curb lanes and narrow unbuffered sidewalks. Four lanes of two way traffic does nothing to help that. Nor does it do anything for cyclists. I also find the idea of creating a problem to try to engineer a behaviour change in people somewhat distasteful. Making your citizens unhappy isn't going to build the type of neighbourhood you wish for.

Good luck to you and your wife, and I hope you do stay in the Hammer! There's a lot to fall in love with around here.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2013 at 23:14:25 in reply to Comment 92479

I have to admit, I'd much rather see a complete streets approach taken to all of the streets here. If given the choice between King and Main just being 2-way streets but keeping their full lane capacity as is (ie - 2 lanes each direction with either a turning lane or a reversible centre lane) and seeing King and Main remain one ways but have LRT on one and have bike lanes and curb parking on both and keeping them one-way, I'd opt for the latter. But those options are years off. As it stands right now, making those streets 2-way is the fastest option to normailize traffic flow through the downtown core, so it's the option that I prefer (for now).

As for cyclists in Hamilton, there's a reason why you don't see many cyclists out there, and it's because our network of bike infrastructure, especially in the lower city, is terrible. It only serves either those who will ride in anything (like me) or those who just ride on the sidewalk because they don't feel safe on the roads. The demand for cycling in Hamilton, especially in the downtown, is HUGE. We saw that with Yes we Cannon, where we received more than 2300 signatures, and most of them were from people who said that they don't bike here, but want to. A cycling journey is only ever as safe as the least safe part of the trip, and when you have to ride on streets like King, Main, Cannon, Barton or Burlington to get basically anywhere if you're heading east to west or vice versa across the lower city, a lot of people are just not going to take that chance.

Riding from Ottawa and Main to James and Barton is EXACTLY the kind of trip we SHOULD be seeing people take - it's a 5km trip, which is easily doable in 20 mins on a bike at an easy pace. In cities like Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Madison, WI, they're seeing huge spikes in the number of people making those trips because they're building infrastructure that makes cyclists feel safe and are taking measures to either slow traffic down in their downtowns or to separate cyclists from traffic. The way our land use in the downtown is, we don't have the luxury of the second option (ie - we don't have things like hydro corridors running through our downtown - which make ideal locations for bike-highway type paths), so we need to turn to on-street solutions to make cycling more comfortable, and trust me, when we make those connections and start providing people with leading-edge, high-quality and safe cycling infrastructure, you WILL see many more cyclists on the road. I work in the field of cycling policy and I can tell you that there is not one example of a municipality that has installed these kinds of infrastructure pieces that haven't seen a dramatic rise in the number of cyclists. Hundreds of examples prove it works, and none show the inverse.

At the end of the day, I think your distaste about trying to engineer behaviour change is really misplaced. Behaviour change was engineered 60 years ago when governments started building freeways, making it easy for people to live far away from where they worked, to not rely on public transit, to rely less on your immediate neighbourhood and more (recently) on shopping malls and big box centres. These kinds of policies, and this kind of behaviour change, has created a society we all know to be unsustainable, both from an ecological and from a fiscal standpoint. All these behaviours you're defending were, at one time or another, engineered because at the time, they made the most sense for the economy. So now that we're facing massive infrastructure deficits, decreasing physical activity, increasing obesity and climate change, our choices are to either continue down a path that we KNOW is environmentally, fiscally and socially disastrous OR we bite the bullet, make the hard decisions and start making it harder to do the things we DON'T want people to do (like single-occupant commuting and people using their car for absolutely everything) and start building a city that can actually sustain itself into the future. It's the kind of short-term pain for long-term gain that I think cities (and residents) have lost sight of, and we need to start rediscovering.

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By G/C Ratio (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 17:16:59

Some of the trolling here is pretty silly. For a layman the author has done a bang-up job of explaining the engineering concepts and I'd be suspicious of any so called engineer who professed to not be familiar with generated traffic, qualitative nature of LoS, etc. Even if you haven't been inside an engineering school since the 70's you should of heard of these things at some point if you work in the field.

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 19:08:44

Most of the one way streets in down in the city, not out there in suburbia. So who really knows where individuals who are posting live.

While we must all face facts before humanity, such as global warming, peak oil, etc, I find that most people are too busy locked in their individual worlds, which has been created by the capitalists, the military industrial complex, who consume at alarming rates that is not sustainable.

I mean, I , too get frustrated by the nameless masses, who have been brainwashed by our education system, not to have the ability to critically think about anything.

Of course, most would deem me as an idiot, I mean I ahve issue whith those whho psot about the new economy which is low paying jobs without benefits or pensions, which hurt society as a whole. We are taught that the individual should take care of them selves, it is pounded into our brains and has been for decades.

I mean I wonder how many who post on this site actual fight battels in the streets??? Direct action, or are you just pussies who like to complain????

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By battler (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 22:19:37 in reply to Comment 92526

Oh yeah, totally. Just last week I got into a fistfight with a guy because he wouldn't let me drive the wrong way on Victoria. Next week we're going to start a brawl on Wellington. :P

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted September 23, 2013 at 21:53:25

My wife and I spent the better part of a weekday biking around Manhattan on one of the Bixi-style rental bikes recently. I'm a confident urban cyclist; my wife hates urban cycling - with Hamilton being her only experience with it. But we both found that we felt safer riding in Manhattan during rush hour than we do on Main or King downtown.

Two days later, we tried Boston's Bixi-style system. Not a bad experience, though the seemingly randomly distributed one-way streets drove us nuts and in circles.

And today I criss-crossed Montreal on a Bixi bike. Montreal drivers are sort of crazy. But I felt pretty OK most of the time. Except on the cobblestone of the old city, I confess - that was rougher even than King William.

The main reason we felt safe, I think, was that even in crazy NYC traffic, the cars were never going all that fast. Their was time for me and for drivers to react to each other. Time even to stare down and negotiate with pushy drivers (NYC drivers are famously pushy, but not particularly hostile). And there were no trucks whooshing past me. And I also found the segregated bike lanes relaxing and used them whenever I could. And, of course, I was only one of many cyclists on any given stretch of road.

Let me say this again - Manhattan and Montreal in rush hour felt safer to me than King or Main in Hamilton. This is crazy.

Comment edited by moylek on 2013-09-23 22:03:03

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By truck off (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2013 at 22:14:58 in reply to Comment 92530

"And there were no trucks whooshing past me. "

That can't be right, we keep hearing that Hamilton needs fast and easy goods movent on our downtown streets or else we won't have a good economy or a thriving city. Obviously thriving cities like New York, Boston and Montreal make it real easy for trucks to crisscross through downtown.

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By KM 2 Many (anonymous) | Posted October 06, 2013 at 20:14:55

As a business owner, offering in home services, having company cars on the road: if we were to lose the edge of being the "20 minute city" it would have a direct impact on our bottom line - and a big one at that.

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By taxed (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2013 at 09:34:51 in reply to Comment 92955

So, lemme get this straight... your business plan relies on everyone else in the city paying a crapload of taxes in order to maintain a road network that's killing our lower city neighbourhoods... and we're supposed to feel sorry for you potentially making less money if we stop subsidizing you?

Entitled much?

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By Riiight (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2013 at 07:45:26 in reply to Comment 92955

Because there are no viable in-home service businesses in cities with less insane streets...

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By TB (registered) - website | Posted October 07, 2013 at 07:25:15 in reply to Comment 92955

Please show the math.

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By DM (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2013 at 16:40:50

Wow, Portland has many one way streets! Very similar to Hamilton. Wow, portland doesn't put bike lanes on arterial roads! Just like Hamilton, so far. Wow portland recognizes: "Most cyclists want a direct route, but would prefer not to share a busy arterial road with fast-moving traffic." Wow, Portland has highways that service (are very close to) the whole city and don't leave neighborhoods left to use arterial roads to commute. We should be more like Portland.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2013 at 21:08:45 in reply to Comment 94217

So you're digging into the archives to troll now? You are the only person on this entire page to mention Portland.

By the way, It's 10km from the 403 to the RHVP and 7km from the linc to the burlington street. I would say that most if not all neighbourhoods in the old city are within 5km of a highway, and many are MUCH closer.

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By Dm (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2013 at 22:23:39

Those distances are unique in comparison to Portland. I was almost a convert last week. Trying hard to find the grounds to accept your cause.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 05, 2013 at 07:02:34 in reply to Comment 94223

I wrote a reply to you, and it turned into an article.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-11-05 09:13:58

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